Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."
A dog barking in the hotel room is a big problem considering that it will be thought of as nuisance barking from the other guests' perspectives. If the barking is relentless, the hotel manager may come knocking on your door to ask you to make your dog stop, but how can you stop your dog from barking?
Most dogs bark in the hotel room because of sounds they are not familiar with and because they feel anxious being in a new place. As much as dogs love to travel with their owners versus being left in a boarding kennel, they struggle with changes in their routines. Fortunately, there are ways to stop a dog from barking in the hotel room.
Why Do Dogs Bark in Hotel Rooms?
Most dogs would rather accompany their dog owners on their leisure or business trips rather than being left behind in a boarding kennel, however, going to new places can also prove stressful to dogs.
In most cases though, if dogs were ever asked between choosing the lesser of two evils, most dogs would pick being with their owners without any second thoughts. There are no doubts about that. So, what's the problem with going to new places? Shouldn't dogs be happy and "grateful" for being taken along with mom and dad?
Dogs Are Creatures of Habit
Dogs are routine-oriented animals. As creatures of habit, dogs need to know what to expect during their days. Predictability is highly cherished. Providing dogs with structure throughout the day helps them feel confident and secure.
Dogs like to know what to expect and their bodies are even geared towards that. Indeed, it is a known fact that dogs have an internal biological clock that regulates their lives and helps them predict many things before they happen.
This internal clock provides them with information about many happenings in their daily lives such as when it's time to eat, go to sleep and wake up. This explains why your dog starts pacing around the time you should be coming home from work and why he wakes you up on Sundays when you would like to hit the snooze button.
When we take dogs with us to new places, their routines are disrupted. They are likely fed, taken to potty and walked at different times of the day. On top of this, they are exposed to unfamiliar places with all the new stimulus package of novel sights, smells and sounds.
Dogs Are "Thrown Off Balance"
Being taken away from familiar schedules and places has an impact on the dog's emotional stability. It's as if their state of homeostasis is disrupted and this interferes with their normal functioning. How much dogs are impacted when they are "thrown off balance" tends to vary. In general, the more your dog has traveled and been socialized since being a puppy, the more he is likely to easily adjust. Stable minded, well-adjusted dogs are more likely to baseline rather quickly.
However, this is not a general rule. For example, as dogs get older, even though they were pretty bomb-proof dogs most of their lives, chances are that, at some point, they may become more sensitive to changes, and something as simple as being in a hotel room, may cause them stress.
How to Stop a Dog From Barking in a Hotel Room
First off, consider that barking when a dog is in an unfamiliar place is rather normal. Even a calm, rather docile dog who rarely barks at home, may have a hard time adjusting in a hotel room.
As mentioned, when dogs are away from their familiar surroundings (their home-base), their routines may break down along the road, and therefore, even a polite, trained dog may bark, chew and have accidents if they lack a sense of "place."
So what exactly triggers dog barking in hotel rooms? The reasons can be several. You may need to turn a bit into a detective to find out exactly what is bothering your dog. Following are some causes of dogs barking in hotel rooms and how to stop these forms of barking.
Barking at Unfamiliar Sounds
Hotel rooms may seem like quiet places where guests can hit the pillow for the night, but they can be very noisy too. Doors are often shut loudly, and then you have noisy air conditioners, ice machines and elevators operating which may too set dogs off.
One big trigger for dogs is people coming and going from their rooms. It's not like these people are just walking by, they are often rolling suitcases, talking and laughing and there are often children scurrying loudly down the corridors. Even dogs used to seeing people all the time may bark at all these sounds. Hotel rooms are small places and dogs may feel like their areas are continuously "invaded" by strangers.
Typically, you'll be able to pinpoint the source of this type of barking by watching your dog. If your dog is lunging towards the door or laying down facing the door, and barks every time people walk by, bingo, you have identified the trigger. Pay close attention now to what evokes the barking:
- Is it people talking?
- The luggage rolling?
- Children running?
- People getting out of their cars?
If your dog is prone to barking at home at outdoor noises, most likely your dog will bark at all of that.
Tips to Reduce Barking at Unfamiliar Sounds
These tips should help you to help your dog stop barking at noises in hotels.
Play the Treat-Retreat Game
We have traveled with our two Rottweilers across the United States and abroad several times. This means lots of hotel stays and even cabin stays on cruises. Rottweilers, in general, have a tendency to bark at noises, and during our first hotel stays, both our dogs initially were starting to bark at people walking by the door.
So every time people were walking by, I tossed my dog's treats making sure the treats landed away from the door in a treat-retreat fashion. I did this several times until positive associations were formed and I noticed a conditioned emotional response. Basically, upon hearing the sounds of people walking, rather than barking, my dogs were looking at me with anticipation with the little stubs of their tails wagging!
