Vocal. Very Excitable. Easily Aroused. Permanently Stressed

I rang the doorbell bell. Betty barked – as most dogs do. I sat down, she barked at me. She continued to be vocal on and off for most of the time I was there.

At first I thought she wanted to chase me away, but it soon became apparent that she was excited by my presence in a friendly sort of away.  They seldom have callers and to Betty I was therefore a major event.  If I touched her she went quiet but then would bark at me for more when I stopped.

Betty is an extremely vocal little dog.

Very vocal little dogI couldn’t however get on with my job and pet her all the time. By doing so I was merely reinforcing here for being loudly vocal. If we had put her in another room she would have continued to bark and I didn’t want her even more stressed. Continue reading…

Barks at Inanimate Objects. Stress is the Trigger

 

Jester suddenly barks at inanimate objects. Why?

Something tips him over.

He looks about and he looks up. He spots a burglar alarm box high on the wall of a house or a security camera, a clock, a satellite dish, a street light or even the moon.

Barks at inanimate objectsJester barks uncontrollably.

He is a twelve-month-old Labrador Border Collie mix. He’s friendly, gentle and cooperative. His young owners have been very keen to do the best for him right from the start and in so many ways their love, training and hard work has paid off.

They give him plenty of brain games and enrichment in the house.

The problems started a couple of months ago when out. Jester began to bark at (silent) burglar alarm boxes on houses. Yellow ones and blue ones initially. This is interesting, as yellow and blue are the two colours dogs can see clearly.

Gradually the barking has spread from alarm boxes to other things.

He barks at inanimate objects; what triggers it?

The behaviour is often triggered by something sudden. A sound or sight that alarms or arouses him. A distant dog may bark, for instance.

He then immediately starts looking upwards like he’s searching for something to redirect his arousal onto. Where he first used to latch onto burglar alarms (blue or yellow), it can now be other things like street lights, fire alarms, lampshades and even the moon when he was particularly worked up.

We first need to deal with this at source by reducing Jester’s arousal and stress levels in every way possible. There are a few things to put in place that, when added together, should bring results.

Football in the park.

One key thing they are doing, with the best of intentions and because Jester loves it, is to kick a football for him in the park for about an hour a day. Instead of walks being something he’d be doing if alone – sniffing, exploring, meeting dog friends and mental activities – he is being pumped up. He loves it. Like any other addict, an adrenaline junkie can never get enough.

They will also work directly on what they themselves do when he barks at inanimate objects. As soon as something triggers the ‘looking upwards’ behaviour they will give him something else to do that is incompatible with looking up and barking frantically. He can’t, for instance, sit and look at them, forage for food or perhaps catch a ball, at the same time as looking up high and barking at something.

If they leave it too late and he does begin to bark, they should immediately redirect his energy onto a different activity like running in the opposite direction and then go home to calm down. That walk is now doomed.

This kind of ritual can easily become a learned behaviour, a default in response to arousal. It gives him some sort of relief. 

When he’s out on walks and more relaxed, they will encourage him to look at these things calmly, whether alarm boxes or a particular street lamp that gets him going – then to look away again, using food. The Labrador in Jester means he is very motivated by food!

Human-generated excitement.

Every day his arousal/excitement/stress levels are being topped up with human-generated excitement.

It’s like when he can’t cope with over-arousal he has to find something to redirect it onto. It can be general build up of arousal simply overflowing or something identifiable that sends him over. His ‘stress bucket‘ overflows.

Walks and play should be such that they reduce Jester’s arousal levels rather than increase them. I suggest putting an end to the football and instead allow him lots of sniffing and exploring time. Let him choose what he wants to do. He will need to go cold turkey on the football and so will they! This will mean sacrificing some of their own fun unfortunately.

It’s outside the house where the behaviour occurs. But then, most of the stressors happen outside the house. There are a number of things to work on or avoid altogether when out in order to help Jasper overcome this.

Bark Bark. Excitable Vocal Clever.

Winnie is so cute. She is soft and fluffy.

She is also NOISY!

The adorable Cockerpoo is now eighteen months old and she has something to say about everything. We get people like that don’t we, who just don’t know when to stop talking!

She will bark at everythingShe is on high alert much of the time and, being the vocal kind of dog she is, she reacts by barking. A good bark, whether because another dog may be walking past the house or a bark for some attention, always works in some way.

