This little dog is on high alert all the time and extremely vocal.
He barks at every sound he hears and at anything passing the window. One of their other two dogs, both Labradors, may give one woof and this results in another long barking session from Chippy.
He barks for attention too – just stands looking at someone and barks until they react.
When he anticipates anything is about to happen, he will bark with excitement.
When visitors come to the house, move about or get up to go, it will be continual barking. There is nothing aggressive about it nor does he seem fearful – just excited. When he calms down sufficiently he enjoys a little bit of fuss.
General stress levels of all three dogs needs reducing by any means possible. The whole atmosphere is so highly charged that Chippy in particular is like a little volcano permanently on the point of erupting.
He needs more in the way of healthy stimulation which is hard because he is already permanently over-stimulated and the smallest thing sets him off. One thing that could do him good would be more walks, but he seems reluctant to leave the house. Once he is out of the vicinity of his home territory, however, he quietens down and relaxes, enjoying a wander and a sniff – perfect for him.
We need to deal with each thing separately – dealing with the reason for the barking rather than the noise itself. Shouting certainly never works in the long term.
Territorial or alarm barking needs to be dealt with by removing as much opportunity as possible, blocking the dogs’ view out of the window for example. Then he needs helping out. Whose responsibility is it to protect the house?
The dogs can learn that they don’t get any of the things they want while they are barking, whether it’s their food, being let out of the crate, attention, going out for their walk and so on. His family can practise the art of ‘patiently waiting’ body language so the dogs can work out for themselves what works!
Routine is a good thing in many ways, but it can end with ‘the tail wagging the dog’. The dog ‘knows what comes next’ and gets excited and starts to bark – no doubt then believing that his barking has caused what he wants to happen. Some things may need to be done in a different order and at different times.
Most important however is to focus on increasing quiet rather than decreasing barking. What they DO want rather than want they DON’T want. This is hard. Quiet needs to be rewarding.
Almost as soon as I arrived I was clicking and dropping food for Chippy as soon as the barking paused. Soon he had learnt that if he barked and then stopped he got food. Clever little dog! He was so focused that at least now he was ignoring people walking past the window. I gradually waited for longer until we had quiet for a minute.
Each day they will have fifty bits of his kibble in a cup on the table. He can earn them for being quiet or settling down.
His family must also make sure he gets plenty of good attention with various calming activities, initiated by themselves, when he’s quiet. It’s too easy to let quiet sleeping dogs lie in thankfulness when they are not being demanding.
Things are sure to get worse before they get better. Up until now barking has always worked. It has got Chippy out of the crate, it’s got him his food, it’s got him attention. It has driven away people walking past his house. What happens when it no longer works? Will he just stop and give up without a fight? I think not! In frustration he will doubtless redouble his efforts for a while.
They need to hold their heads. If one person gives in it will tell Chippy that, if he tries hard enough, his barking still works.