After some time, they calmed down considerably and got tired chasing treats, so I gave them a long-lasting chew and they would fall asleep for the night. We kept doing this routine on every trip and it always worked like a charm! Every trip, there was also less and less need of tossing treats, and at some point, we were able to even use their regular kibble, which was a win-win as they got to "work" for their food!
Use some noise to cover up outside sounds such as leaving the TV or radio on. Using a white-noise machine may come in handy too. You can now even use YouTube videos offering free white noise. Some dog owners keep on the bathroom fan to help buffer sounds.
Play Calming Music
If feasible, bring along calming CDs made just for dogs such as Through a Dog's Ear. Nowadays, you may also find a lot of music specifically crafted for dogs offered for free on YouTube. This calming music may turn helpful for relaxing you too!
Use a Barrier
The closer your dog stays by the door, the more compelled he or she may feel to bark. You can make a barrier using chairs and your suitcases to prevent your dog from lunging towards the door area.
Even better, bring an x-pen to make a partition allowing your dog to stay as far as possible from the door. With the sounds buffered and the door away, your dog may feel less compelled to go on "guard duty"
Use the "Hear That" Method
Another great game is the "Hear That" game. Unlike the treat-retreat game, you don't need to toss treats away from the door. So if you have blocked the door area, you can still work on creating positive associations with sounds. Best part? You can do this game once home too, to help your dog be less reactive towards sounds in general.
Throw the Towel
Some dogs don't bark only at sounds but even at sights. It is not unusual to see dogs try to chase and bite "shadows" at the bottom of the door as people walk. In this case, it may help to roll up a bathroom towel and place it against the bottom of the door.
Use the "Do Not Disturb Sign"
You worked so hard to not make your dog bark, and nothing is worse than waking up to your dog barking at the housekeeper who is knocking on the door yelling "housekeeping! So don't forget to put that "do not disturb sign" on your doorknob and remind the receptionist that you do not need maid service.
Skip Busy Times
Avoid, if possible, booking your stays at the busiest times when lots of people stay in hotels such as weekends and holidays. This means fewer noises, but also fewer people to complain about your dog's barking!
Practice Ahead of Time
Finally, if possible, start working on reducing your dog's bark prior to your hotel stay by practicing at home. This helps if your dog is prone to barking already at home. Have friends practice walking by your home's door several weeks prior to your hotel stay. As they walk by and your dog hears noises, practice the treat-retreat game and the "hear that" game explained above until your dog starts barking less and less. Then apply this training in the hotel room.
Barking Due to Fear of Isolation
Nothing worries dogs more than being left alone in an unfamiliar place. Now, all their security base is completely gone. Not only they are surrounded by unfamiliar smells, sights and sounds, but now the only person that granted them a sense of security (you) is gone. It doesn't matter if you are gone only a few seconds, dogs don't know that and react by barking.
The barking, in this case, is the dog's way to try to be reunited with you. It's as if your dog is saying: "Hey, you forgot about me, I am here! Don't leave me in this strange place! Come and get me!"
Mixed within this form of anxious barking are often barks directed to people walking by or sounds. Many dogs bark more at noises when left alone as they feel more vulnerable, so check out some of the tips above for trigger barking as they may turn out helpful too.
Now, some hotels have strict policies about leaving dogs unattended in hotel rooms. Some may allow it, some have restrictions (such as your dog has to be contained in a crate or your dog cannot be left alone for an X amount of time) and some do not allow it all. Before leaving your dog in the room unattended. find out first what your hotel's policies are.
So what should you do if your dog is prone to this type of barking? First of all, consider that this form of barking is based on anxiety. Anxiety-based barking usually doesn't solve unless we tackle resolving the underlying anxiety. Please avoid any forms of punishment such as sound-emitting bark collars, citronella collars or shock collars. These risk making your dog more anxious because now more scary things happen when left alone.
Scolding your dog from outside of the door may not work either since your dog most likely enjoys hearing your voice which reinforces his barking (Ah-ha! you hear me now, so I will bark more in hopes of hearing you again!), and even if it seems to work initially, your dog may likely go back to barking in no time, once you are gone.
Tips to Reduce Barking Due to Isolation
Skip Eating Out
Bring food from home, order food through a drive-through, order room-service or have food delivered to your room from a nearby restaurant, so that your dog doesn't have to stay alone. If you are sharing the room with family members, take turns going to have breakfast/lunch or dinner.
Keep It Short
Remember that keeping your dog in a hotel is a privilege. Many hotels have stopped accepting dogs because of them being disruptive. This is not a time for dog owners to go out and party while leaving Rover behind. If you must really leave, keep your absence very short. Guests are less likely to complain if the barking is short-lived versus hours of incessant barking.