An alarm bark session drives the person or dog away (people passing the house don’t hang about, do they) and a good bout of barking for attention gets it – even if it’s to be told to stop.

A Poodle mixed with a Cocker Spaniel.

You wouldn’t mix these two breeds and guarantee an easy life. I have read that a Poodle was originally used as an aid for duck hunters and loves water. Winnie loves water. The Poodle comes second to only the Border Collie on the doggie IQ ranking. The Working Cocker Spaniel? An energetic hunting dog, a sniffer, a tracker; highly alert, vocal. (This describes my own Cocker Spaniel, Pickle, perfectly).

The working dog in Winnie doesn’t have enough work to do. A good walk each morning for about an hour, perfect for many dogs, isn’t alone sufficient stimulation or interest for a dog like Winnie.

She spends much of the rest of the day ‘making things happen’.

Repeatedly chasing a ball fires her up.

Ball play can become addictive when a dog is bored. It not only winds her up, getting her more and more excited which makes her bark more, it also makes the man her servant. He’s constantly on hand to throw the ball for her. If he doesn’t obey her, what does she do? Bark!

Activities like repetitive ball play are not natural – not things she would be doing if not with humans. If out by herself, any chasing would be spasmodic – only when she saw an animal or a bird or if playing with another dog.

Barking also probably makes Winnie feel better, even if only to vent some of the arousal, stress or frustration that has built up inside her. A lot of it now will simply be a habit.

Giving her more healthy stimulation and enrichment, stuff that activates her brain and her instinct to sniff and hunt, will cause her to bark less.

A bright and alert dog, she will bark at new or sudden things.

Because they live somewhere quiet, she reacts to things to which she’s not habituated. If they took her for more frequent but shorter walks, she would find going out less arousing. Encountering more dogs (at the right distance), she would become more accustomed to dogs. If dogs had constantly passed the house since she was a puppy, she would take no notice of dogs passing the house. If they had frequent visitors to the house or the house was always full of people, she would not bark at people coming to the house.

Some of these things can’t be changed, but some habituation can be done. They can take her on several extra very short walks for instance. People who live in flats whose dogs have to go out several times a day to toilet, are much less likely to get excited when the lead comes out.

Any scolding, ‘no’ or telling her to be quiet may work in the moment but, in the end, will make her bark more. They will add to the stress and pressure she is feeling and not address the cause.

You can’t ‘train’ the dog out of feeling alarmed.

The feeling itself has to be changed.

They will be working on doing all they can to calm Winnie down whilst enriching her life with suitable activities. The rough and tumble play will stop and hunting, sniffing and brain games introduced. A stirred up dog will bark more. A mentally satisfied dog will bark less.

When new people come to the house the barking normally continues for quite a while and she starts again if they stand up.

When I was there, Winnie didn’t actually bark much at all. That is often the way!

We had arranged things so that when I arrived it would be as easy on her as possible. Consequently she relaxed with me almost straight away. I also made things easy for her when I wanted to get up by warning her. I called her and dropped a bit of food and then moved about. No barking.

“What do you do when your dog barks?”

I usually ask people, when their dogs do something they don’t want them to do, what they themselves do in response. In the case of alarm barking, the answer is usually something that would ‘put a lid on it’. In the case of barking for attention, the dog would get attention even if it was to be told to stop.

The next question has to be, if they have always been responding in this way, has the dog improved? Usually the dog has, over time, got worse.

So, things need to be done differently. The barking itself is just a symptom and something that works for the dog. This may be for no better reason than to bark makes a stressed dog feel better. It gives a vent.

They will start working on the underlying emotions that are causing Winnie to bark.

The delightful dog will always be vocal, because that is Winnie. They can however help her to be calmer and more confident and therefore to bark less.

 

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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Winnie. 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. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Bark Bark Bark

Welsh TerrierAs I came in the door, Welsh Terrier Taffy was behind the kitchen gate – barking. The lady was embarrassed but she need not have been – this is something not uncommon for me to walk into.

The five-year-old dog was then brought into the sitting room on lead to join us – barking. He barked and barked as we experimented with various things that might give us a break that didn’t involve shutting him away (he would probably have continued barking from there anyway).

We tried repeatedly taking him out of the room which stopped him briefly but he started as soon as he was back so had to go back out again.

What halted the barking most effectively was the lady getting up and walking out of the room, leaving him behind. He would stop for a couple of minutes before starting again.

