Harvey barks outside in the garden.
Like many people, they have felt it kindest to allow their gorgeous one-year-old Cockerpoo Harvey free access to the garden via a permanently open dog flap. He may need to toilet.
Unwittingly given the role of guard duty
However, Harvey’s use of the dog flap has been to charge out looking for trouble.
Then he barks at any sound he hears.
When they go out an leave him alone, they have always left him with free access to the garden.
There are nearby dogs that live in outside kennels to bark at. He hears car doors shutting and neighbours talking.
When they are at home and he barks outside, family members call him in – or try to. He takes no notice of them. I saw the lady try to catch him, optimistically luring him with a piece of food. He was having none of it.
I went to see Harvey’s family primarily because someone living nearby is upset by the noise of Harvey barking in the garden.
The family wants him to be more biddable and obedient – to take more notice of them in general. When he barks outside they want to be able to call him in and for him to come straight away.
No chance! He has had many months rehearsing barking when he wants and coming in when he feels like it.
Firstly they need to manage the situation – simply make it impossible for him to do his own noisy thing outside.
They should to give him no further opportunity to ignore them, by only letting him out into the garden on lead. (This, to my mind, is the only thing a retractable lead is useful for).
Secondly, they need to look at why he’s barking. He’s an alert dog and he barks indoors as well as in the garden. It’s not the actual barking we are dealing with so much as the root cause.
In the house he barks when he hears something, when the doorbell goes or when someone enters the house before he knows who it is. This is fear-based.
Mostly the root cause for when he barks outside in the garden or in the house is alarm also, but that’s not all. Sometimes he simply goes outside and barks. It gets him some attention as they are desperate to get him in and quiet as quickly as possible. They chase him and try to bribe him!
These garden antics are largely learned behaviour. Now he needs to get out of the habit.
What’s in it for him?
Taking more notice of them and being more biddable depends largely upon motivation.
Also involved are Harvey’s arousal levels as, when really stirred up, taking notice of them is way down his list of priorities and he may not even hear them.
Off lead on walks he increasingly ignores them since becoming an adolescent. He has run off a couple of times and they have been unable to get him back. Once was frighteningly near to a busy road.
I advise they now use a long line when out and work on his recall.
Wary of people
Harvey lacks general confidence around people he doesn’t know very well. They will work to build up his confidence when people come to the house and when he meets people out on walks.
He will never be a silent dog and nor would they want him to be, but they can help him to feel less alarmed and therefore to bark a lot less. They should take away from him the role of ‘guard dog’ and show him that they, in fact, guard him.
I would argue that it’s a lot kinder, actually, to keep the dog flap closed.