The Miniature Wirehaired Daschund charged about barking, agitated whilst at the same time as ecstatic to see me. He flew all over me.
It was relentless. At my request we were all doing our best to ignore it.
I continually turned away and tipped him off.
I then asked the lady to show me what they usually did when someone came and he was barking like this. She pointed her finger at the agitated Monty and shouted NO a couple of times.
Monty stopped. Briefly. Then he focussed his barking on her.
Monty was also ready to bark at the smallest sound outside, but this time a different kind of bark. An alarmed bark.
The agitated Monty panted and scratched.
He scooted around the carpet – he has recurring anal gland problems that can only add to his stress (he has an appointment with the vet who will check him all over too). He chewed his feet.
Then he was flying around again. A stuffed Kong later on gave him and us a short respite.
It is so very hard for people to deal with this sort of thing and I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that, much as they love their adorable little dog, he is driving them nuts. They have spent money and they have taken advice. They are at their wits’ end.
The humans are agitated and the dog is agitated. A vicious circle.
Monty barks at people, he barks at planes or helicopters. He barks at church bells and things on TV. They can’t have friends round because from the moment he hears the doorbell he is jumping up, flying everywhere, agitated and barking frantically.
Some months ago an old-school dog trainer advised spraying him in the face with water. This did stop him – briefly.
There are two things particularly wrong with this.
Trying to terrorise an agitated dog does nothing for the underlying reasons for the barking. It undoubtedly makes them worse, whatever the cause of the barking.
The other very wrong thing is that the dog quickly gets immune to water spray, so then what?
They were advised to move on to an ‘anti-bark’ collar and other remote-controlled anti-bark devices. Here is my favourite video demonstrating how aversives can only add to stress and confusion.
Things have progressively got worse. They are people doing their very best with the information they can find. How do people know where to look? They are at their wits’ end.
They feel they have really tried everything.
Fortunately, they have not tried everything.
Not at all.
For a start, they haven’t tried doing everything they possibly can to cut down on Monty’s general arousal levels using only positive methods. Nobody has suggested that.
They’ve not tried helping him out with the alarm barking – basically thanking him instead of punishing him. Yes – thanking him – and using food!
The usual question then is, ‘am I not then rewarding my dog for barking?’.
Not if he’s alarm barking. They are addressing the fear that is causing the barking. Already with me being there they could see how that worked. A plane went over. He pricked up but didn’t bark. If they are sufficiently on the ball and can spot when he first hears something, they can catch it before he even starts – pre-empting barking.
Poor little friendly dog. What a state to be in.
People coming into his house cause a sort of total meltdown in Monty, to the extent that he may lose control of his bladder.
He did lie down a few times briefly. He lay in front of me on a stool and now that he wasn’t clamouring for attention anymore I slowly touched him. He lay still. I did it again and he charged off around the room once again.
Now when Monty is calm, instead of gratefully letting sleeping dogs lie, they will sometimes initiate activities. We looked at things that would both fulfill him and help to calm him down.
Getting to the underlying reason why he’s barking and dealing with that is the key. Any punishment is like putting a plaster on a festering wound. The wound continues to get worse underneath.
Now they have the tools for dealing with their beloved dog’s barking and agitated behaviour in a kind and positive way, they will be much happier.
And so will Monty.
Just one more thing – Monty is perfect out on walks. He doesn’t bark, he doesn’t pull and he loves other dogs!