Mystery barking from nineteen-month-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier Vinnie.

Vinnie lives with a family that I first went to see seventeen years ago. They had two Staffies who sadly are no longer with us.

Vinnie has several issues due to over-arousal and excitement – and probably fear also. There main aim is for him to stop the mystery barking.

What triggers it? What does he get out of it?

A dog won’t bark for no reason at all. We may not feel it’s a valid reason, but the dog will be fulfilling some need that he’s trying to satisfy.

The mystery barking

Vinnie doesn’t bark much at the usual things – alarm barking at sounds outside and so on. He sits and watches the word go by outside their caravan.

The most annoying barking is while the lady is on the phone, trying to work.

The other is the real mystery. He barks at a corner of the room under the TV. This is a little shrine where they keep the ashes of their two past dogs, along with a couple of balls and their collars.

Does he want a ball? Does he want the collars? Can he smell the dogs? Who knows. Very likely the human reaction has something to do with it.

A calmer background

It has to be against a calmer background to reduce Binnie’s stress levels. He can sometimes get into such a state that he will jump up and grab the lady or an adult daughter with his teeth. Not so much the man.

They will be a lot more aware of the things that stir Vinnie up. There are many small things which, when added together, will help Vinnie to be more relaxed.

A calmer and more stable dog will involve changing the kind of play. Changing to things that use his brain more whilst getting him less excited. Things that use his jaws and nose.

Barking at the lady on the phone

This is about preventing rehearsal. About pre-empting. His arousal levels shoot up when a second person enters a room. It’s a bit similar when that second person is on the end of the phone. The lady herself will sound animated while talking, as one does. Vinnie barks at her.

Consequently, she touches and pets him to keep him quiet which will be reinforcing.

It’s not really mystery barking. It’s understandable.

Now she will have a box of chews, bones, stuffed Kongs and so on. Before making a call she will call Vinnie (giving him the attention he craves). She will offer him something for his mouth. He will be able to self-calm.

When the phone rings, she will immediately call him and give him something for his mouth as she answers it.

Eventually they can leave a box of chewing things on the floor. If he’s feeling agitated, he will have learnt to go and fetch something for himself when she’s talking on the phone.

Barking at the ashes corner

This is the real mystery barking.

His tail is up. He’s highly aroused. He’s agitated.

They may be able to get him away, but that doesn’t teach him not to go back.

The obvious first thing to do is to find another ‘special place’ for their previous dogs’ shrine.

Now they can pre-empt any barking. Any time he goes over to the spot, or even looks to it, they can quickly say ‘Yes’ and call him to them for a bit of food. Soon he may look at the corner and come for food. My guess is he will soon lose interest.

They may eventually want to return the shrine to its former spot. If so, they continue with exactly the same process.

A more relaxed Vinnie when out

They did also mention a goal of being able to sit in peace in a cafe with a relaxed Vinnie.

All the arousal things need working on. This includes his hyper excitement when he sees another dog. Then the result will manifest in all areas.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete report. 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