Why does my dog bark when I leave the house? | TeamDogs

Why does my dog bark when I leave the house?

Pet behaviourist shares her advice on tackling this issue

Danielle Elton

Posted 5 months ago ago

We might treat them like any other member of the family, maybe even better, but our precious furbabies aren’t human and sometimes they do things we just can’t understand.

That’s where TeamDogs can help.

This month we had a question sent in by one of our members, Karen.

Karen has two Lhasa Apsos - Rosie who is seven and half and Rusty who is six and a half.

“Rosie constantly barks when she knows you are going out the door. What can I do to stop her doing this?” asked Karen.

So we put her question to Joe Nutkins, Kennel Club Accredited Dog Trainer, Certified Professional Canine Fitness Trainer and director at Dog Training for Essex & Suffolk.

She told us how it could be down to your dog experiencing excitement, anxiety and even a temper tantrum.

Why do dogs bark when we leave?

Our dogs are sticklers for routine. They know when they’re going to be fed, walked, played with… but Joe says the lead up to the routine is also something they pick up on.

She said: “Take for example when we are thinking about going to get their dinner. We think it might be nearly time, then look at the clock, then pause the programme we are watching, put our book down, close off our phone. 

“Our dog then stands up or becomes alert as they already know what we are thinking about. They know that at certain times of the day when we check the time then stop our activity, their meal is coming shortly after. 

“Then we go to the kitchen, pick up their bowl, get the food, so this routine of preparing the meal actually has its own pre-routine. 

“This is the same when we are planning on leaving the house. We may have the actual routine of putting our shoes and jacket on, picking up the keys and leaving which will be obvious to our dogs, but the routine before this will become really clear to our pets as well.”

Before leaving the house we often lock doors, close windows, turn off the TV, take poo bags from the drawer, change into work trousers...and our dogs pick up on this.

Joe said: “These can alert our dogs to the fact we are thinking about going out sometime soon so they will already be aware before we even get near the door.”

And to our dogs, us going out can often means walkies.

Joe added: “They can start becoming more excitable if they think a walk is coming which can in turn cause barking or whining through anticipation. 

“The barking can then sometimes continue after we have left due to the excitement that they could still get a walk and we are perhaps just getting the car ready.”

Anxiety and temper tantrums

Anxiety can also be another cause of the barking.

“Barking can help with increasing endorphins when a dog is feeling stressed which in turn can help them to feel calmer, but often they will need to continue barking in order to have a steady level of endorphins as well as the increased production of serotonin too,” said Joe.

Many dog owners may try to ease their dog’s stress by fussing over them or distracting them with a toy, but Joe advises that this can sometimes make things worse with dogs associating these new features with us leaving.

And can dogs have temper tantrums? Joe says they can.

She explained: “Dogs can also have the equivalent to a temper tantrum when they see we are going to leave the house without them - yes, it's true! 

“This can sometimes be caused by us having some fun and play with our dogs moments before leaving the house so we cause our dogs to become excited and feel closer to us then suddenly we leave and they are left with excess energy and nowhere to use it up - so barking is more likely to continue while you are out as well.”

How can you stop these barking issues?

Joe said: “We can start by helping our dogs learn that parts of our preparation doesn't always mean anything exciting is happening. 

“So for example, if you putting your trainers on results in your dog becoming excited then you can go and put your trainers on at a time you don't need them, then the moment your dog starts barking in excitement just take them off and go back to doing what you were doing previously. 

“Doing this with areas of your routine that excite your dog can help them to stay calm as you get ready to go out, whether with or without your dog.”

Nathalie SPEHNER on Unsplash

Joe added: “If your dog tends to show anxiety as you are leaving or while you are out, through barking or other vocalisation that you may witness or be told about from neighbours when you return home, then we may need to start sooner than when we are going to leave the house and help prepare our dogs for being on their own.”

She advises working with an experienced dog behaviourist, but has some tips that you can try at home to help your dog.

Firstly, she advises setting aside some time while you’re at home where your dog can spend some time away from you.

She said: “This might entail taking half a step away when you're preparing the dinner so your dog isn't leaning on your leg, or offer your dog a cosy bed under your desk rather than on your lap while you're working.”

The dog trainer also suggested exploring various therapies including Zoopharmacognosy (self selection of scent) and canine massage to help with any discomfort that may lead to stress. 

She also recommended changing up their diet to include some foods that help lower some of the chemicals that are elevated when stressed, foods such as salmon, spinach and blueberries.

For tailored advice, Joe recommends going to see a pet behaviourist. But she also stressed the importance of time spent with your dog.

She said: “Most importantly, ensure you give yourself and your dog some quality time together each day - even a few minutes of quality time where you focus solely on your dog is better then splitting your attention between your dog and the TV or computer for several hours and you will feel better for it, as well as your dog.”

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