Little Dog Barks at Everything

Scared Shihuahua Yorie mix

Freddie

Sometimes people can be at their wit’s end with a dog that seems to bark incessantly, particularly when they know it affects the neighbours. This is the case with the owners of little Chihuahua Yorkie mix Freddie, on the left. He is only ten months old and lives with thirteen-month Westie/Yorkie Belle, who is now joining in.

Actually, although Freddie spends a lot of time barking, he’s not a barker as such. At times when other dogs would be barking, he is quiet – like when he is put in the kitchen alone. He doesn’t bark for attention either. He has a lot of attention and gentle training so isn’t lacking stimulation. It is very evident that the one and only cause of his barking is fear.

If fear is causing barking, then it’s the fear that needs to be dealt with rather than the barking as such. His barking is basically yelling ‘go away, go away, I don’t feel safe’. On the left I just caught a break in his barking at me for this photo,

Westie Yorkie cross

Belle

When I arrived and for much of the time I was there, Freddie was so aroused that it was hard to do anything at all about it, so we experimented with various approaches before popping him into the kitchen for a break where he calmed down, eventually leaving him in there. It seems that so many things alarm Freddie that he’s in a permanently heightened state, most particularly when he hears any sound, when he meets a new person – particularly someone coming into his house and also people, dogs and noises when he’s out on walks.

The five-minute walk to the park is yet another story of barking that needs working on! The lady has resorted to carrying him so he can be off lead to play with Belle. I am a believer in little dogs walking, but in this case I would say that anything that can be done to reduce Freddie’s stress and anxiety is valid just now.

We ‘unpicked’ Freddie’s day and found quite a few little things that, when added together, should make him calmer. The two main ones were to block the dog flap so that he hasn’t constant access to the outdoors even when they are out and can bark at everything he hears, and to control the two dogs’ unchecked and prolonged wild play when they are out in the park.

Again, like a jigsaw, there are several small pieces that when added together can create a better picture.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Freddie, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet 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).

Too Much Barking From Little Dog

Jack Russell Yorke mixLittle Scamp’s barking and vocalising is driving his lady person crazy! He is an eight year-old Jack Russell Yorkie cross and he has lived with her from eight weeks old.

This has been going on for years, so the lady does accept that what she has been doing (mostly scolding and getting cross) hasn’t worked, therefore she may need to do things differently.

Having spoken to her on the phone, I was expecting something a lot worse. Scamp barks to get attention, he whines and squeaks too. He also alarm barks at sounds outside. The phone rings and he rushes to the lady and barks until she picks it up.

As I asked all my usual questions I could find a whole lot more GOOD things than bad. I encouraged the lady to look for these things too. Here are some: Scamp stops barking when the lady picks up the phone unlike may dogs I go to, throw something and he brings it back and (usually) gives it up, he may bark at the cat in play but he is brilliant with the cat, he settles quietly and quickly whenever he is put into his crate, he has no problem with being left alone, he is very friendly to everyone and every dog, when touched or examined he relaxes like a rag doll… I could go on and on.

We need to look at what is really only to do with noise and why he makes it. Firstly he alarm barks when someone passes the house, the phone or doorbell rings or there are sounds outside. He barks when the lady goes to look out of the window (he senses it’s because someone may be outside?). Secondly, he barks when the lady doesn’t give him the attention he is asking for. Finally he barks with excitement when he’s playing.

Barking is what dogs do – some more than others. I wonder how many dogs would like us humans to talk, shout and sing less!

Scamp makes all this noise because it works. If he barks at someone passing by what does that person do? Go! If he barks at the lady for attention what does the lady do? Either plays with him or gets cross which is – attention. Scamp always gets a result.

Just as with children, if we start looking for the GOOD things in our dogs it actually makes them behave better, and the things we don’t like become smaller. It makes us happier too.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Scamp, 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 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).

Tension Between the Dogs

Jack Russell Bella is a very hyped up and stressed little dog

Bella

I could hear the three little dogs as I got out of my car down the road!