Was he simply barking for attention of some sort? He barked at me in exactly the same way as he barked at the lady and her daughter. I detected no fear and no aggression. When he barked at me it wasn’t like he wanted to get rid of me. It was almost like he was frantically trying to get an important message across – VERY LOUDLY!

Within a few minutes of my arrival it was obvious that he didn’t need to be held back on a lead. He was actually quite friendly between bouts of barking – in fact in the photo he’s lying across my lap. He really did seem to be wanting attention of some sort.

For some reason this barking has escalated over the past couple of months. He will now, in the evening, obsessively bark at ‘nothing’, facing into the corners of rooms.

Trying to watch TV in the evenings is near impossible. He barks at them all the time they are eating so has to be bribed with their food. As soon as all is quiet, the barking into corners will start. He will eventually settle down, but someone only has to move and off he goes again. They have a supply of toys filled with food and other things, but these distractions only work for a very short while.

He has bitten family members a few times in the past – not badly. If someone makes a sweeping action with a hand or a foot he may bite it. Sweeping actions are things we do without thinking, so he needs to be desensitised to this for peoples’ safety. He jumps at any sudden movement and hates people cuddling. Amongst other things he goes frantic when the lady tries to lift the black bin liner out of her rubbish bin.

He is one mixed-up little dog.

After about an hour and a half of mixed success I got my clicker out. We ignored as much barking as possible with the lady walking out when it simply got too much in order to give us that break. Every small lull, looking away, sitting down or hint of relaxation we clicked and then fed him.

A dog that is quite so aroused is incapable of learning anything much so it took time, but after about two hours from my arrival, as though a cloud suddenly lifted from him, Taffy stopped panting, sat down and then lay down. Peace.

Phew.

The rubbish bin can be worked on very gradually, desensitising him over time. He needs to be relieved of the barking into corners compulsion. Catching it before he gets started is the best thing.

What will probably be the best therapy of all is the list of very short and non-exciting activities that we have drawn up – little hunting games, gentle training sessions, foraging for bits of food, sniffs walk round the block and so on. For no more than two or three minutes at a time but at very regular intervals whenever they are home the lady and her daughter can initiate these things – picking moments when he happens to be quiet. This way, his fulfillment and attention should be addressed but not in response to barking and he will get plenty of it. There will be no need to crave it.

This isn’t going to be quick and it will take hard work. The barking could well get even worse before it starts to get better.

It’s all a great shame because he’s such a good little dog in other ways. He walks nicely and has no problems with people when out – or with other dogs.

This is the start of a long journey. A couple of days later I received this very empowering email – empowering to myself and to anyone using old-fashioned methods of force and punishment:
“Since your visit I have been looking at books, websites etc that you recommended and I have found them very enlightening. I really think that for Taffy its an escalation of lots of things over time which have filled his stress bucket to overflowing.
The major thing for me is the removal of the terms “dominance” and “pack” leader. As a first time dog owner I  tried to make sure I was doing the right thing and felt that these words were the things I should be striving for and imposing on Taffy. I used methods recommended which I now realise were ill advised. Water sprays, loud noises such as tins filled with keys to stop undesirable behaviour, pinning down and citronella collars are amongst these. When I contacted you I was was at my wits end, having tried so many things I no longer knew what to do for the best for Taffy.
We are starting to use the methods you gave us and yesterday I distracted and avoided and there was no barking in corners – hooray!
My regret now is that I did not find you and these methods sooner in Taffys life, and that positive training is not advocated as the norm for every dog. I am looking forward to enjoying my lovely little dog now I understand him better.”

Barks and Howls in the Night

Cockerpoo lying down with his toyAs a puppy Cockerpoo Monty would settle well in his crate at night. Gradually he has become more and more unsettled until now, at three years old, his owners have every night interrupted three or four times by Monty who initially gives a bark as though to say ‘did anyone hear me?’. Then he starts to howl.

If left, he may stop after a few minutes before starting again a short while later, and so it continues. They worry about their son upstairs who is studying for exams and about disturbing their closest neighbour.

So, they go down to him.

Monty did have one night in the teenage daughter’s bedroom but he was no quieter than when left downstairs in the small room. For the last couple of nights the lady has slept downstairs on the sofa with him. This hasn’t been enough though. He still barks and howls!

Wherever he is now, he howls in the night.

Possibly he wants the mum and dad to both be with him together. A clue could be out on family runs when they run off in different directions, Monty charges around in a frantic panic trying to catch up with one and then the other .

