Livingston the Yellow Lab has quite a bark. And everyone in The Cascades apartment building knows it well. Every day, all day long, Livingston barks and barks and barks.
His guardian Marsha hasn’t figured out how to actually quiet Livingston down, but she watches all the dog TV shows she can find to learn what to do. So far, nothing she’s tried has worked: leaving relaxing music on, stuffing food in Kong toys and hiding them, taking him out for long morning jogs before heading to work, spraying lavender around, and plugging in pheromone diffusers.
Marsha also needs to get Livingston to stop peeing inside when she’s gone and stop chewing the frame of the front door, but those are not as vital as quieting his barking. Her neighbors are threatening to report her to the landlord if she doesn’t teach Livingston to make less noise. Let’s figure out for Marsha why Livingston is barking so much.
What is the dog's body language?(List what the dog looks and sounds like.)As his barking only occurs when he’s alone, we had to capture video of him to see what was going on. While alternating between barking and whimpering, Livingston runs from room to room and back to the front door area when he’s left alone. He chews on the doorframe, and he pees on the floor once or twice, and sometimes he even pees on the couch. When he stands still, his tail is tucked while he whimpers. Then, when Marsha returns home, Livingston jumps all over her, barks like crazy, wags his tail nonstop, wiggles his backside. And then he runs over to the Kong that Marsha left for him before she left and chows down — he didn’t touch it while he was alone.
What is going on?(Describe the context.)Livingston is home alone
Let’s take a look at all of our information.
By clicking on Barking in All About Dogs, we see that dogs bark for a variety of reasons. The first thing to do to figure out the cause is to see if the dog is distressed or not. So let’s look at Livingston’s body language.
Livingston’s tail is tucked, his pupils are dilated, and his eyes are wide and hard with lots of white showing. He definitely looks upset.
Yikes, he just peed on the living room rug, which he never does when Marsha is home. He can’t seem to settle down — pacing from room to room and back to the front door. In fact, he usually fixes his attention on the front door. He even chews on the frame. And he’s not touching his Kong. Then when Marsha comes back in, it’s like midnight on New Year’s Eve. Livingston is beyond excited to see her and then goes to town on his Kong.
Livingston is home alone.
What's the answer?
By putting together both the things Livingston is doing and his body language, we can see that Livingston is showing all the symptoms of a dog with separation anxiety. If he didn't look like a dog who was distressed, we could conclude that he was chewing and barking because he was bored and that he was peeing indoors, because he hadn't been properly housetrained.
But that's not the case. He’s barking because he’s scared. Imagine you were afraid of spiders and someone locked you in a room filled with tarantulas. That’s how terrifying being alone can be to some pups. Sadly, just in the U.S., more than 12 million dogs suffer from this phobia.
The only way to quiet Livingston's barking (and resolve the peeing and chewing issues too) is to help him overcome his fear of being alone. Read more about separation anxiety here and visit Separation Anxiety and Beyond for help.
Separation Anxiety Before and After Desensitization Training
Home alone "before": Pacing, barking, howling, urinating on furniture