Westies sleeping togetherIsla, now fifteen months old, started life having been left out in a garden for much of the time, barking. Consequently when the lady took her into her family six months ago the little dog had learnt to bark non-stop. The other Westie, Hamish, began to join in!

Although things are not nearly so bad now after the work the lady has already put in, the most disruptive part of Isla’s barking repertoire is barking at the TV.

She’s wary when the TV is on, but if she sees or hears and animal on TV she goes mental. Hamish backs her up by joining in. In a way, so do the family when they shout at the dogs to stop.

The barking in other aspects of the dogs’ lives should be addressed appropriately so they cease to get so much practice! If barking gets the gentleman to open the door in the morning, then barking is proved to work. If barking when something comes through the door drives the postman away (or so they think), then again, barking works. If barking at a neighbour when they are in the garden results in them being told BE QUIET and maybe chased around the garden, then barking is reinforced.

I take a psychological approach. If barking is an alarm call, should not we, as the ‘parents’, be taking responsiblity for the perceived danger rather than scolding or joining in?

Westies look upHamish is fine with the TV when Isla is out of the room, so it’s Isla who needs a great deal of desensitisation. This takes patience so would best be done during the day by the lady when the family isn’t wanting to watch TV.  Nothing is more infuriating when you want to watch something and a dog barks at the TV.

It’s surprising how many more dogs I go to that do bark at the TV now – the huge HD screens I believe are the problem.

To start with the lady can work on just the picture – no sound and no animals. Then introduce sound. Then silent animals. Then no picture but animal sounds. Then very soft sounds with pictures and animals…. and so on. It could be a long job.

At present the dear little dog deliberately looks away from the TV. This needs to be rewarded. She also may take herself off to her crate in the other room. I would like to try her crate in the sitting room but out of view of the TV, and to teach her to take herself into it when she feels anxious.

The two young dogs have plenty of exercise and sensible stimulation and they love to play together. They are fed the best nutrition available and everything else is in their favour, so I’m sure they will conquer little Isla’s fears of the ‘monsters in the box’ if takcochranen slowly.

Lovely message and photo on Facebook – seven months later:  ‘This is my two watching tv right now. Actually I’m watching and they’re snoozing. Theo, you’ll remember how reactive Isla was when you came to us a few months ago.
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have planned for Hamish and Isla, which is why I don’t go into exact detail details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).