Barking dogs: A sign of separation anxiety?

Barking dogs: A sign of separation anxiety?

Many of us can relate to the issues caused by barking dogs and dogs barking is one of the main causes of noise complaints across UK towns and cities. You may have been at home during the day, a shift worker in need of 20 winks or simply trying to sleep at night. In fact, any time, hearing dogs continuously barking either in the home or out in the back garden can be distressing.

At the time you will want your sleep or may have a baby in need of theirs. The neighbours' dogs barks could even be setting your own dog off - double trouble!

When excessive barking is a concern

Here at the RSPCA, we often receive reports from the general public as well as questions on what can be done about barking dogs. And many of the messages we receive via our social media platforms and national call centre are when people are extremely concerned and at their wits end.

Our response to noise, especially loud noises (like barking) causes us distress because our bodies produce adrenaline and other stress hormones which bring on physiological changes, including a spike in heart rate and blood pressure. And these physical and psychological changes are often accompanied by concern. The questions that we ponder upon are infinite, trying to think up ways of how we can make the noise stop.

Why is this dog barking? Why won't it stop? Are they ok? Do they need help? And unfortunately, until the barking is managed, our chronic exposure to noise keeps this stress response activated continuously. Of course, not forgetting the impact on the dog if it's indeed stress that is causing the vocalisation.

Eight in ten dogs find being left home alone difficult

Dogs can bark for many reasons and it may sometimes be because they are in distress, bored or scared. For example, they may feel threatened and will bark to tell somebody to stay away or leave. Dogs can also bark to express other emotions - for example, when they are excited, or frustrated.

There are also times when dogs bark because they have been left alone. Research suggests that around eight in ten dogs find being left home alone difficult. This can be extremely distressing if you're a neighbour because there's no one home to tell and paired with the noise disturbance, it's extremely concerning.

Many people don't wish to tell their neighbours for fear of falling out and reprisal. However, what the owner doesn't see or hear can leave them unaware of the dog's moods and emotions, which like our own, are changeable, depending on their situation.

Read more: Find out more about why dogs bark.

Pandemic puppies may suffer from separation anxiety

We fear dogs bought during the pandemic may suffer from separation anxiety. Barking is a form of communication and is a completely normal dog behaviour. However, if the amount your dog barks increases or becomes excessive it can be a sign that something isn't right and it may cause problems for other people. If this happens, it's important to address any underlying problems which could be causing your dog to bark more.

Helping your dog to adjust to a life post lockdown

Recent events have made life somewhat challenging and difficult for us all and this concern has extended to our dogs. Dogs love routine, in fact, they thrive upon it, and as routines have gone astray, with lockdowns and restrictions, working arrangements, schools being off then in, then off, then in again... You know, we have all lived it. And while we have struggled to adjust to this new world, many dogs have too, impacting their mental health as equally as it may have our own.

During this time, many dogs and puppies will have spent little or no time by themselves and may now be used to busy households. As we progressively return to work, school and 'normality' more and more, we're concerned that our pets may struggle to adjust, leading to separation-related behaviours. The telltale behaviours of an unhappy dog, suffering from separation-related behaviours, include but are not limited to, unwanted toileting in the house or reports of howling/barking.

Unfortunately, apart from the obvious signs, a torn cushion or redecorated carpet, it's not always easy to tell if your furry friend is suffering from separation-related behaviours. But if barking is reported to you by your neighbours or witnessed on your doggy cam, don't worry, as there are things that you can do to be #DogKind. There are many ways that you can help your dog adjust and make sure that they feel more comfortable being alone for short periods.

Find out how to be more #DogKind.

What to do if your neighbours' dog is barking

If you yourself are a long-suffering neighbour, listening to Pink's Greatest Hits on repeat or burying your head in cushions, we would always encourage you to first of all talk to your neighbours to try and understand the situation - if you feel safe to do so.

Talking with neighbours about their dogs doesn't have to be a negative interaction or addressed as a complaint. Remember, the neighbour may not even know what their dog is doing when they're out of the house!

Perhaps share with them an audio recording made within your home of their dog barking or make of log of when it's happening and for ┬┐howl┬┐ long. This information can be really helpful. You could also advise them to get a doggy cam. Doggy cameras are great for owners wanting to keep an eye on their dogs while they're out of the house and can also help them to identify some of the potential separation-related behaviours that they wouldn't normally see.

Read more: Signs of separation anxiety in dogs.

If the problem persists

You may even want to share with your neighbours' information about #DogKind for guidance and support. However, if this is not an option, perhaps communication is strained due to the noise issue, help is also at hand from your local authority. To contact your local authority and make a noise complaint you can report a noise nuisance to your council online.

Lastly, we ask you to remember that dogs bark for many reasons and part of being a responsible dog owner is to be #DogKind, patient and understanding. And when the situation seems like it's getting outside of your control, do seek support from dog behaviour experts to help you to address the cause of the barking.

Find out more about barking dogs and what you can do to help.

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