With the exception of a German Shepherd, I have recently been to a run of little dogs, and one thing many of them have in common is excessive barking! The problem with all this tension between dogs is that it can then lead to conflict.

Two of yesterday’s three little terriers were particularly hyped up, especially Bella (left). Not only do they bark at sounds and people arriving, they bark with excited anticipation whenever anyone moves. Car journeys are a nightmare.

I took Bella’s picture after we had worked with her for a couple of hours, keeping the atmosphere as calm as possible, moving quietly and slowly, and rewarding her when she stopped pawing and scratching for attention. She became calm, undemanding and happy. It’s like at last she had a clue what was required of her.

The barking understandably drives the two ladies with whom they live to distraction. There is quite a lot of shouting! The more worked up the humans become, the more worked up the dogs get too. It’s a vicious circle.

Attempts at some ‘firm’ discipline have led Bella to showing her teeth and she has in fact bitten one of the ladies. A confrontational approach can so often end with the dog standing up for itself. Fights can break out Between Bella and one of the other dogs

In the stress-charged atmosphere, Bella and one of the others may break into a fight. Bella can become fixated with her tail, then spins, growls and chews it. She may chew at her feet.

It was wonderful to see the little dog calm down and to demonstrate to the ladies what is possible if positive methods are used. There are kind methods of stopping a dog barking at the gate, of breaking up potential trouble between dogs and of getting a dog off the sofa. These methods require patience but the big difference is that they work, and not just in the moment.

Many humans feel it’s the right thing to do to play wildly exciting games (‘but the dogs love it’) or give manic greetings to dogs, not understanding that they may be pumping them up to a degree that something eventually will have to give. It’s hard to convince people that it’s kinder to wait and respond to the dogs only when they are reasonably calm.

The main aim for now is to reduce the tension between dogs and arousal in the household. Having calmer dogs will help their humans – and calmer humans will help the dogs.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bella and the other little dogs, which is why I don’t share all the exact details of our plan. 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).

Miniature Daschunds Barking

Very excitable miniature daschunds are extreme barkers

Blaze and Rolo

Butter wouldn’t melt!

I didn’t take this beautiful photo – at no stage were the little dogs either still or quiet enough.

Blaze and Rolo, three-year-old Miniature Daschund brothers, are very excitable and extreme barkers. In order to get them to stop even briefly when people visit they have had water sprayed at them, they have been shouted at, they have had a bottle of stones shaken at them and noisy compressed-air ‘corrector’ spray to frighten them out of it. Incessant barking can really drive one crazy.

These ‘solutions’ may work in the moment but they do nothing at all to ease the real problem apart from making it worse.

The tiniest thing starts them off. Blaze (in front) is probably the instigator, but they charge about in manic barking tandem!

To deal with any behaviour we need to deal the emotion that is creating it. In cases where barking is such an automatic reflex it’s also become a habit. The more they have practised barking, the better they have got at it. Automatic barking can be a difficult habit to break.

The times that worry the family the most are when someone comes to the house (whether familiar or unfamiliar) – and when their grandchildren visit. Blaze may accompany the barking with little nips. He is also obsessed with nappies!

Normally when someone arrives the dogs are put into the garden – or if they do join them it will be hectic. There was the spray water bottle on the side at the ready. I asked for everyone to ignore them. As I usually do, I wanted to see what happened without human interference. We could hardly speak and I had hoped we would be able to sit it out, but after about ten minutes they were still standing close in front of me as I sat on the pouffe – barking, barking, barking at me.

The lady took them out of the room and put them into their crate.  They still barked. We got on with the consultation.

Eventually they were quiet so I asked the lady to let them in again. This time we had tiny bits of cheese prepared and fortunately both dogs are very food orientated.

They came charging back into the room, barking.

I held bits of cheese out to them. They couldn’t bark and eat at the same time – but they could still bark between bits of cheese!  They also snatched the food, so I taught them a bit of inhibition and manners which meant they had to be quiet and back off for a moment before I opened my hand with the cheese – a few moments of blessed silence.

