One of the most common symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs is vocalizing: barking, whining and howling. In mild cases, a dog might vocalize for up to 15 minutes after their owner leaves but then manages to settle down. Or they might vocalize intermittently but settle down in between episodes.
In more severe cases, a dog will bark, whine or howl for longer than 15 minutes. In general, they sound distressed or panicked, and their barking seems compulsive. The dog might also exhibit other symptoms when they’re alone, such as watchful waiting, pacing, panting, and trying to escape.
For examples of what separation anxiety barking sounds like, check out these videos:
To learn if your dog’s barking might be a sign of separation anxiety, take our quick, free quiz.
Is Your Dog’s Barking Separation Anxiety or Something Else?
There are many, many reasons a dog might bark:
If a dog isn’t getting enough physical exercise or mental stimulation, they will often bark to burn off excess energy. This type of barking sounds monotonous and may continue for long stretches of time.
Some dogs will bark whenever they see or hear people or other dogs passing through their “territory.” These dogs will usually continue barking until the “intruders” are gone. This type of barking is low-pitched and often involves growling.
Alert or alarm:
When your dog hears or sees something they want you to know about, they might let out two to three sharp barks at a time. The barking usually stops once you’ve responded to your dog or the trigger is gone.
Dogs that get overly excited in certain situations (e.g., greeting their owner, seeing another dog, anticipating a treat, etc.) might bark. This type of barking is high-pitched, happens in continuous bursts and can involve whining.
Dogs have learned that barking is an effective way to get our attention (they bark = we look at them, talk to them, pet them). A dog might also bark because they need to go potty, they want to play, or they’re hungry for dinner.
If a dog is trying to reach a person, place or object but is unsuccessful, they might bark to express frustration. This type of barking is typically directed at their intended goal, such as the toy they want to play with. Frustration barking is high-pitched and happens in short bursts.
It’s common for dogs to vocalize when they’re playing with a person, another dog or a toy. These sounds can include huffing, growling and high-pitched barking.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
An older dog might bark excessively — especially at night — due to dementia. If your dog is a senior and has started barking more than usual for no apparent reason, talk with your veterinarian.
Decoding Your Dog’s Vocalizing
If you think your dog is barking, howling or whining excessively when you’re gone, we recommend setting up a pet camera to find out. Here are some things to look (and listen) for:
- How long after you leave does your dog start barking?
- How long does their barking last?
- Do they seem distressed?
- Do they settle down in between episodes?
- Are there any external factors (e.g., delivery person, passer-by, thunderstorm) that might be triggering their behavior?
- Is your dog showing other behaviors and symptoms of separation anxiety, such as escaping, watchful waiting, pacing or panting?
Neighbors are another possible source of information: they might be able to tell you if your dog is barking only occasionally or continuously, and if they’ve noticed anything that might be upsetting your dog.
Does Your Dog Have Separation Anxiety?
Take our quick and free quiz to learn if your dog potentially suffers from separation anxiety.
Instant results and a customized report
- VIDEO: Alexandra Horowitz on Your Dog’s Different Kinds of Barks
- The Shocking Truth — Separation Anxiety and Bark Collars
- Training for Alert and Territorial Barking
- VIDEO: How to Teach Your Dog to Speak and Be Quiet
- Prevent Boredom — Give Your Dog a Puzzle
- How to Decrease Excitement Barking
- How to Manage Dog Play: Is barking during play okay?
- Dementia in Senior Dogs
Treating Barking Related to Separation Anxiety
If your dog’s vocalization is due to separation anxiety, there are options for treatment, including the Calmer Canine Anxiety Treatment System, behavior modification training, compression wearables, and more.