Chocolate Labrador Tilly posing on the turquoise rugThere was no barking when I rang the doorbell. Was I at the right house? I was greeted politely by beautiful 16-month-old Chocolate Labrador, Tilly. Here she is, posing on the turquose rug!

By 6am every morning Tilly wakes up and starts to bark. She barks and she barks. This happens in the weekends also which is annoying. Because they get up at 6.30 anyway Tilly obviously feels that her barking is rewarded if she keeps it up for long enough. Then she is usually given her breakfast straight away.

The only possible external cause we could think of for the early wake up is the boiler coming on at about 6am. Neighbours may routinely be going to work, but not at weekends. She is, however, rewarded for barking in a big way. Either the lady or the gentleman comes down. LOVELY. She is probably given a bit of fuss. LOVELY. Then she has breakfast. LOVELY. All these lovely things happening at the beginning of the day under her own terms (or so she believes).

Upon examination many of the other things in Tilly’s life are regulated by her if she is sufficiently persistent, including when she is touched (she mouths when she hasn’t initiated the contact), she is played with when she chooses, if she whines and barks at food time she is fed, when they are out she will only come back when called when and if she chooses. A typical teenager, one might say!  In order to help the morning problem, Tilly needs to start to realise that she’s not the main decision-maker in other areas either.

She needs to be offered plenty of attention and lovely stuff, perhaps even more than she has now – but when they choose and not when Tilly chooses! Our plan for the mornings is, for a start, to try setting the boiler for later. When they come down, to take no notice of her at all for a good ten minutes so their entry into the kitchen is no longer particularly lovely. They will feed her later and do other things first. In order to reinforce that feeding only happens if she has been quiet before they enter the room, they will try leaving the room for a minute or so before coming back in and feeding her.

She is wary of young children but, being so friendly with people and other dogs, that should be easily solvable, as should the mouthing and the recall.

So, today I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful dog with some issues that could be worrying if they get worse, and they are wisely nipping them in the bud.

A week later: “Just wanted to give you a little update on Tilly. She barked at 6.30 BUT after a couple of barks stopped! started a little again at 7.00am then stopped and we went down when she wasnt barking at 7.15am progress!!”