Soon we were at the stage when as soon as they started to bark again the lady called them back out of the room. They were reasonably willing because of the food reward – something they don’t usually get. After they joined us for about the fifth time the barking was minimal and the lady herself was doing the feeding. Progress.

These little dogs will be associating people coming to the house with panic and scolding. Blaze was even driven to bite a friend who insisted on picking him up against instructions. The aim now is for the dogs to begin to associate people with good stuff – food.

When the grandchildren visit the dogs will either be the other side of a gate or brought in on leads and taught not to nip fingers and jump on them using positive methods. Currently they have never been taught what IS wanted of them – only punished for what is NOT wanted.

The underlying problem of extreme excitement and stress has to be dealt with. This won’t be easy.  No more rough play from the teenage members of the family which is encouraging the mouthing and nipping.

Being so hyped up is not good for the dogs any more than it would be good for us, and not only causes problems for the family but also for friends, the neighbours and on walks.

From now on the motto should be ‘good things come to quiet dogs’. Food won’t go down until they are quiet. They won’t step out of the front door until they are quiet. They won’t be let out of their crate until they are quiet, they won’t be greeted until they are quiet, and so on.

If the people themselves are quiet, calm and consistent these adorable little dogs should eventually get the message.

About four weeks later: ‘The boys are definitely showing signs of improvement in several ways, they are a lot quieter, calmer and are not trying to be top dog with each other as much as they used to. I’m so pleased with the help you have given us so far and have recommended you to other people. Its so nice to enjoy the boys again rather than telling them off for all the noise they make. ‘

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Blaze and Rolo, 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 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).

Pug Barks at Everything

Stressed pug plays too roughly with puppy

Lola

Stanley is being taught to be rough and over-excited

Stanley

 Lola barks at planes and birds and bees. She barks at the door bell, at animals on TV and at the young sons’ Nintendo game sounds. She barks at other dogs if she can’t get to them. She barks at everything.

Lola, left, is a two-year-old Pug and the new addition is Stanley, just nine weeks of age.

The new problem since a week ago when Stanley arrived is that the two dogs constantly chase and play rather roughly  – something Lola also does with other dogs given the chance.

A nine-week-old puppy needs a lot of rest. It is a period of learning – so the lessons need to be the right things. He needs to learn how to fit in with family life and to be gentle. He needs to learn impulse control.

Duration of playtime should be limited. Just as with children, too much pushing and shoving can ‘end in tears’. It would be different if they were both puppies of a similar age and size when they would be learning bite inhibition and give and take, and would both have matching stamina.

This scenario simply means the puppy is learning to become very excitable like Lola – and rough.

A while ago I went to a puppy that had started to show aggression to the family due to the relentless rough play with the older dog, so I am glad they have nipped this in the bud.

The more excitement and stress Lola is under generally, the more she barks! Telling a dog to ‘shut up’ when a dog is barking may temporarily quieten it (perhaps!) but does nothing to address the dog’s emotions which are causing it all.

A great deal of time and patience will be needed.

At a quiet time when the puppy is asleep and the young boys at school, the lady can sit in the garden with Lola and start teaching her to cope with all the sounds, birds, bees and so on. She will teach Lola to be quiet using food. As soon as she alerts and before she barks, the lady will ‘mark’ the quiet behaviour with a special sound and food.

When barking does break out, they won’t scold. They will deal with it in a similar way as they would if one of their little boys started to shout in panic – by helping her out – by showing her that alarm is not necessary because they are there to protect her, and by helping her learn self-control.

All the stressful things in Lola’s days stack up to make her so extremely reactive, so the calmer they can keep her in general the better. This is not easy with two young boys, visiting children – and puppy Stanley!

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Lola, 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 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).

Doberman Not Coping With Life. Puppy Left Alone

He had been a puppy left alone for too longDoberman Rocky is just 9 months old, and he was rehomed by a young couple just two weeks ago.

Puppy left alone for too long

Although he wasn’t physically neglected, he had spent some very formative months of his young life without proper ‘parenting’. Consequently he’s somewhat ‘emotionally damaged’ just as a child might be that had been left alone for too long.

