Barking in the night and a very tired lady

Published by Theo Stewart on

(Online consultation)

Flora is barking in the night – starting as soon as they they leave the dogs to go upstairs to bed.

Flora is an eight-month-old Jack Russell. She lives with her littermate, Raffles.

Unlike the calmer and quieter Raffles, Flora is vocal and excitable. Barking will usually get a result of some kind, as it does in this case.

Ten days ago

This barking in the night is new thing that started just ten days ago.

Ten days ago Flora started barking in the night and the lady came down. The little dog had recently been taken out into the garden but the lady wondered did she need to toilet again?

They have tried everything they can think of apart from having the dogs upstairs with them. Both dogs have happily slept together in the kitchen for the past six months.

I suspect the barking at night began that first time because Flora was still wide awake and aroused at bedtime. On top of that, she may have heard something.

Reinforced behaviour

The result of the barking which started soon after the couple had gone upstairs was for the lady to came down. They have tried just leaving her to bark but it’s too distressing.

It doesn’t take a dog long to realise that if she barks for long enough someone will eventually come down. Now she barks and barks – as soon as she is left at bedtime and she will start again in the night.

Let’s try to work out the reason behind the barking and deal with it at source.

The dogs next door

As well as barking in the night, Flora is learning that barking at passing people brings results. They will go on their way.

She gets very aroused by next door’s dogs behind the fence.

They will work on how she feels about these dogs so over time she no longer feels the need to go crazy and bark or jump at the fence.

Instead of letting Flora bomb out into the garden, barking, they will for now have her on a long line and wait for calm at the door before opening it, going out with her. It will take some hard work for a while.

Keeping her on the line, they will work on counter-conditioning her to the alarm she feels when she hears or senses the next door dogs behind the fence – catching her before she gets stuck in.

Avoiding excessive over-arousal

They will stick to the kind of walks that cause less excitement and more mooching, sniffing and exploring, particularly later in the day.

They won’t allow play between the dogs get out of hand, especially in the evening. They will do everything they can to not only keep Flora calmer in general but also to fill her life with enrichment and satisfying activities like working for her food.

Last night there was no barking in the night – but why?

Perversely, seeing as their appointment with me was today, last night Flora didn’t bark! It so happened that the lady stayed down until later. Flora was settled and sleepy before she went upstairs.

This adds weight to my theory that arousal, peaking at bedtime, is the culprit. It’s then been reinforced by the lady coming down to her.

So for some nights the couple will again stay downstairs until Flora is sleepy before going to bed, in order to break the little dog’s new habit of barking in the night.

Raffles sleeps through it all.

Three days later: “Another trouble free night. She seems to have gone back to how she always was at night. So relieved.”

One week later: “Things are still going well and we are keeping up the ‘keep Flora calm’ strategy so haven’t had any night time barking since we chatted to you which is marvellous. I thought the format of your session was excellent and a perfect balance of fact finding and suggestions for practical strategies. Really nice to have your follow-ups too! It’s extraordinary how an issue like this can be solved over Zoom without face-to-face contact. “

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

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