Go Away!

The big dog stands on the chair looking out of the window. When someone goes past he barks ‘Go Away!’. They go. Success.

Go Away, he barkedHe prances and jumps around a jogger and they run away. Success.

Why is Einstein like this? Great name, isn’t it, probably reflecting the Poodle component of his mix which includes Rottweiler and Doberman.

There is guard dog in his genes but there is more to it. In a yard with guard dogs is where Einstein spent the formative first five months of his life. He will undoubtedly have been taught by them to bark ‘Go Away’ at anyone daring to come into the yard.

I found two-year-old Einstein’s barking at me rather curious. It’s like he wasn’t serious. It sounded quite fierce but his heart wasn’t really in it. He isn’t as emotional as he sounds. His body language didn’t back up his vocals.

If he was really intent on guard duty he wouldn’t take a break to sniff around for a bit of dropped food.

It’s tribute to the work and love of his young owners that, considering his start in life, he’s not a lot worse. He is affectionate and friendly to people he knows and okay with people when out so long as they don’t invade his space and aren’t running.

Behaviour learned from when he was a young puppy.

Experiences, particularly early ones, actually change the brain: see Changing behaviour from the neurobiological perspective.  It will be difficult to break.

The way to deal with Einstein’s Go Away barking involves a ‘jigsaw’ of pieces that, when added together, should help the situation. Here are some:

His bed is placed against the front door – the most important guarding location in the house. I suggest they move it. They will prevent him looking out of the window to bark Go Away at passing people. They will get their neighbour to throw him a ball (Einstein barks for him to go away too).

When he sees a jogger, instead of barking Go Away he will be given something different to do.

Gradually people coming to the house should become a positive thing. At present they have few visitors for obvious reasons. They now need plenty of people calling to their house.

Using myself as a guinea pig we devised a plan. When I arrive I never have a dog like this in the room. I like to sit down first and then the dog is brought in. A sitting person is less of a threat.

He soon found that his initial bout of barking brought no result. I didn’t go away. I was relaxed and casually threw a couple of bits of food away from me. He ate them. There was none of the usual fuss and comforting he might get from his lady owner who was holding his lead.

Reinforcing him for not barking.

At each break in barking she now clicked and dropped food. She clicked when he briefly sat and settled. He was up again and barking. She clicked and fed when he stopped.

Now it was obvious that he wasn’t seriously aroused – it was like he did it out of a sense of duty, so when he started again I asked her to immediately walk him out of the room. In and out. In and out. The fifth time he no longer looked at me when he came back in. Click and treat. Settle, click and treat.

Like many dogs with this behaviour, if he is out of the room for a few minutes it’s like he’s forgotten the person is there so he starts again. They can take advantage of this with their guinea-pig guests by leaving him out for five minutes and bringing him back in, then going through the whole procedure again.

Interestingly, he is fine at a couple of other houses where he spends time. The only occasion when there was an incident with a person arriving there was when the lady owner was present. Very possibly he’s protective of her also. She will no longer ‘pander’ to his barking at people with fuss and comfort. He’s not scared after all. It’s like she’s in cahoots with him. She should act cool and unconcerned!

Einstein should be left to work out for himself what works (quiet – click and food) and what doesn’t work (you want ‘Go Away’? Ok, but it’s you who leaves).

This two-year-old big teddy bear really is a gorgeous dog. He has so many good qualities. He’s great with other dogs, he is biddable, he comes back when called. He is cuddly and affectionate.

They just don’t want or need a guard dog, that’s all.

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 Einstein and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. As in this case, it’s could be very easy to jump to the wrong conclusions.  One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)