On looking at all aspects of Monty’s life, the roots of this behaviour seem to be in various places. The most obvious reason, in addition to pining when away from them, is that he does it because it works. If he does it for long enough, even when they think they have just ‘left him’ to cry, eventually someone does come to him.

I believe another reason for his unsettled nights is that in their quest to tire him out they are actually over-stimulating him. They run him for several miles some days. There is a saying ‘a tired dog is a good dog’, but that means healthily tired – not exhausted and highly aroused.

Highly aroused dogs are stressed. Stress causes physical changes in the body which releases certain stress hormones into the bloodstream. These stress hormones don’t just instantly dissipate. They hang around and build up.

We have discussed punctuating Monty’s usually sleepy evenings with very short bouts of gentle owner-induced activity – things like hunting, quiet training games, going outside for a few minutes on a ‘sniff’ walk and foraging for food to name a few, so he can go to bed ‘healthy tired’.

Undoubtedly the barking and howling has now become learned behaviour. At night-time he goes happily into the small room and it’s the same routine. One person says good night and shuts the door. A little later the other opens the door, says good night and shuts the door again. They go up to bed. Then, no sooner than they lie down than they hear the first bark.

To break the habit aspect I suggest that they change the routine and that Monty now sleeps in a totally different place – somewhere less easily heard from the bedrooms or by the neighbour. He used to love his crate and still has one in the car, so they are going to get a crate back and put it the kitchen. The rule has now to be that nobody ever comes down to him again in that location unless he’s quiet.

The other alternative of course, but which like many people they understandably don’t want, is to have Monty sleeping in their bedroom.

Monty has some general separation issues and these will need working on. He barks or howls if a door is shut on him even when he still has someone in the room with him. We looked at all the other things in his day that could be wiring him up for a restless night, including boisterous play, the long walks and runs, a late meal and the barking at noises etc. that could be dealt with in a better way. They will double-check for any physical discomfort.

In their efforts to control him better they have tried everything they can think of, most recently withdrawing a lot of their attention. No longer does he get his cuddles on the sofa which makes everyone unhappy. I say bring back cuddles on the sofa!

There are several other pieces of the jigsaw that I feel will help Monty but basically the learned behaviour aspect has to be overcome, the separation aspect needs working and he needs more suitable fulfillment and less over-stimulation.

If you have a dog that howls in the night, the solutions I planned for Monty may well not be appropriate or relevant to your own situation, which is why having an experienced professional to assess and help you and your own dog is essential.

Monty is a beautiful dog with a wonderful home. Given time, consistency and perseverance all will be well in the end, I’m sure.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have planned for Monty, which is why I don’t go into exact detail here of the methods to be used. 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 tailored to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Another Dog Scared of People

Today I met yet another dog who wasn’t happy to see me. This time, though, it was more straightforward. It was fear alone Black Labrador with a little Border Collie in the mix– there is nothing territorial or protective about Alfie’s behaviour.

Alfie is an eighteen-month-old mix of mostly Labrador with a little Border Collie in there somewhere. It’s hard to understand where the fear comes from. He was born into a family home and had plenty of human contact from the start. Perhaps it’s simply in his nature to be a bit timid. He is playful and loving and absolutely fine with people he has known since he was a puppy.

Isn’t he beautiful!

Alfie’s young owner, still at school, has done brilliantly with Alfie. She started by taking him to puppy classes and she has kept up the work conscientiously since. She is his chief walker and apart from his wariness of some people he meets when out, walks are good. He’s great with other dogs.

People are the problem. When someone new comes to the house (like myself) Alfie barks at them whilst backing off with his hackles up. I had arranged it so that I was settled and sitting down before he was brought in so he only gave a couple of barks at me. Without looking at him I was rolling small bits in his direction of the chicken that they had prepared for me in advance. Should he bark or should he eat the chicken? He is mostly greedy Labrador after all! It was not long before he was eating from my hand. I could even stand up and walk around without much reaction.

When I went to the loo I took the tub of cheese with me so that when I re-entered the room I could help him out. It’s hard to be fearful and chase bits of rolling cheese at the same time! When he then started to woof I pointed to pieces of cheese he had missed.

I am sure with more practice and plenty of tasty little morsels that Alfie’s being scared of people coming into his house will improve.

