Barks at People but Only at Home

He barks at people coming into his home. He loves people when he’s out.

Border Collie barks at peopleBorder Collie Bud is friendly and relaxed with everyone when out of the house. He likes to say hello.

At home he is a different dog. When someone he doesn’t know comes to the door he barks and gets very agitated.

As he’s not scared of people per se, there has to be a protective, territorial element to this. On and off during the day he’s on look-out duty on the front room window sill, watching for passing people and kids – no doubt believing that his barking is the reason they move on. He’s chasing them off.

Bud may think that when he barks at people coming into the house he can chase them off too.

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Whose job is protection duty, anyway?

A guard dog is unlikely to be a good family pet. Guard duty is the job of the adult humans.

If people are not at home, a worried dog should be somewhere well away from the front of the house. When they are at home they need to help Bud to feel safe. The response of a ‘protector’ would not be to just leave him to bark or else tell him to shut up. I myself thank my dogs, call them to me and reward them for coming away. I may need to investigate.

It’s not surprising that a dog that barks at people going past may well be even more concerned when, from the window, he can see a stranger actually comes into the house.

Bud barks madly when the doorbell goes. If it’s someone he doesn’t know, they will shut him in his crate before letting the person in and he will continue barking at them. When let out, it takes him a while to settle. He has air-snapped at the children and nipped adults a couple of times. If the children have friends they have to go upstairs and keep out of the kitchen.

Barking at people coming to the house is a common problem; sometimes the dog is fearful and sometimes angry that they are invading his territory. He may even be protective like his humans are resources belonging to him. With Bud I feel it’s a mix. He isn’t wary or protective unless people are coming into his house.

Where ‘stranger danger’ is concerned, having had guard duty lifted from him he can learn to associate people coming to the house with something he especially likes. He can be taught to do something incompatible with barking at people. The kids can play the ‘doorbell game’. One rings the bell and another feeds the dog, over and over, until the doorbell now predicts food not danger.

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A Border Collie is a sensitive dog and things can easily become ‘too much’.

Bud’s nipping occurs when things get too exciting or arousing.

There are many ways in which they can cut down on Bud’s stress levels and this should help him to be more tolerant of day-to-day things like people coming to the house and excited children.

They can help him to self-calm rather than stir him up. Chewing is one such way. Unfortunately, he has been doing so much chewing on bones that he has already, at eighteen months of age, worn his teeth down. This proves just how badly he is in need of something to de-stress himself. We looked at various other calming activities that should help him, but his humans not winding him up would help a lot!

The man can cut down on some of the rough and tumble and chase games that men so love and do brain games and hunting games with Bud instead. Not so much fun for the man but much better for the dog.

A child that becomes too excited may end up bad-tempered or in tears. What about a dog?

In every other respect Bud is a brilliant dog. He has been well and lovingly trained. His barking at people coming into the house, however, isn’t a purely a matter of ‘training’. To get him to behave differently when people come to the house, he needs to feel differently about people coming into the house. This also involves feeling he can trust his humans to protect the home.

Bud’s humans will now do all they can to let him know he’s ‘off duty’ and to keep him from becoming unnecessarily stirred up.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bud. I don’t go into detail. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where aggression or fearfulness is concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. 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)

Overprotective Dog Causes Problems

Swiss Shepherd is overprotectiveAn overprotective dog can take over a person’s life, as is the case with the young lady and her stunning two-year-old White Swiss Shepherd, Jake.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but had he had more intensive socialisation at a much younger age things could be different. As it is, the lady only had him living with her from the age of six months and since then she has moved with him from a home overseas with lots of open countryside where they met few people and dogs to life in a town.

It’s tragic that the dog into which she has put in so much training, effort and love is also spoiling her life. His reactivity to both people and other dogs means she can’t freely go out with him or meet friends and it makes people coming to her house difficult because she has to watch him all the time. When she chose him it was to have a companion that could share all her activities, not a bodyguard.

Jake had been barking at me from his crate as I stood beside the lady who was making us coffee, probably in a panic because he was powerless to protect her from a stranger, Let out, he now followed at her heels, panting, as she moved around the kitchen. We had sat down for a while and in order that he would associated me with good stuff, I threw food well away from myself onto the floor. He ate my food but ignored me completely.  Without looking at him I then casually held my hand down with a piece of food in it. He came over to take the food and as he did so I heard the lady quickly draw breath – and Jake heard it too. He very suddenly barked at me and snapped – not making contact.

