If it weren’t for her persistent barking, Elsa would be the perfect pet.
The young Parson Terrier is friendly, enthusiastic and non-aggressive. She is great company for the disabled gentleman who spends all day with her while his wife is at work.
Some barking is welcome. Some simply too much.
Elsa has different barks for different things. Some of her barking is very welcome. With no teaching or prompting, the little dog alerts the man with a special short bark when his insulin levels are wrong.
Because the man feels unwell and is in pain a lot of the time, Elsa’s barking is a real issue.
When he’s alone with her at home, all is well. However, friends regularly pop in for a chat and that’s when the trouble starts. As soon as he begins to talk, Elsa sits in front of him and starts her persistent barking. She carries on until he gives her attention of some sort.
She will also bark at either the man or his wife if they sit down and talk to one another.
How do they stop the persistent barking?
The only way they have been able to give themselves a break from this persistent barking is by distracting her. They have blown bubbles around the room. They have used a laser light for her to chase.
Both these thing on their own are inadvisable in that too easily they can trigger obsessive behaviour. What’s more, distraction doesn’t get to the root of the behaviour. It merely masks it and makes it worse.
All the attention and reaction she currently gets when anyone is talking (paying no attention to her) is as a consequence of her persistent barking.
She should now get no attention at all for this. It will be a challenge! No scolding, no eye contact and certainly no fun by way of things to chase.
It’s vital they are consistent else she may simply try harder.
Making quiet more rewarding than barking.
We experimented with just the lady chatting with me and it meant allowing Elsa to bark. The noise was all too much for the poor man so he took himself somewhere quiet.
As we talked about the problem and the solution, the little dog sat in front of her, barking. I reminded the lady to give her no eye contact.
Then, sitting beside her, I used a clicker. I began by clicking and dropping food each time there was the smallest gap in the persistent barking.
Next I only clicked when she stopped barking and looked away from the lady briefly. That worked well. I handed the clicker over to the lady and she carried on for herself.
When we wanted a break, we put Elsa into the conservatory. She leaped up and down at the glass door but didn’t bark. The plan will include giving her things to keep her busy like a rummage box or snufflemat in the conservatory when they need a break.
Soon we let her in again for another clicker session.
The lady will repeat this all the time now, and teach the man what to do when he has friends round. I hope he will enjoy their company more soon without Elsa’s persistent barking.
Persistent barking in the car
The other issue that spoils their life with dear little Elsa is that they can’t take her anywhere. Her panic in the car is so great that the persistent barking makes driving near impossible and it’s not good for her either.
We have a plan to work on this gradually, starting by simply jumping her into the car for food at the end of each walk. Bit by bit and over the days and weeks they can move on to shutting the car door, starting the engine but going nowhere, reversing a few feet and so on.
Ultimately the journeys can end at her nearest favourite walk.
Given time, patience and persistence they should get her over this eventually.
Curing Elsa’s persistent barking will mean the couple doing some things a little differently. If people carry on just as they are, nothing changes.