As time goes by 9-year-old Cockerpoo’s barking at passing people and at the front door gets worse.

Now when they open the door for a delivery, she may even nip the person’s ankles. To her it will be a last resort. She has tried everything else to get rid of them without success.

Constant rehearsal

Phoebe spends a lot of time watching out of the front windows, barking at passing people. They call her away but she only goes back again.

She is yelling Go Away – and they do go away! The barking is constantly reinforced by being successful. In addition, it pumps her up – and also annoys her humans.

Unfortunately for Phoebe, some people, those people that ring the doorbell, haven’t gone on their way. Someone opens the door to them.

Phoebe has now resorted to nipping their ankles.

In dealing with the barking and nipping, we look at the root cause and work on that. The root cause in Phoebe’s case is that she feels unsafe.

Firstly they need management.

Phoebe needs help to feel safe and they all need to be consistent in how they react – and just leaving her to bark isn’t an option. They have a big adult family and each member will need to participate in the work involved.

Only with management will they be able to cut down the barking to a level where this is possible.

Firstly they will block her view out of the windows with shutters or window frosting.

Secondly, because she will bark at the front and then charge through the house and out of the dog flap to continue from the garden, they won’t leave the flap open all the time.

Thirdly, she gets very upset when post comes through the door – destroying it. They will now get an outside mailbox.

Helping Phoebe not to feel unsafe when someone comes to the front door

They also need a plan for working directly on people coming to the front door. It starts when the bell rings. Phoebe rushes to the door.

Now they will teach her that when the bell rings she goes in sitting room. They will do this multiple times between themselves. Over and over again, someone will ring the bell, and then they will call Phoebe into the room, throw some food over the floor and shut the door. (Food will be left to hand in the hallway).

Scattering the food over the floor may even stop Phoebe barking, as it will give her something to do. Over time she will associate someone at the door with something nice – not with danger.

In time, if they work at it, hearing the doorbell should be the trigger for Phoebe to go immediately into the sitting room without being asked – for food.

Feeling unsafe also encourages separation anxiety. Having to ‘protect herself’ from a constant stream of possible invaders will spill over into how she feels when she’s left alone.

Calmness and confidence go together, so they will work on keeping Phoebe as calm as possible.

This process isn’t complicated but it will take time and consistency. Each bout of barking currently gets Phoebe so worked up that she’s even more jumpy and ready to react to any sound.

So, she barks.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help