Dog barks when we leave

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Our 5.5 year old shih-tzu tends to bark whenever he is left alone at home, which is pretty rare since I work from home, but sometimes, my partner and I still need to go places together.

We've tried the usual things. He loves chewing on his toys but won't chew when we're out. We find that 1h walk with some running and fetch at the park before we go out sometimes helps, but not every time. We'd like to get to a point where a walk isn't mandatory every time we leave. We have a doggie camera (with 2 way microphone and treat dispenser) that we turn on before we leave. Since it makes a ringing noise, we give him a treat when it rings so he associates the sound with a treat. That way, if we turn on the camera while we are already out, it dings, we give him a treat, instead of the noise scaring him.

He never ever barks when we are home unless someone walks into our yard or house, and that usually only lasts a minute or two. Otherwise he is super chill. When we are home, he likes to lay down in the same room as us or in the next room so i'm not so sure it's separation anxiety anymore.

When we are gone, the barking is the regular, single bark every 5-10 seconds. Not a howl, but his head goes up like a howl. Sometimes he scratches at the door, sometimes he just stands or sits there and bark for hours. He is not crate trained and doesn't make a mess inside the house or chews on anything. The blinds are always shut but he can hear what goes on in our building hallway or in the front yard.

We've tried using the speak feature on the camera to tell him to stop or snap him out of his barking fits but he's easily spooked and it just makes things worse so we've stopped that.

We've contacted a few dog trainers and we will start working with one shortly so I can update later, but in the mean time, i'd like our neighbors to NOT hate us and also help our dog calm down and relax when we are not home. We'd like to keep barking collars as a very last resort but will consider one, as i've seen it work well for a friend's dog (she was barky and anxious, and the barking only fueled her anxiety. now she doesn't start barking and stays relaxed). I have doubts about those other sonic plug-in devices but would like to get feedback on those if anyone has used them.

Until we start with the dog trainer, I'd appreciate any and all tips.

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