Excessive barking and separation anxiety

by Steph Mahrle

Good morning to all of you very awesome dog lovers! In an effort to continue my appreciation of you, I am going to provide you with some seriously helpful information in this post. All I ask is that you “pay it forward” by using your talents to your fullest today! 

Recently, I have been getting questions regarding excessive barking and other symptoms of separation anxiety, such as home destruction. This can get out of hand! I am familiar with dogs that have harmed themselves during these fits. If this is something you can relate to, you and your dog have a foundational obedience training issue.

Here is the GREAT news! Symptoms of separation anxiety can be resolved by, establishing you are the pack leader, and obedience training. If it sounds like a tall order, it is. There are no short cuts when dog training. 

What is separation anxiety all about anyway?

The dog perceives they are leading YOU. When the dog is your pack leader, and you leave your home, the dog begins to express anxiety. Everything is boiled down to pressure and release. As anxious pressure builds up, the dog barks to release that pressure. The dog is simply trying to collect the rest of their pack, which they feel responsible for. As you can probably imagine, allowing the dog to live in this constant state of anxiety is not healthy. 

You might have been inadvertently reinforcing this anxious behavior, by rewarding the dog as you arrive home. During a barking fit, if you rush back into your home or to the dog’s crate, and pet the dog or reassure the dog by talking and/or making eye contact (as you would an upset child for instance) you have just rewarded the dog for their unbalanced anxious barking fit. In this example, the dog has been excitedly reunited with its pack, through the expression of heightened anxious behavior. Wicked right? You were just trying to calm the dog down quickly, to keep the neighbors happy! 

Aren’t there products which will help resolve this behavior?

In my own experience as a dog owner and trainer, there are many “band aids” which are marketed to us when we are vulnerable and looking for a quick fix. The honest truth is that there is no quick fix to resolving serious separation anxiety. If the dog has a serious case, no amount of high value stuffed treats, ambient noise distraction (with radio and/or TV sounds in the background), your body odor scented old T-shirt, or even additional pets to keep your dog company, will help. 

Why don’t these “band aid” things work?

When your dog is in such a anxiety ridden unbalanced state, food and other sounds will not snap your dog out of the cycle of anxiety set in motion by the departure of their pack.

So what can be done?

 This is Milo, I met he and his owner when they moved into the apartment downstairs from me. Milo barked excessively. Obedience training Milo has mitigated much of his hysterical barking. 

This is Milo, I met he and his owner when they moved into the apartment downstairs from me. Milo barked excessively. Obedience training Milo has mitigated much of his hysterical barking. 

1. Crate the dog when you leave your home. Crating limits the dog’s ability to harm themselves, and also destroy your home. -Avoid letting the dog out of its crate when it is barking. Your goal is to reward calm silence. 

2. Learn how to establish a foundation of obedience training by contacting your local obedience trainer. Use the best training tool for your dog and learn how to “heel” your dog. “Heeling” is also known as a structured walk. Whoever walks in front, is the pack leader. Regularly “heeling” the dog will reinforce you are their pack leader. Teach the remaining basic obedience commands: “sit”, “down”, “come”, and “place”. Over time the dog will realize, their pack leader has a schedule which they are not invited to be a part of. It is a HUGE relief for a dog to not be in charge of their pack. Especially a dog that has suffered from some serious anxiety ridden behaviors. Obedience training will build the dog’s confidence and essentially give the dog a job that they can manage to be successful at. When their new job is to lie down and chill out while their owner is out buying groceries, the quality of the dog’s life improves greatly. Training the dog and becoming a pack leader is the key to a calm harmonious life. 

What product can work in combination with establishing a solid foundation of obedience training?

A Tri-Tronics Bark Limiter. The idea here is if you manage the dog’s bark, by interrupting the instant it is expressed, you will prevent the dog from getting into a more heightened state of anxiety. Let me be clear, I do not recommend just putting the bark limiter on without actually obedience training the dog. That is as effective as using a band aid method. No training tool is meant to be used in isolation, without training. Correcting the dog with the bark limiter, without having taught the dog any other skills is just not fair to the dog. As the pack leader of your home it is your responsibility to lead and direct your dog to experience a calmer way of life.  

I hope this information is helpful to you! Now, to keep up your end of the bargain, please “pay it forward”, and share your talents with another person you cross paths with today.