Bring Something That Feels Like Home
Bring along objects that smell like home that your dog enjoys. Your dog's water bowl, food bowl, blanket and favorite toys can help provide reassurance. Many dogs are also comforted if you provide them with a shirt that smells like you.
Invest in Calming Aids
Pheromone diffusers such as Adaptil or Adaptil collars and sprays can help your dog relax. Some dog owners report success using Rescue Remedy. An anxiety-reducing shirt such as the Thunder Shirt or the Anxiety Wrap may help in some cases too.
Keep the Routine
Keep your dog's routine as close to how it is at home as possible. Feed your dog at the same time, walk him at the same time, take him to potty at the same times.
Get Some Company
Some hotels have started referring pet sitters for dog owners who must leave their hotel rooms for extended times. Alternatively, you can hire a dog walker and ask him to swing by and walk your dog or you can take your dog to a nearby daycare.
As always, do lots of research to make sure you hire responsible people. Take steps to ensure your dog won't escape from his room (meet the pet sitter/dog walker outside with your dog on a leash, keep your dog crated).
Give Your Dog Time
Prior to leaving, give your dog ample time to acclimate. Walk your dog, feed him, play some games, ask him to do some tricks, provide mental stimulation with brain games and food puzzles.
Use a Crate
A crate is very important if you must leave your dog any time alone. It prevents your dog from getting hurt, damage expensive property (dogs may chew or scratch things) and others if your dog happens to bite (any dog can bite when stressed).
If your dog is crate-trained, it may help to crate him during your absence and give him a bully stick or a stuffed Kong while you are away. Freezing the Kong may provide a longer-lasting treat.
Keeping the room dim or placing a blanket over the crate can help some anxious dogs relax.
Use a baby monitor so that you can see what your dog is doing while you are away. Nowadays, there are wonderful products such as Pet Cube or Furbo Cameras that allow you to even talk to your dog and toss treats to him too!
Do Not Disturb
Make sure to use the do not disturb sign when you head out. You don't want a housekeeper to open the door and your dog accidentally escapes in search of you!
Be Easy to Track
Provide the receptionist with your cell number in case guests complain about your dog's barking when you are away.
Practice Ahead of Time
When your dog is in a hotel room, he's in a situation that is quite unique. There is really no easy way to replicate this kind of setup to practice in other places where you can control variables to train a different response. However, there may be some options to try.
If your dog does well in the crate at home but freaks out when crated in a hotel, it may help somewhat (no guarantees can be ever made or implied with dog training!) to practice leaving your dog alone in unfamiliar places for brief periods of time. This is best done with the help of a dog professional using force-free methods.
Practice ahead of time crating your dog in your basement, attic, yard, the progress in a friend’s house and start re-training your dog to be calm in there despite the different, unfamiliar locations. If you ever have a prolonged hotel stay, you can practice there too. Start with very short absences and increase gradually over time, preventing your dog as much as possible from getting stressed. Use high-value foods to give during your absences.
What Hotel Rooms to Pick?
Pick your hotel room wisely:
- Choose a room in the back to reduce the sound of people parking and getting in and out of cars.
- Choose a room near the stairs since most people like to use elevators and therefore there may be less noise.
- Avoid the rooms near the reception area, elevator, ice machine, and vending machine area.
- If your dog is reactive to noises, try booking at a time when it's off-season and not many people travel.
- Ask for a room that is away from occupied rooms.
Alternate Options to Hotel Stays
Not all dogs are good candidates for staying at a hotel. If your dog is prone to separation anxiety or if your dog is excessively fearful or reactive towards noises, no matter your effort, you may have to find alternate travel options.
The issue is not only of annoying guests but also avoiding creating excessive stress to your dog. So here are some alternate options to hotels.
- Try booking a suite where you can close the bedroom door to buffer corridor sounds.
- Try using a dog-friendly home rental for your next trip. Websites like Bring Fido offer listings of homes that you can book for a short stay in the company of your best friend.
- Book a cabin.
- Rent a motor home for your next trip.
- Have a pet sitter watch your dog at home.
- Use a pet sitter who boards dogs in her home.
- Use a dog boarding facility.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Adrienne Farricelli
Questions? Have any tips to share? How did your hotel stay with you dog go? Share your thoughts!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 02, 2020:
Your advice is well-taken. The only time we ever traveled with our dogs, we stayed with them in the room. We never had a problem with them barking.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 07, 2019:
Your article contains lots of good suggestions. I have traveled with my dog using hotel rooms and had no problems, but I didn't leave him alone in a room. He was always accompanied by me or my sister. I'll remember your tips for any future trips with a dog. I may need them, especially for one of the dogs in my family.