Outside things need to change a bit. Though he has never bitten anyone he is muzzled just in case. It may not look handsome but I was pleased to find they had a basket muzzle – he can still drink and pant. I suggested cutting some of the front out so he could eat too. He wouldn’t be able to bite anyone unless they were silly enough to put their hand in (he never has bitten anyone after all), but it means he can forage for food scattered on the ground when someone walks past or when they may want to stop to talk.

They find the muzzle is more a deterrent to keep people away. A Yellow Dog Champaign fluorescent vest reading ‘I Need Space’ could also help to repel those ‘dog lovers’ who bear down on dogs (‘Oh I love dogs, all dogs love me’).Labrador Border Collie mix with head on girl's shoulder.

There was one unfortunate incident the other day which prompted them to call me.Two little girls were playing in the road near Alfie’s house. One saw Alfie, who had just come out to the car, and started running towards him screaming ‘Alfie, Alfie’. He barked at her ferociously, hackles up, and frightened the child. Unfortunately his humans did a very ‘human’ thing. They were very cross with Alfie. If children were bad news to him before, they will be worse bad news now.

The family now understands that it’s not actually the barking at people who needs to be addressed – it’s the emotion that causes the barking which is fear. Punishing or scolding fear can’t help at all. Reducing the fear with positive associations is the way to go!

Reduce the fear and the fear-induced behaviour will reduce also.

About seven weeks later: ‘Overall we are seeing much calmer behaviour. He is much less aggressive/fearful in response to strangers’.

 

NB. The exact protocols to best and most safely use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have planned for Alfie, which is why I don’t go into exact detail here of the strategies I used. One size does not fit all. With this kind of issues, I suggest you find help sooner rather than later from an experienced professional. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help (see my Get Help page).

Little Patterdale is a Law Unto Himself

Patterdale is used to being obeyedBertie is a big dog in a little dog’s body!

These pictures tell a story. When I arrived he was jumping at me. We all sat down with the idea of waiting until he was calm before I would greet him, but he barked at me and tried to jump on me, and then at his lady and gentleman, in order to get attention. Even to be told to stop or shouted at would have constituted attention, and he wasn’t getting it. Bertie barked. Bertie barked.

Their usual method of say ‘No Bark’ didn’t work (seldom does apparently). He had brief breaks and then came back and started again. After an hour or so of ear-piercing noise, having tried different tactics, we tried putting him calmly in the crate in which he slept at night and covering it. Quiet at last! We repeated this many times letting him out, barking started, and putting him back in. Soon he was welcoming his new behaviour boundaries and some meaningful leadership. Then, eventually, he went to his bed and relaxed, a happy dog.

Bertie simply isnTime out in his crate‘t accustomed to not being obeyed. One of the main reasons I was called was that he wouldn’t come in from the garden. Why should he? He runs them a merry dance, ducking and diving and hiding under the car while they try to fish him out. Not so funny at midnight in dressing gowns and wanting to go to bed! Bertie is very good at demanding attention when he wants it, but not good at doing what they want! So – leadership/dog ‘parenting’ skills are needed.

He is well trained so far as understanding commands is concerned, but understanding is one thing, obeying is another. A little tiny dog can so easily run rings around tall humans!

Most people with the best will in the world are trying to do right by their dog by ‘training’ it; however, using traditional trainingBertie settles at last methods or ideas may not work because they are approaching training from a human perspective and human values which mean diddly squat to any intelligent dog. They need to learn to think like a dog and approach training from a dog’s perspective, and then eventually they will have a wonderful animal that chooses to work with them of its own free will.

Basically, if Bertie knows they want him to do something, that is his reason for not doing it!

 I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.
 

Norwegian Buhunds, too much barking

Two Buhunds looking out of the window have probably seen a rabbit Norwegian Buhund relaxingThe Norwegian Buhund is bred to be a herding and watchdog, so it’s no surprise that these three are inclined to bark. Despite going to thousands of dogs, I have never met a Behund before. Now I have got to know three!

The family lives on a farm surrounded by acres of land and the two dogs in the photo have probably seen a rabbit – or it could have been a pigeon or a duck or they may even just have heard something.

All three are gentle and sweet-natured, with distinctive personalities. The youngest is the most exuberant and does most of the jumping up and pulling on lead, the middle one is the most nervous and has his own funny little ways, and the oldest one is the most troubled by any hint of conflict between the other two, or by anything that might be passing the property signalling potential danger.

