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If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? If two little dogs are barking all day in a house when their owner is at work and no one is close enough to hear them, is it a problem? I don't know about the tree, but the two little dogs who barked all day did become a problem as soon as their owner moved to a condo. The owner of the dogs is a friend of mine, and she and her dogs now have neighbors. Unhappy neighbors.

She didn't know the dogs were barking because no one had ever heard them and reported them. But now, she needs a solution if she's going to keep the condo of her dreams.

Dealing with one barking dog is one thing, but two barking dogs, or multiple barking dogs make the problem a little tricky to deal with. There are several common recommendations for dealing with problem barking while your dogs are at home alone. The five most common solutions are below.

When finding a solution, keep in mind that as the dog's trainer (or animal behaviorist), finding the function of the behavior is important. If the dog is barking because it is bored, providing something for the dog to do (e.g., a Kong™ filled with treats) may solve the problem. However, if the dog is barking because it has separation issues, that may require a completely different solution. Sometimes, the easiest solutions work, but for dogs who have established barking as a leisure time activity, a simple solution does not always work.

  1. Exercise
    Make sure your dogs have an adequate amount of exercise before you leave in the morning. Tired dogs are more likely to want a quiet rest time. If possible, have a dog walker come to walk the dogs mid-day.
  2. Toys, canine puzzles
    There are a number of products that give the dog something to do. Treats can be placed inside a Kong toy, and the dog will work to get the treats out. This is a behavior that is incompatible to barking.
  3. Familiar sounds
    A common suggestion by trainers for dogs who bark when owners are gone is to leave the dog with some familiar sounds such as a radio or television. The idea is that these approximate the household sounds when the owner is present.
  4. Citronella collars
    Citronella collars spray a burst of citronella when the dog barks. Citronella is made from the oils of lemongrass and it is often used in perfumes, candles and incense. This collar is seen as a humane alternative to shock bark collars. There can be a problem when more than one dog is barking and the collar is sometimes hard to fit on very small dogs. Online reviewers report that some dogs learn to bark in tones and frequencies the collar does not detect.
  5. Anti-barking devices (non-collar)
    There are several anti-barking devices that do not involve collars. For example, the Dog Silencer Pro detects barks and sends a high-pitched sound that only dogs can hear. This device works with multiple dogs or a neighbor’s outside barking dogs.

Citizen Canine readers, do any of you have experience dealing with dogs who bark while the owners are at work?

Find a dog trainer near your location and take the Canine Good Citizen test for your dog.

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Canine Good Citizen (CGC)

This program is recognized as the gold standard for dog behavior. In CGC, dogs who pass the 10 step CGC test can earn a certificate and/or the official AKC CGC title. Dogs with the CGC title have the suffix, "CGC" after their names.