Many dogs are over attached to their owners and appear to be incapable of spending time on their own. Use the following methods on such dogs to change their view of spending time alone. It is normal in human society for people to spend time alone. Wolf society is also pack-oriented, but wolves can and do spend time alone, and domestic dogs are equally equipped to adapt to being on their own. There are several things we can do, to help them to stay calm while home alone and quieting their anxiety related barking.
Food is on a dog’s mind most of the time, and if it’s not, we can easily induce them to think food, or at least make dinnertime more exciting. Always use healthy dog food for this program. Avoid any foods containing additives, which might influence your dog’s behavior.
You will need a tough rubber toy designed to be stuffed with food. For the next five weeks your dog will receive his daily food intake only through the toy and in your absence. Divide his day’s ration into five portions to stuff into the toy. If he ignores the food in the toy, simply place the whole thing in a plastic container back in the fridge until the next lesson.
If the dog eats the food willingly, he will have learned to do so in your absence and will associate your absence with a powerful food reward that takes time to extract. He is being rewarded for being separated from you. If your dog barks or scratches to attract your attention, ignore him. Only enter the dog’s room when he is silent. He must not associate his barking with your arrival. Remember, no treats or food at any other time!
Avoiding barking with distractions
Some trainers recommend leaving a radio on while you’re out to keep the dog company. This works in a few cases. Even more effective is the use of a tape recorder to play back the sound of your own voice to the dog while you are away.
Some dogs that bark when left alone can be distracted by leaving them food treats or a favorite toy to keep them busy until your return. You will need to prevent access to toys and chews when you’re at home so that they become a special treat associated with your absence.
Excitable barking for attention
This type of barking can be a social nuisance when it gets excessive. The way to deal with it is by using counter-conditioning. If the dog barks when it sees you eating, stop feeding the dog by hand and only give him food in his bowl. Don’t allow the dog any food reward if it stares or barks at you.
If your dog reacts with boisterous barking when you take the car keys or pick up his leash and collar or your coat, simply confuse the dog’s ability to anticipate your actions. This is done by altering walk times whenever possible, or even putting on your coat and walking to the front door only to return to your sofa. This saturates the dog with so many false starts not leading to the expected result that the message will get through.
Never shout or scream at the barking dog to shut up, as this often increase the atmosphere of excitement as far as the dog’s concerned. “My owner grabs my leash, I bark wildly, my owner shouts with me, I jump up and down, my owner waves his arms at me. Isn’t this full of fun?”.
Training discs, when properly introduced, are a very effective means of stopping this type of behavior in attention-seeking, dominant dogs. While the dog is barking, throw the discs near the dog’s feet so that the sound startles him into silence. When your dog stops barking, don’t make a fuss of him and stir up the excitement again. Wait impassively for a minute of silence, then limit your praise to a softly spoken “Good dog”.