Rocky had spent much of the time as a puppy left alone, outside in a small yard, an environment the lonely puppy will have found scary. Unsurprisingly he barked constantly with probably a mix of fear and loneliness; nobody will have helped him out and it would be a safe guess that he would have been shouted at for barking.

Having lived like this for crucial months in his development, it is unsurprising that barking at everything is his default now. Tail chasing has become his default way of dealing with stress. Rocky can’t cope at all with being left alone, even for a minute, and when the lady comes back into the room he will madly tail-chase. As is so often the case, it goes on in a sort of sequence. He chases round and round with his tail in his mouth. He then freezes and just sucks the tail, maybe making whimpering sounds. It is virtually impossible to distract him.

He doesn’t feel safe

The bottom line is that for much of the time Rocky simply doesn’t feel safe – though things are certainly looking up for him now he has a lovely home. Any sounds outside sends him into a barking frenzy. I caught him, on the right, just as he thought he may have heard something.

Walking, too, is difficult. He walked beautifullly on a loose lead indoors, but was hyper-alert once outside the door. Getting him to feel safe and protected, desensitising and habituating him to normal sounds – kids out the front, dogs barking, bikes and so on – will take time and patience. They have made considerable progress in these two weeks however.  The lady takes him to work so he meets people. He is very friendly and polite for an adolescent pup, and only scared of people if they approach too directly, stare or loom over him.

The panic barking, the hyper-vigilance when out in particular, the panic at being left alone and the tail-chasing are going to take weeks or months of counter-conditioning and confidence-building, the bottom line being to reduce the stress caused by his hyper-vigilance and to make him feel safe. I believe then that everything else will gradually fall into place.

You won’t have a quiet dog if he’s on high alert, and you won’t have a dog that is happy to be left alone that is on high alert either. Walking calmly on a loose lead won’t happen whilst he is on high alert.

Tail-chasing is simply the way, over the months, he has learnt to cope.

Things are now changing for the beautiful Rocky! The future is bright and he should end up a happy, carefree dog.

Barking at Everything and Anything

An independent little dog that loves being fussedHow adorable is this? Little Patsy, age about 6, is a very small Jack Russell.  Her owners of one year got her from the pound. They said they wanted a Jack Russell but weren’t allowed to see the dogs. Patsy was thrust into their arms and that was that! She was skin and bones and in a terrible condition, and most of her rotten teeth had to be removed.

It is thought that Patsy had been left behind by travellers which could explain her behaviour. She is extremely good with children and, an independent little dog who loves being fussed but isn’t in the least demanding. One can imagine her living outside, running free with a gang of excitable, barking terriers. She has had at least one litter of puppies.

Wonderful little dog

Mostly when people tell me their dogs are ‘perfect at home’ I can uncover some things that could be changed for the better, but in Patsy’s case, apart from the barking at everything, there really is nothing. She is wonderful. For some of the time she lay on my lap. She has this cute way of communicating when on the floor by doing a ‘play bow’ and creeping forward.

Patsy, however, gets very hyped up before walks and on leaving the house it is constant barking and vocalising all down the road.  She barks if the gentleman stops to say hello to someone. She is ready to react to anything and everything.

Her owners spend may weekends away caravanning, where Patsy has to be tied out, and she is constantly barking at everything and anything.

I had a call from them in the evening and already, by using a few new tactics, they were making progress with the barking. The primary tactic is to work at general calmness. No walks should be embarked upon until she is calm. This requires patience!

A different approach to her barking at everything

The ‘Be Quiet’ approach to barking may temporarily halt it, and it may make the humans feel better, but it does nothing for the long term barking problem. Dogs need to be taught that being quiet is good. Being quiet brings results that are rewarding. If they bark in alarm it should be taken seriously. It’s a survival mechanism.

If our child were to scream ‘Help! There’s a man with a machine gun coming down the path and we are all going to die!’, would we command him to be quiet, or perhaps ignore him altogether? No. As parents we would deal with it appropriately.