Helping a Dog that Boredom Barks
Does your dog bark when left alone? Barking and other vocalizations, like howling or whining, can be a sign that your dog has separation anxiety. However, barking when alone might also be happening for a much simpler reason: your dog is bored.
What is Boredom Barking?
Boredom barking happens when a dog lacks stimulation, whether that be a lack of mental enrichment or not enough physical exercise. To release that frustration, they might bark. Often bored dogs will also engage in other unwanted behaviors, such as destructive chewing of household items, licking or chewing on themselves, or pacing.
What Does Boredom Barking Sound Like?
Boredom barking often sounds very repetitive and monotonous. You might hear long bouts of barking with short breaks taken throughout. To determine if your dog is barking due to boredom or anxiety, set up video monitoring to record your dog’s behaviors while you are away from home. The video will give you a way to see when and how long your dog is barking, the intensity, as well as other behaviors that might accompany their vocalizing.
How to Tell if Your Dog is Barking Due to Boredom or Anxiety
If your dog’s barking is more intense during the first 15 to 30 minutes after you leave or is accompanied by other symptoms of anxiety, the barking is most likely related to separation anxiety. However, if your dog’s barking begins a while after you leave or is intermittent with the same level of intensity throughout, it is more likely due to boredom and lack of stimulation.
Take our online quiz to get a better idea of the severity of your dog’s barking and allow you to score any accompanying symptoms. You’ll receive a customized report with options for the next steps to address your dog’s behavior. A veterinary behaviorist, certified professional dog trainer, or behavior consultant can also analyze your dog’s symptoms and help you begin a treatment plan.
How to Prevent Boredom Barking
Treating your dog’s boredom barking is all about prevention. By providing appropriate enrichment and physical exercise, your dog will be more likely to relax or sleep while alone. Here are some ways to prevent boredom barking:
- Set up a safe space: Setting up a room or gating off an area where your dog can settle while you’re gone can go a long way in preventing unwanted behavior. Make sure to manage their environment in a way that sets them up for success. Turn on a radio or a fan to provide some noise that masks sound that might cause barking. Provide a comfortable bed and make sure to provide lots of fun enrichment toys and dog puzzles to create your dog’s own “playroom.”
- Use enrichment toys and food puzzles: Dogs love to forage — take advantage of their instincts and have them “work” for their food by using food puzzles and interactive toys. Feed their regular meals in a KONG, slow-feeder bowl, or snuffle mat. When leaving them home alone, giving them a puzzle or interactive toy with some special treats inside, or hide their treats throughout the room. Not only is this a fantastic alone time activity, but it also tends to tire them out because of all that thinking they have to do. Most dogs need a nap after finishing a puzzle. Switch out your dog’s toys regularly to keep them “new” and exciting.
- Play with your dog before you leave: Provide your dog with opportunities to play with you and other family members, as well as other dogs (as long as your dog enjoys and does well with dog play). Playing provides not only an opportunity for exercise but also builds the bond between you and your dog. Games like fetch, tug-o-war, or hide-and-seek are wonderful ways to play with your dog and burn their energy. Play a game with your dog before leaving them alone to encourage relaxation while you’re away.
- Give your dog chances to sniff: A dog’s nose is a powerful thing! Use their natural desire to smell everything and take them on sniffing adventures. Sniffing gives them essential mental enrichment and time for decompression. Dedicate at least one walk a day just for exploring the world through smell, allowing them time to stop and sniff where they like. Enrolling in a nose work or tracking class is also a fun way to take advantage of their powerful sense of smell and work their brain.
- Any training class or dog sport will significantly enrich your dog’s life and strengthen your relationship. It will also go a long way in preventing boredom when your dog is left alone since it provides both physical and mental exercise. By joining a dog sport or attending training classes, your dog will be more likely to relax when alone because they are more tired and likely to settle down and nap.
- Provide your dog with enough exercise: Physical exercise needs vary for each dog. Your veterinarian can give you the best advice on how much and what type of activity is best for your dog, based on their age, breed or breed mix, and any health issues. If you have a dog that you’d like to take jogging or running with you, make sure that they have built up stamina for longer excursions. You also want to make sure they are old enough to prevent any damage from the repetitive pressure on their bones and joints.
- Consider hiring a dog walker: Having someone stop by to take your dog out for a walk midday can do wonders in preventing boredom. Even if your dog isn’t able to go for long walks, a short play session and outside time can break up their long day.
Preventing your dog from boredom barking takes some planning and preparation. Managing their environment and giving them safe and appropriate outlets for their energy will make your life easier in the long run and keep your dog happy and healthy.