With the exception of a German Shepherd, I have recently been to a run of little dogs, and one thing many of them have in common is excessive barking!
Two of yesterday’s three little terriers were particularly hyped up, especially Betty (left). Not only do they bark at sounds and people arriving, they bark with excited anticipation whenever anyone moves. Car journeys are a nightmare.
I took Betty’s picture after we had worked with her for a couple of hours, keeping the atmosphere as calm as possible, moving quietly and slowly, and rewarding her when she stopped pawing and scratching for attention. She became calm, undemanding and happy. It’s like at last she had a clue what was required of her.
The barking understandably drives the two ladies with whom they live to destraction. There is quite a lot of shouting! The more worked up the humans become, the more worked up the dogs get too. It’s a vicious circle.
Attempts at some ‘firm’ discipline have led Betty to showing her teeth and she has in fact bitten one of the ladies. A confrontational approach can so often end with the dog standing up for itself.
In the stress-charged atmosphere, Betty and one of the others may break into a fight. Betty can become fixated with her tail, then spins, growls and chews it. She may chew at her feet.
It was wonderful to see the little dog calm down and to demonstrate to the ladies what is possible if positive methods are used. There are kind methods of stopping a dog barking at the gate, of breaking up potential trouble between dogs and of getting a dog off the sofa. These methods require patience but the big difference is that they work, and not just in the moment.
Many humans feel it’s the right thing to do to play wildly exciting games (‘but the dogs love it’) or give manic greetings to dogs, not understanding that they may be pumping them up to a degree that something eventually will have to give. It’s hard to convince people that it’s kinder to wait and respond to the dogs only when they are reasonably calm.
The main aim for now is to reduce the tension and arousal in the household. Having calmer dogs will help their humans – and calmer humans will help the dogs.