brianBrian is a terrier mix. Do you remember Greengrass’ dog in Heartbeat called Alfred? Brian reminded me of him.

Brian is a superb little dog and is a tribute to his owners who have had him since he was a puppy. He is excellent with people coming to his house, he’s lovely with children, friendly to people he meets when out and very good with other dogs. He is not so good with the neighbours however, nor with the postman.

This is because they are either in or too near his territory. All that separates the neighbour’s garden is a low fence with a gate, and there is a common pathway through the three gardens at the back of the houses, so the postman has to walk through Brian’s garden to the the other two houses. Brain, usually such a friendly little character, has taken exception to the neighbours just being in their own garden, or even in their conservatory.

When dogs bark they are usually scolded. It seldom does any good. To my mind punishment is unfair because the dog is doing what he feels is a vital job – protection duty. The reason why he has this role is not only to do with his breed and personality, it’s also it’s the role his humans by their own behaviour have given him. He is doing his best job to get the ‘danger’ to go away.

Here is something I ask myself; might shouting at a barking dog perhaps sound like the pack joining in and backing him up? He can hear the shouts. He can sense the aggro. How does a dog know if our noise is directed at him and not the ‘danger’. Is it possible even that we could be encouraging a dog to keep going if we ‘join in’?

Would it not be fairer and more sensible to relieve him of the duty? In a human family it’s the parents who are reponsible for protecting the children and home. In a group or pack of dogs, the ‘protector’ is going to be a leader.

I encourage people to deal not so much with the barking itself as the reason for the dog’s barking and deal with that instead. In Brian’s case, because he feels it’s his responsiblity to guard his garden, Brian feels intimidated by the very nice neighbours who are simply too close – even invading his territory by bending over the fence to try to make friends which he’s having none of. Every week the neighbour wheels a huge thing called a wheelie bin through his garden, and Brian is straight out there through the dog flap, having to confront the noisy enemy all by himself.

Whilst it’s unreasonable to expect Brian not to bark at all – he is a dog after all, Brian’s owners are going to take over the protection role, and also ensure his environment is managed so he’s exposed to as little ‘danger’ as possible. This means limiting his area of patrol and constant access to the garden at certain times of the day in particular, and taking him seriously when in effect he is shouting ‘danger danger’.

So that Brian sees them as leaders who can be trusted to do the protection job themselves, Brian’s owners need to tighten up in a few other important areas, and to work on our strategy for the neighbours. The neighbours themselves are happy to help.

It won’t be too long before Brian and the neighbours are friends, I’m sure.

I have just received this email (just over two weeks after my visit): “Both of us have noticed improvements, the most amazing one is his calmness with neighbours.  Brian hasn’t barked at them once. Will keep you posted”.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.