Frantic Barking. Littermates. Not Prepared For Real Life.

I walked in the door to be met with frantic barking.

Brave Luna, with frantic barking, came right up to me. Her sister backed her up but with less enthusiasm.

Frantic barking at people and sounds

Luna

Luna and Bear are same-sex siblings. They are two-year-old Cavapoo Collies. What a mix! They were a bit smaller than I expected.

Walks are a nightmare due to the dogs’ reactivity to everything, their frantic barking and pulling. Consequently, the family don’t walk them regularly.

Their frantic barking at every sound when at home is annoying the neighbours. The lady has tried all sorts of things to stop the barking, some not pleasant for the dogs. None worked. Continue reading…

Too Much Barking at the Window by their Miniature Poodles

Miniature Poodles do lots of barking

Jack is on the left, Ozzy on the right

There is only one problem with the two adorable miniature poodles – too much barking.

Jack in particular goes into a barking frenzy when he hears or sees anything outside the house.

Rarely in the course of my job with owners who have problems with their dogs do I visit dogs that are quite so well-trained and good. They are friendly, bright and happy little dogs. They are wonderfully trained with all sorts of tricks and antics, they are super obedient before their food goes down. When asked, they will go to their mat and stay there (see below) and much more.

They walk nicely and they are quite good around other dogs despite over-boisterous bigger dogs having hurt them and dogs having snapped at them a couple of times.

Barking is the problem

On the barking front, the days don’t start well. The dogs come up to the bedroom first thing in the morning and straight away Jack, on the left, is on watch out of the window from the bed, waiting for things to bark at.

Then, when the lady gets up, he is running around downstairs, from window to window, barking at things as she tries to get washed and dressed. Already she is becoming anxious and exasperated.

Then, when Ozzy is let out into the garden he rushes out barking and running the boundary. He just stops barking briefly to do his business.

Naturally the two dogs hate anything coming through the letterbox and will bark madly if there is a ring on the doorbell.

To ‘try’ or to ‘do’?

I’m sure this sounds familiar to a lot of dog owners! They believe they have tried everything but nothing works. One common mistake is to ‘try’ things and not carry on for long enough. Another is to deal with the barking as though barking itself is the problem, rather than the symptom of over-excitement, fear, protection duty. Arousal causes the barking.

The humans need to take control of protection duty. This doesn’t mean that the dogs are expected to stop barking altogether. It means that they can alert the humans and then leave thOzzyJacksone worrying up to them.

How people react is the key. Any form of scolding is merely joining in. Any form punishment can only make them more fearful and reactive. The whole family needs to be consistent in reacting in the right way every time the dogs bark – and immediately. The ‘right’ may not be the same in every case, so we work out the best strategy for helping these dogs out.

Not a part-time job

For best success it’s vital to be on the case constantly. We can’t only deal with it just when we have time and inclination and at other times leave them to sort it out themselves. Therefore, when the people are unavailable or tied up doing something else, they should shut the dogs in a ‘bark-free’ environment or a room with no view (in this case in their crates), with something to do.

How can they respond every time their dogs bark when it is so frequent, without going mad? The more the little dogs bark, the better they get at it.

Key to success and sanity is cutting down as much barking opportunity as possible. They can do this by blocking the view out of windows with static plastic window film or moving furniture, drawing curtains and so on. An outside mail box solves the problem of post invading their home through the front door.

Taking Ozzy out into the garden on lead for a few days will break the ritual of rushing out barking.

Two vicious circles

There are two vicious circles going on here. The more the dogs bark the more aroused they get – so the more they will bark. The more the dogs bark, the more anxious and stressed the humans become and the dogs, picking up on this, will bark even more.

This the latest feedback: “I am very pleased with the progress Jacks has been making. The mornings are much calmer now but if he gets a bit excited I pop both him and Ozzie in their crates with a treat and their music on. They are both quite happy with this arrangement. When people come to the door Jack knows the routine now and comes happily trotting back to me for a treat when I use the “OK”. I now feel in charge (in a nice way), and that I can bring peace and calm when needed to the home I share with my dogs.
Thank you for your help and advice, we would not have the improvements we have now without it. I am very well aware that the boys need consistent handling and don’t intend to go backwards.”
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete report. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good. Click here for help

Walking the Two Dogs Together

Akita mix

Raven

The young lady came back from overseas just a couple of weeks ago with her two wonderful dogs. She is seven months pregnant. They are now settling in their new home.

I will give you a little of her story which I find quite moving. Back in Greece they had adopted Macey, a Springer cross, who is now eleven months old. Soon after that they saw a litter of beautiful little white Akita mix puppies, only a few weeks old, wandering in the middle of a road. They tracked down the owner whose attitude was that if they were run over then it would be one less problem for her.

