Freddie, an adorable Cockerpoo, barks too much.
Ironically, he didn’t bark once during the three hours or so I was with him. This was probably because none of the things he normally barks at occurred.
The lady opened the door before I rang the bell and the bell always starts him off. Thoroughly aroused, he may continue barking, particularly if a man comes in.
He was just very interested in me and probably the smell of my own four dogs.
He associates the unexpected sounds with people nearby.
If he hears a car on the gravel outside or a door slam, he will bark. If he can hear a neighbour outside, Freddie will bark.
For the first few months of Freddie’s life they lived in London and because noise of passing people was constant, he was unaffected.
For the past two years they have lived in the country with just a couple of neighbours and some passing dog walkers.
Now if he hears any unexpected sound against this quiet backdrop Freddie, thoroughly alarmed, will bark. He can be sleeping one minute and acting like his world will end the next!
When on walks, a person can appear at quite a distance and he will immediately start to lunge and bark.
Reduced barking is our end goal.
That’s it really. There are no other problems. Freddie is very friendly with people he knows and quickly warms to those he doesn’t. He is also very cooperative when asked to do something. Absolutely gorgeous.
So, we looked into all aspects of Freddie’s life with a view to dealing with any areas that could possibly be relevant to his nervousness and barking at unexpected sounds or at people outside.
By nature he is alert and quick to react to things, so the goal is for him to be less easily alarmed and the barking to be short-lived, not to stop him barking altogether. Like people, some dogs are simply a lot more vocal than others!
We are approaching this from three angles.
One: Stress reduction
If we can we reduce his overall arousal/stress levels, he will be less reactive and have more tolerance in general. This will mean avoiding activities that stir him up unnecessarily and replace them with things that will help engage his brain and calm him down.
They have discovered that he is allergic to a lot of things – most meat, wheat and even grass. He will be permanently uncomfortable or itching which must be affecting his stress levels. With the help of their vet, they are now addressing this.
Two: How his humans react when he barks
It’s important for people with dogs that alarm bark at sudden unexpected sounds not to merely try to ‘stop the dog barking’. This includes scolding, shouting or worse – ‘anti-bark’ gadgets (never employed by Freddie’s owners).
For Freddie to gain confidence and trust in his humans, they will let Freddie know they are on the case so Freddie can quickly relax again. We have discussed how.
Three: Reducing the fear that is driving the barking
The only way to reduce Freddie’s barking in the first place is to deal with and reduce the fear and emotion of alarm that is driving the barking. There are ways of getting him to feel a lot better about people driving up to the house, about men, about the neighbours and about people he sees on walks.
When out, pushing him into situations where he’s too close to people can make things worse but avoiding them altogether won’t advance things at all.
They now have a plan to follow that should help Freddie to gain confidence and build trust in them to keep him safe.