Home Alone

Why do dogs bark, dig holes, attack your garden & grab clothes off the line?

Generally, it's because they're bored and you need to improve the quality of their living environment.

Young dogs that display these behaviours will eventually mature and 'out-grow' the need to be destructive. Older dogs that still exhibit these behaviours are generally either very slow to mature, they're bored or they're attention seekers.

Either way, it's extremely annoying!! So what are your options?

Perhaps these suggestions may help:

  • Place a radio in the garage or close to the dog's living quarters. Voices and soft music can provide some company for the dog while you're away. Avoid loud pop music as high pitched sounds may trigger the dog to start barking.
  • Consider buying a treat ball or Kong ball available at retail stores. These get filled with tasty treats and are designed to challenge the dog to get food out of the ball or Kong. It's a great distraction for your dog and will keep him occupied for hours. There are many other toys available for bored canines, so get down to your local store and speak to the proprietor about their range of toys and distraction items.
  • Purchase a large meaty marrow bone and do not feed the dog the night before you have to leave him. If the dog is hungry, the bone will keep him occupied for hours. If the dog buries the bone just drill a hole through the bone, attach a strong rope/cord and secure the bone-on-a rope to the base of an upright post.
  • In addition, consider feeding your dog its main meal in the morning instead of night-time. A full belly may help the dog relax and sleep for many hours after you leave the house.
  • A tug toy suspended at HEAD HEIGHT from a tree or pergola post (not the clothes line) is great fun for an active dog. Toys are only stimulating if they move. A suspended toy will move freely all the time.
  • Do not leave an unsupervised dog in the backyard with clothes on the line. The human odour embedded in the clothes, the movement of the clothes in the wind and the height above the ground all adds-up to an unbelievably attractive target for the bored dog. When at home with your dog, use obedience training to teach him not to touch the clothing on the line.
  • If you're contemplating purchasing a second dog as a companion, seek the advice of a professional dog trainer to assess both your dog's temperament and the temperament of the new candidate. Selecting the wrong temperament of dog as a companion, may mean you double your problems, not solve them.
  • If your dog is shy, lacks self-confidence and becomes anxious when you leave the house, then start crate training exercises (read the Crate Training article). Correctly introduced, a crate becomes an incredibly secure 'den' where your dog can retreat/hide to escape the world. This provides your dog with a safe behaviour option instead of barking, trying to escape the yard, digging or general destructiveness.
  • Set up a play group with your family or friends. A group of dogs can be brought to one person's home for the play-group 'meeting'. The next day, this dog play-group meets at another person's home. And so the rotation continues.... Dogs get to socialise in new environments and owners get free time during the day. Perfect!
  • Have a trusted family member, friend or professional dog-walker take your dog for a regular walk during the day. Or consider taking your dog to a "Doggie Day-Care Centre" (if you have one nearby) but remember to ask to see their Public Liability insurance policy to check what it covers and therefore what claims can be made in the event of an accident.
  • Spend quality time with your dog. The most important consideration is to make your dog really tired, both physically and mentally before you leave the house. Walking is great physical exercise for your dog, but it doesn't really exercise the brain. Your dog needs mental exercise. Start some obedience training while you're out walking, start some "tricks" training, start "hunting games" in your backyard (searching for food you have randomly dropped all over the place), tug-of-war games or start ball retrieving training. Anything that will help your dog to relax due to physical & mental exhaustion. All of these activities will challenge your dog's mental capacities and teach you a lot about your dog's temperament. Any constructive exercise will instantly improve the bond with your dog and this builds respect.
  • Dogs that Bark: barking is not bad behaviour, it's a dog's instinctive means of communication. If a dog has nothing to do for 8 hours a day then destructiveness or constant barking are 2 of the most common outcomes. It's essential that we provide a stimulating home environment for the dog by considering the dog's needs. All of the suggestions listed above may help, but if these measures have not worked, then there are 2 other options to consider: a 'No-Bark' collar or a HUSHER bark muzzle. There are many types of No-Bark collars available so consult a professional trainer or veterinarian to assess your dog's temperament and confirm if this device is suitable. Alternatively, search for 'Husher' muzzles on the internet (www.husher.com.au), they're a great non-invasive device and really work.

Get involved with your dog, don't leave him in the backyard to amuse himself because he will!!