Until the lady picked her up, Lingling (left) was either hiding under the table or peering round the corner licking her lips, yawning and lifting her paw. A scared little dog.
Benjie was protecting the lady.
They are both very reactive to anything happening outside their home and bark madly. Both dogs are frightened of people they don’t know.
They have bitten ankles. Benjie doesn’t like people approaching the lady.
With such a friendly and outward going owner, it’s hard to understand why the two dogs are so wary of people until one looks into their early life.
Maltese LingLing, now three years old, came from a puppy farm and was in a terrible physical state. A year ago Chihuahua-Yorkie mix Benjie joined them. He had been taken from his mother and litter mates too early.
I would guess in both cases they will have inherited unstable genes from fearful parents along with inadequate or non-existent early socialising.
The lady lives in a flat and their barking is causing problems. She has tried everything she can think of, including collars that shoot compressed air at them when they bark and a bottle of stones to shake at them. Because the barking stops for a moment it’s easy to think this ‘works’.
The lady adores her two little dogs and realises that punishing fear is inappropriate and can only make things worse which is why she called me. To them it must be like the very person that they should be able to trust has turned on them.
Now we began to reward quiet instead. Reinforcing good behaviour – or, I should say, reinforcing the behaviour we want, makes the dog much happier and it makes owners happier too.
From his protective position beside the lady, Benjie wasn’t so much barking as grumbling and growling at me. Here is a very short video of the two dogs. Benjie is anxiously lifting a paw and grumbling at me, and Lingling is hiding behind the lady.
Each time he stopped even for a moment, the lady gave him cheese.
She was surprised how calm Benjie became. He eventually lay down and settled.
There were noises outside and neither dog barked. She rewarded them.
She will now save some of their food quota to use specifically to reinforce not barking or growling.
A wonderful thing about reinforcing the behaviour you do want as opposed to punishing the behaviour you don’t want is that it makes you feel good. It rests so much easier with people who love their dogs than does punishment and correction.
As the lady said the next morning having changed the way she does things for just a few hours, ‘I feel so happy with myself’ and more recently, about six weeks later, ‘We have had a few weeks just being a quiet family. Benji has been much better at home. Much less barking .’
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Lingling and Benjie, which is why I don’t go into the exact details of your plan here. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).