Working Cocker Spaniel Lottie has a rather unusual living situation. It all started very well when she was a puppy, but then things changed.
As she became older, she grew more alert.
Lottie lives with the young lady in an army barracks – in the mess.
Living in officers’ mess with several more young adults.
From eight weeks old she became very well used to living with lots of other people. They each have their own little apartment that opens out onto a joint corridor.
People are regularly walking back and forth. The young lady keeps her door open so Lottie can go out into this corridor whenever she likes and interact with the other young men and women.
What a perfect start in life where socialising with people is concerned!
Then Lottie’s young lady owner had to go away for a while. Lottie was now about 9 months old – possibly at an age when a dog becomes more alert anyway – the gateway to adulthood.
Lottie went to live with the girl’s parents and their two dogs.
These two dogs spend a considerable part of the day looking out of the window and barking at people going past outside.
Their barking says ‘Go Away!’ and is constantly reinforced. The people always do move on, don’t they.
It’s likely that these two dogs taught Lottie to be on the alert, just as they themselves are.
Lottie brought the alert barking back home with her
The situation now is that most times when anyone walks down the passage, Lottie will alert and bark. This happens a lot.
Usually it’s someone she knows and she will quickly stop. If it’s someone she doesn’t know, she will continue to bark.
This is a classic case for desensitising and counter-conditioning.
As soon as Lottie alerts, the young lady can throw her some food – ideally before she barks.
She will also place food pots in the corridor and ask other people to drop or throw her some food as they pass the door. If Lottie is in the passage, they can feed her.
Lottie can earn some of her day’s quota in this way – fortunately she is very food-motivated.
We looked also at the best way to deal with people she didn’t know like cleaners or visiting friends.
Lottie may also bark at people out on walks, sometimes if they stop and talk but particularly if they try to touch her.
Again, the lady will now associate them with good things whilst doing a bit of (very useful!) social distancing.
From personal experience particularly with my own black Working Cocker, Pickle, some dogs just like some humans are simply more vocal than others!
The aim isn’t to make her silent. It’s to cut down on alarm so life is more comfortable for her and her young lady. She will show her young dog that there is no need to be on constant alert for approaching people.
Lottie may of course start to bark with excitement when she hears someone’s door opening or footsteps or voices in the passage! Anticipating food!
That would be the time to drop out the feeding. Job done!
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help