It’s easy to underestimate the effect of a human’s state of anxiety upon her dog. There is an invisible cord between dog and lady, the dog as much on high alert to her every signal as she is to his. Because she’s on tenterhooks her overprotective dog could sense vulnerability I’m sure.

This was one very confident dog doing his job, that of protecting the lady. He was in no way fearful of me.

Bearing in mind that consequence drives behaviour, what does he gain by barking at someone? It will usually result in withdrawal of some sort. It will always result in attention from the lady.

Jake’s reactivity and unpredictability out on walks is all part of the same overprotective thing with an added component – he is trapped on the end of a lead, helpless against other dogs who may come too near and be a threat to his human or to himself. It’s understandable that he ‘goes berserk’.

Being overprotective is at the root of everything. The young owner has a friend who walks Jake and visits her house. When she’s not there he is apparently a different dog. As soon as she comes home he changes his behaviour towards the friend and goes into bodyguard mode.

The lady knows of nowhere else to walk before and after work when time is short but the local park and there are always dogs in the park. Even when just walking the streets she can’t avoid other dogs. She has made great headway with getting Jake used to passing people when they are out, but dogs are another matter. You can’t control other people’s dogs (wouldn’t it be great if we could!).

It is simply impossible to work on a proper counter-conditioning programme in uncontrolled situations as finding that ‘threshold’ distance from another dog is crucial. The only solution is to find a place to go by car made impossible by time constraints. There must somehow be a way.

Dealing with the whole issue of Jake being overprotective rather than dealing specifically with his reactivity to dogs and people should help. Primarily, this means reducing his need to constantly protect the lady which requires a change of emphasis in their relationship with one another. The more opportunities she can find to be the ‘protector’ and decision-maker and the more she can act independently of him when they are together, making breaks in that invisible cord connecting them, the better.

Needing Rules and Boundaries

Kyai has chewed most of the door frames in the house and the sofas are ruined. He may toilet at night or when left.

Kya

Tyson has shown aggression with the man when he tries to force an item off him or physically tries to move him

Tyson and Kya

Respect is something that needs to be earned. Respectful dogs have good manners – but it also goes both ways. We need to treat them with respect also.

Tyson, 5, and Kyai (on the left) who is 13 months old, have potential to be such wonderful dogs if given proper ‘dog parenting’, but from when I arrived they were leaping on me, flying all over the sofa and over their owners, the younger Kyai in particular. Both dogs stand on the lady or stand over her.

Tyson paraded and flaunted chews and toys practically all the time – ‘Look what I’ve got – you can’t have it!’, turning his head away if they tried to take it, and to goad Kyai – which sometimes ends in a spat.

Tyson has shown aggression with the man when he tries to force an item off him or physically tries to move him.  Kyai will growl and air snap if touched when lying on the sofa between them.

Kyai has also chewed most of the door frames in the house and the sofas are ruined. He may toilet at night or when left.

All this because there are few rules and boundaries; they really are lovely natured dogs, and much-loved. The young man plays hands-on rough stuff but gets angry also. Kyai is a bit fearful of him sometimes. The lady is a pushover and encourages the impolite behaviour towards her. The dogs are worst in the evening, just when the humans want to relax after a days’ work.

There are a lot of things that need tweaking. The dogs simply aren’t being taught what they should do – both know plenty of commands but that has little to do with it.

The daily routine isn’t helpful. The dogs are walked separately first thing in the morning before work – probably not enough to tire them out. Then they are alone during the day with a visit at lunch time – and their only meal is in the evening which concentrates all the energy into the wrong part of the day. It seems that at the time when the dogs will have the most energy, no constructive stimulation, brain-work or exercise is provided. Cuddling doesn’t count – nor do rough games.

I really hope that they will follow my suggestions consistently and drink from the same water bowl, so to speak. Often changing their ways can be harder for one person than the other. They can change the daily routine and show their dogs that the best attention is given to them when they are polite, rather than when jumping, chewing people’s feet and so on.