The family are very concerned for their neighbours. Telling the dogs to be quiet obviously doesn’t work else barking would no longer now be causing a problem. There needs to be a different way of dealing with barking – in a way that a leader or parent would when being alerted to possible danger.

Always in cases like this there are ways in which the opportunities for dogs to bark can be reduced, even if it means moving things about. Then there is a manageable situation to deal with.

Email to me two weeks later: “… there has been a noticeable improvement in daily life here. B is much more responsive and comes in from the garden when called now – OK maybe not every time but certainly 90% of the time and gets his much coveted treat.   If he doesn’t come I go and get him and he knows what to expect now. M is much less ‘jumpy’ although he still occasionally  jumps at the worktop to see out of the kitchen window. T still seems quite stressed where she seems to think she has to referee between the boys.  This has improved over the last few days so maybe it will just take time.  Food situation has greatly improved”. This will be ‘work in progress’ for quite a while.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
 

Jumpy and Nervy Staffie

Staffie Mikey is easily worried or scaredMikey is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier mixed with something else – it looks very much like Pit Bull.  He had an uncertain start in life with several different homes in the first six months. He now lives with a young couple who have overcome a lot of difficulties as he was very hard to handle initially, and he is now settled, affectionate and obedient with them.

Unfortunately he is easily spooked by things, like someone suddenly appearing when they are out, and certain people that make him feel uneasy. He may bark or even lunge and grab with his mouth. Fortunately he hasn’t so far broken skin, but his young owners are naturally very worried.

Mikey is also getting increasingly unpredictable when approached by certain other dogs. He chased off a young dog recently in an aggressive manner. He also is obsessed with the balls they take on walks, and had quite a major fight with a dog he knows well – over a ball.

Mikey is jumpy and nervous. He does a lot of pacing, some tail chasing and lots of chewing bones and toys. He is restless. I gently put my finger on his back as he lay in front of me, and he sprang to his feet. He runs away from carrier bags and is worried by new things in new places.

Looking as he does, it’s important he has a good reputation. It is vital they never get complaints about him and that he never gets the opportunity to bite anyone. At present he goes with them outside their flat off lead which I think is a mistake. His young male owner teases him and plays games like so many young men do, that not only wind him up but also encourage use of his mouth and teeth which I also believe is a mistake. Many walks consist of constant ball play which may exhaust him physically but do nothing to relax him mentally. Balls have become an obsession. Running around after balls on a walk isn’t what a dog would do if left to his own devises. What is a dog walk, after all?

Mikey needs to be surrounded by calm. He needs his young owners to act like confident leaders when they are out and make the decisions that are wise in Mikey’s eyes. We have been working on exactly how to achieve this. He should then be less jumpy, more stable, and less reactive to dogs and people. It will take time.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
 

What is ‘Kind and Loving’ to a Dog?

malteseRiley (on the left) and Maddie are two absolutely beautiful little Maltese Terriers. They are both about seven years old.

They are adored by their lady owner – her ‘babies’.

Riley started marking all over the house a short while ago.

I believe that it’s no coincidence that Riley’s marking started and one or two other behaviours deteriorated since the lady was at home for the month. There can be a lot of pressure put upon the dogs in a way, with humans on their case with touching and attention and mixed messages.  Maddie is a more laid back individual and not so affected.

Many people who adore their dogs do things in the name of love that I would myself see as quite unkind, and some of the things I advocate may seem unkind to them.

To scold or shout at a dog, even put his nose in it, for toileting or marking in the house seems to me not kind at all. To constantly touch and cuddle a dog also seems to me to be unkind, but owners usually see it otherwise. Leaving a dog to decide when and what he eats, even sharing their own food, I believe is not fair to a dog. People usually see it otherwise and the lady says she would feel dreadful if she didn’t leave food around all the time for them to graze on, and herself eat without letting the dogs have some.

People who dote on their dogs also feel it is OK to shout at their dogs when they bark at sounds outside, where I think it’s a lot kinder to help them out.  They feel their dog should be at the door jumping and barking at people when they come in. I feel this is not kind. The dog should be somewhere else and saved from the stress.

People usually feel it’s kind to comfort and fuss a dog when it’s fearful of something like fireworks. I believe it reinforces the fear and actually makes things worse – so isn’t kind at all.

Adorable little lap dogs are, inside, dogs after all. A little bit of being treated like dogs can lift huge burdens from them. I am sure when Riley no longer feels that the decision making is his responsibility, when he has a few boundaries and rules,  that he will stop marking.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.