Many years ago I lived next door to a Golden Retriever that was left out in the garden all day. He barked non-stop. My son was studying for his A-levels at the time.
Whether you feel compassion for the dog or annoyance, persistent barking isn’t good for people or for the dog.
It’s certainly not good when it’s your own dogs that won’t stop barking.
Complaining to neighbours can be tricky. ‘Do you know that your dog barks all day’ didn’t work back then. They merely said the dog had to be left outside because he would otherwise toilet in the house.
Excited barking before 7am.
The family I went to yesterday have had a polite complaint from a neighbour about the noise their dogs make, mostly when they are being taken out for their walk. This is early, at a time when many people still be in bed.
Their nine-month-old Cocker Cavalier cross, Chester, and older Collie Labrador mix Jet are nearly beside themselves with excited barking before leaving the house on walks. They continue down the road, barking and squealing.
The barking itself isn’t the real problem but the symptom – the underlying causes are the problem.
The main cause is arousal. The excitement and anticipation overflows into the walk itself.
Another cause is to do with routine and habit. The dogs will recognise much more subtle triggers than the boots going on and leads being picked up.
Excited barking, simply, works.
Chester and Jet’s barking is also a learned behaviour. It’s successful. It works for them. They will believe that their barking actually causes the walk to happen.
The two dogs should begin to learn that excited barking no longer works. Being quiet is what brings results.
Some self-control is necessary!
The solution has its roots in other areas of their lives beyond walks, most particularly in the reduction of general stress and arousal levels. For instance, Chester gets into a frenzy of barking excitement as he chases Jet who is chasing the ball!
I believe that too much repetitive chasing simply encourages arousal levels to get out of hand, and this then spills over into other things – like walks.
So where do we start?
Barking won’t get the goodies.
Both dogs will need to learn that that barking doesn’t get the goodies – whether it’s a walk, food, being let out of the car or anything else.
Just as importantly, they will learn that quiet does get the goodies.
Here is a rundown of our walk procedure, designed for this particular case.
The start is to systematically desensitise the dogs to the triggers.
Touch the leads and excited barking begins. The lady does most of the walking. Now she will leave the leads about and regularly touch them or move them about.
She puts her boots on and the frenzy begins. So now she will, from time to time, put boots on and take them off again.
She will now be less predictable. Her usual morning routine means ‘the tail is wagging the dog’. The walks will be at more random times (she is home during the day so this is possible).
Instead of the dogs anticipating a walk to the fields, barking until they get there to be let off lead, she will now give them lots of short walks leading nowhere much.
Ready to go?
Collars and harnesses can be put on well before she plans to go out, walking boots also. She can leave the leads near the front door, dropping them on the floor in advance.
When it’s time to go, there will be no ‘Walkies’, calling the dogs, putting boots on, lifting leads and so on.
Don’t underestimate ultra slow-motion! It sends out calm vibes and also makes the dogs curious!
The lady will walk slowly and quietly to the front door. She can wait there in silence if the dogs aren’t with her – they will soon come!
Very slowly she will go to pick up the leads and if there is no barking, put them on. As soon as there is any excited barking, she will freeze and look away. If it carries on, she can drop the leads and walk away.
Actions speak a lot louder than words with dogs.
Slowly she can go to open the door – being ready to shut it again at any excited barking.
Still moving quietly and slowly, she won’t yet shut the door behind her – she may need to come back in. I suggest she starts by walking in a few circles around the front if they are quiet before going back to shut the door.
After a couple of starts in other directions, they can then walk quietly down the road in the direction of their favourite field.
You wouldn’t believe, from my photo, that these two dogs could ever be noisy!