These dogs will be a lot better mannered and more biddable if their humans back-off a little and encourage them to work for attention and food. Some consistent boundaries will help Tyson to become less agitated and both to calm down.

Anything in too much abundance loses value, whether it’s food or fuss.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Tyson and Kyai, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).

Hand Shy. 8 Months Old and Left With the Vet to be Put to Sleep.

hand shy The young Staffie/Dogue de Bordeaux had been dropped off at the surgery anonymously with a story of his owners splitting up and no rescue centre willing to take him. Fortunately the veterinary nurse, a past client of mine, took him home with her. She found him a new home with friends.

Frankie is hand shy

His new family of three days, a lovely couple with their two daughters, have called him Frankie.

Frankie is in good shape physically but he is hand-shy. He has air-snapped at a couple of people who have put their hand out to him. This has been preceded by growling but because this was ignored the ‘go away’ warning was naturally stepped up a little. Then he was scolded. A mistake. Warnings shouldn’t be discouraged. We should listen to what the dog is saying and deal with the underlying reason – usually fear.

Frankie has quickly got used to his new family but he is becoming increasingly growly and fearful with other people who come to the house. He is much better out in the garden where possibly he feels more free – so long as he’s not approached with an outstretched hand.

Very wisely the new family have called for help early on, so hopefully we can nip in the bud behaviours including being hand shy which may have caused him to have been abandoned in the first place.

I myself demonstrated how to teach Frankie first of all to relax with me, and then to come to my hand instead of avoiding it; within a while he had changed from growling at me to happily touching my hand when I held it out in front of him and even above his head.

They will need to work on this with family members to start with. It needs to be taken slowly and gradually. He needs to associate people with nice stuff. He also seems to have some problems with being left alone and he pulls on lead. These things can be addressed with patience and understanding, two qualities his new family have.

Frankie is a clean slate at the moment and they are slowly getting to know him as he settles in and displays his real self.

Suffered Abuse from Young Men as a Puppy. Fallout

Suffered abuse as a puppyTwo year old Mastiff X Bobby is a delightful, gentle dog who understandably is wary of men – most especially young men wearing hoods.

Abuse at the hands of male youths

He had an tragic start in life, suffering cruel abuse. He belonged to a group of youths who tried to force the gentle dog to be aggressive.

The lady has had him for one year now. At home he is calm, and he’s quite relaxed with a lot of physical attention and fussing from the teenage daughter. He fine with lady visitors. He is very uneasy around men, however particularly any man walking directly towards him or putting his hand out to him. Each time the son comes home from uni, it still takes Bobby a couple of days to relax with him.

The lady has worked very hard with Bobby over the past year and he has already come a long way. To start with he was so scared that he would frequently urinate when any sort of pressure was put on him. Now it seems that only high voices cause him to pee and occasionally interaction with a man. One has to wonder what sort of teasing and goading he must have endured.

The fallout from the abuse as a very young dog still has a hold on him.

Increasing distance from men

Unfortunately over the past few weeks there have been several incidents where he has ‘air-snapped’ warnings at men.

In one case his teeth met the man’s knuckles – if he had intended to bite there would have been more damage. Another man approaching and carrying a can of beer resulted in Bobby crouching and running at him, catching his leg before running off very scared.

The behaviour has started to include male neighbours and a man in their house.

It is a sort of vicious circle. Bobby feels threatened and is doing what comes naturally to a dog in the circumstances in order to protect himself – giving a warning by way of air-snap. The understandably emotional reactions of the men and his lady owner are increasingly making his apprehension of men worse.

Bobby needs help

Bobby needs to know that his lady owner is there to look out for him and protect him – in ways that he understands. He needs to be able to trust her.

Acknowledging his fear of males, she will now be sensitive when approaching a man directly. She will make sure the man understands the situation and ask him not to come too close, to avoid eye contact and to keep his hands away. She will explain the past abuse.

Whenever there is any doubt Bobby will for now wear a muzzle so that there is absolutely no risk whilst he learns to feel protected. The lady will do everything to help him overcome his fear of all men. She will make sure he comes immediately to her side when called, no matter what.

She loves him dearly and knows that if he bites someone for real, poor Bobby, despite the abuse, will pay the ultimate price