Kerry Blue Terrier controls the front door area

Fudge and Tara the black dog on the right

Tara controls the front door and acts like she feels responsible for comings and goings.

She is a beautiful three-year-old Kerry Blue Terrier who has lived with them for seven months now, and is a companion for the very youthful Lakeland Terrier Fudge, age 13.

Tara has nipped visitors several times, all in the vacinity of the front door.

She tries to control Fudge also. He’s not allowed attention without her intervening and if he has food or a toy she thinks that should be hers.

There is a lot of barking from both dogs which results in the atmosphere being highly charged at times which won’t be helping.

Where Tara will bark more frantically when people come to the door, Fudge barks at everything – especially for attention and food – and in order to make him quiet they give him what he wants. They realise they have actually taught him to bark!

There is only one way out of this and this is to show him it no longer works and that he will get stuff for being quiet instead. Unfortunately he won’t like this, so the neighbours will be warned that the barking is very likely to get worse before it gets better.

Lakeland Terrier controls the front door

Tara

Against a calmer and less stressful background they should better be able to change Tara’s behaviour around the arrival of people to the house. She’s like two dogs. After five minutes and so long as the people don’t go near the front hall, she’s friendly and happy. She allowed me to walk around the kitchen with no reacting, but when I walked into the hallway she rushed in front of me, stood by the front door and staring at me, barking fiercely.

I would have been asking for a nip had I advanced.

The reason the dogs bark so much in general is that it works so well! They have constant access to the view out of the front window and as people pass they bark. What happens? The people pass by. The postman comes up the path and they bark frantically. What happens? The postman, having put the letters through the door, goes away.

The dogs’ barking, they are convinced, is successfully driving unwanted people away from their territory.

The lady needs peace because she works from home. The dogs bark and she feeds them treats to keep them quiet. They now bark for treats and what happens? They get them! Fudge even stands and barks by the cupboard and sure enough, sooner or later, someone will open the door and give him food.

We have worked out a strategy for when people come. The knocker will be changed for a bell and the dogs will be taught that when they hear the bell they run into the kitchen. Only when callers are settled will the dogs join them – Tara initially on lead. They will gate the kitchen door and people should then be able to move about more freely.

I suggest Tara is weaned into happily wearing a muzzle – just in case. If the family are at all concerned, a muzzle will help all relax and if done properly it will be acceptable to Tara.

Currently when someone knocks Tara is shut away but Fudge will be at the door, barking and jumping excitedly at people. Knowing she has lost control of Fudge as well as the front door will, I’m sure, be making poor Tara even more upset. The dogs should be shut in the kitchen together.

I’m sure it’s insecurity behind Tara’s controlling behaviours and I am also sure that the lovely family will help her to become more confident and chilled.

With new management in place the teenage kids should be able to bring their friends home again, the lady in particular will be less stressed and the dogs will slowly learn what works and what no longer works – and given time Tara should relinquish her control of the front door.

From email received just over three weeks later: “Just wanted to share with you that we’ve had two great, stress-free days! Fudge and Tara are now both coming to me immediately on ‘OK’ at alarm barking, we then go into the kitchen to calm down. ….The Sprinkles game is so enjoyed that both dogs ignored next door’s dogs barking today and just happily foraged in the garden……..I can’t believe how unstressed I feel and how good the dogs have been, I’m so happy!…..3 weeks ago I was at the end of my tether and it was me or the dogs. I didn’t know how to stop all the barking, dreaded callers to the house and generally wondered why on earth I had dogs. It has been hard, the first 10 days or so was stressful trying to remember all the things to do, I lost my temper, I shouted, the dogs seemed worse than ever before but now I am seeing results, it feels good, I feel good. The dogs are brilliant, I love them again.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Tara and Fudge. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good particularly in cases involving potential aggression. 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 dog (see myGet Help page).