The couple have fallen out with their neighbours because of their dog’s barking.

If Working Cocker Bella hears or sees a neighbour at the fence, she goes mad. She will bark in the house if she hears them.

She is constantly on the lookout and the listen-out.

They need Bella to switch off her ‘neighbour watch’.

They want her to be able to react happily rather than scared and territorial. Even simply ignoring them would be a good thing.

The neighbours themselves don’t help. It must be very trying for them, but they stand at the fence staring at Bella, before complaining to the lady about her dog’s barking. A barking dog can certainly get annoying.

The more she rehearses barking at people near the house, the more she will do it

Also, the more aroused she is generally, the more reactive she will be. See ‘stress bucket‘.

The logistics are tricky. There is nowhere in their garden that is private from the neighbours where Bella can go to toilet in peace. There is a heavy metal gate Bella can see through that squeaks and clangs each time the neighbour enters their garden, which sets her off. They are in and out several times a day.

We need to work on each thing that triggers Bella’s barking. It means not letting Bella out alone unless the neighbour is indoors or away from home.

First, the garden.

Each time Bella looks at the gate or the fence, this should be marked with food. They can scatter feed her in garden when the neighbors are not about – lace the environment.

Next the gate

This heralds the neighbour coming into the garden. Now it must trigger food or fun, immediately. Ball play or tuggy maybe.

Then quickly they bring Bella in before she can get stuck in to barking.

The front of the house.

Whenever she sees or hears someone passing or approaching the front of their house, she barks. She jumps on the back of the sofa to see out, barking. ‘Go Away from my territory’. Bingo. they go. The window needs to be blocked from view.

New habits

They will build some new habits. Every time they call her in, they will feed her.

They will do all they can now to calm her down.

Instead of opening the door when she hears that gate so she charges out barking, they will pop a lead on her and take her out. They will only release her when her body relaxes. They may need to bring her in again.

In the conservatory she is constantly looking and listening for the neighbours. The couple tell her to be quiet. They will now only allow her in there accompanied and while they can work on her reactivity.

When someone knocks on their front door, Bella rushes to it barking. They will gradually desensitise her to the knocker.

She may cry when left alone. They will now leave her somewhere ‘safe’, in the middle of the house away from the sound of the gate.

They need to change what they do or nothing Bella does will change.

As a working dog, Bella needs brain work. She may be looking for work to do. Without the ‘neighbour watch’ it may leave a void in her life which needs to be replaced with other enriching things.

Now when she hears a neighbour they can chuck her the ball and then take her straight in. She will be starved of the ball so this is the only time she will get it.

It will take time.

With the neighbour’s cooperation they can maybe WD40 the gate, and put something on it to block the view. Ask them for help. Understandably they are now angry and are threatening to report them for Bella’s barking. Let them know they are doing something about it and ask them to be patient.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete report. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good. Click here for help