Go Away barking works. Now a learned behaviour

‘Go Away’, they barked. Four of the last five dogs I have been to are scared of people they don’t know well.

Bouncer, a Havenese, is generally anxious. He doesn’t like people approaching him. He barks Go Away.

Dudley is a Cavachon who barks Go Away madly when people come into his house, particularly if they try to touch him. He has snapped at a couple of children

Oreo barked quite fiercely at me for a short while. Go Away! He may go to nip people on walks who walk past too closely. He has bitten the post lady. Oreo is a Westie/Shitzu/Bichon mix.

Bronson barked Go Away on and off for a couple of hours

Today a visited gorgeous little Manchester Terrier called Bronson. Bronson barked at me on and off all the time I was there.

(It’s coincidence they are all small dogs. I go to many big dogs that don’t like people too close or in their home).

scared of people, he barks Go Away

Bronson

Bronson was already fearful when they picked him up at eight weeks of age. It’s is mainly genetic I’m sure, with maybe insufficient appropriate ‘socialisation’ in the early weeks.

Socialisation of the right kind

They did carry him about to meet people but he shook with fear.  It’s common to think that the puppy simply needs more exposure but the opposite is the case. The experience was negative for him.

Better would have been not to avoid people but to keep distance from them, slowly building up his confidence by using food.

At eighteen months of age now, he has barked Go Away at people coming to his house for much of his life.

The barking is undoubtedly an entrenched, learned behaviour – a habit. With myself, I would say that he was initially scared, wary, but not sufficiently petrified to warrant all the barking.

He was happy to eat little bits of food I rolled away from me, soon taking them from my hand. He jumped up beside me to investigate my bag.

Then, like he had forgotten himself and that he was meant to be barking, he started Go Away again!

Change a habit

‘They say it takes an average of 6 weeks to change a habit”. This could have been written for Bronson.

When Bronson barks ‘Go Away’, it always works in the end.

When a delivery come to the front door, they either pick Bronson up or hold onto him. He barks Go Away until the person leaves.

When anyone he doesn’t know is ready to leave, Bronson barks Go Away! They go.

If someone approaches him directly when they are out, something that can be stressful to many dogs, he will naturally use Go Away barking as his way of dealing with it.

To quote The Pulse Project: 

‘Have you ever walked straight towards a dog?

After having measured many dogs in this situation, the results show that the dog’s pulse goes down when you walk in a curve towards the dog, and the pulse usually rises when you walk straight towards the dog!’

The areas we will now work on with Bronson include frequent delivery people coming to the front door. The couple will teach him to go into the sitting room before they open the door. He will no longer be able to rehearse Go Away.

The young couple needs to invite more friends to their house. Unfamiliar callers are so rare that they have no people to work on.

They will no longer approach head-on towards people when out on walks.  Go Away barking won’t be necessary if they walk him off at a tangent or change direction. They will spare Bronson from anyone approaching to touch him.

As with many dogs, he can handle lots of people in a busy place better than the occasional person. If the person has a dog with them that’s better. He is fine with dogs.

My take-away messages

  • To invite more people to their house for short visits
  • To no longer let Bronson think Go Away barking drives delivery people (or anybody) away
  • To keep at a comfortable distance from people when out and to use food. Like a see-saw, at a comfortable distance they will balance out bad or scary things with good stuff (food).

Over time they should gradually begin to change how Bronson feels about people. He will feel no more need to bark Go Away!

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete report. Details and names may be changed. 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

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