The girl and her husband took all five puppies home and fed them for the next three weeks until they were ready to be homed. They managed to find good homes for them all apart from Raven, whom they chose to keep.

Springer mix lying down

Macey

Because her two young dogs would need to be crated in order to fly them back to the UK, she had for two months acclimatised them to the crates they would be flown in. She did such a good job that apparently they were the most relaxed dogs the transport people had handled. They stepped out of their crates like nothing had happened.

The girl is also preparing her dogs for the baby. Already gates are up to accustom them to the restrictions they will necessarily have;  From the start she has made sure the pups are very comfortable and happy being touched anywhere and gently pulled about.

They have spent a lot of loving effort training and socialising the two – in very much the same way as I would have advised. Consequently, they now have two adolescent dogs that are friendly and relaxed with people and amazingly chilled.

Unfortunately there two new problems she hadn’t anticipated.

Against a quieter backdrop now, any sounds or people passing outside are more noticeable to the dogs, and Macey in particular is having fits of barking.

What worries her most of all is that at times Macey barks during the night and she fears she will get complaints, even being forced to give up her beloved dogs. I can’t see that happening at all. I hope I convinced her that the barking is nowhere near that excessive and that by both limiting their access to ‘guard duty’ places and also by how she reacts when they do bark, the problem will be under control and Macey happier for it.

She has worked so hard in preparing them for their new life that it’s understandable she’s now feeling overwhelmed by coping with the new unforseen problems by herself.

The second issue is that walking the two dogs together is now impossible, due to the fact that at seven months pregnant she is unable to hang onto Raven who is a puller. Previously they didn’t spend much time on lead and are so used to freely playing with other dogs that when they see a dog they can become frantic with excitement to get to it.

The girl can’t walk them separately either. These two dogs have never been apart. Raven was already with Macey before his siblings had left and he goes into meltdown if she is out of sight. Human company is no substitute.

They have a dog walker who takes them for a good run with other dogs three times a week and sometimes days the lady walks with a friend, one dog each. Her husband works abroad so can only help when he’s home.

She is unduly worried that her dogs are suffering due to the lack of regular exercise but to me they show absolutely no signs of dogs that are lacking anything in their lives. When they can’t be walked the young lady gives them sensibly stimulating things to do and balls to chase.

She can now put her excellent dog skills into gradually getting Raven used to being away from Macey – in a very similar fashion to the two dogs I met a few days ago – Wilson and Cooper.

In principle she should pop one dog behind the gate or in her crate, pop the lead on the other dog and walk around the same room and then into next room – out of sight for one second before walking back in again – and then swapping over the dogs. I would introduce scattering food for the dog left behind when I got to the stage of walking out of the back door. When the absences become longer – and this could actually take weeks – I would leave the crated dog something like a bone. The act of chewing helps a dog to self-calm and will also help her to associate the departure of the other dog with good stuff.

Where the two dogs’ excitement at seeing another dog is concerned, she will be teaching them to focus on her early, before things get out of hand whilst making herself as exciting and rewarding as that other dog!

The young lady has a lot to cope with at the moment, but being one hundred percent dedicated to her gorgeous dogs she will be just as successful with the barking issue, with getting Raven to walk nicely and with both dogs showing some self-control when encountering another dog as she has with everything else she has done with them to date.

Barking Dogs Getting Used to New Life

The three dogs bark The dogs’ barking is a problem.

Previously the lady had lots of land where her four dogs could run free, and she spent a large part of the day outside with them and her horses. The dogs lived in a conservatory with access to the outside.  Living out in the country, the dogs’ barking was no problem and was actually welcomed for the security it offered. It was fine life that suited everyone very well.

Then the lady’s circumstances changed, and a couple of months ago she moved to somewhere smaller with just a garden – and near neighbours.

To start with the dogs were left in the conservatory as before, with access to the garden, but their barking caused problems with neighbours. There were, after all, many new sounds to alarm the dogs. Consequently, their environment has necessarily become increasingly small to limit barking. They will now live in the kitchen where they will hear fewer sounds and any barking will be muffled.

At the moment their life is neither one thing or another. On one hand, gone are the freedoms and outdoor activities of the old life, but on the other hand it has not been replaced by any alternative.  Where they before had outdoor freedom and stimulation and plenty of company, they now have much less of both.

They now need to learn to be polite house dogs and the lady can build her bond with them accordingly.

One of the dogs, four-year-old black Labrador Bramble, is a nervous dog.  She was hand-reared as a puppy, her mother and siblings having died, and she has not been exposed in her early months to enough people and everyday things like traffic so she is scared. She barks Wary of people and too much barkingconstantly in the car at everything she sees. She has snapped a few times when someone has gone to touch her. Her lunging at traffic makes her hard to handle, so these things, along with the barking, are what we will be working on.

On the right was the best picture I could take of Bramble – she didn’t like being photographed!

The lady has two more Labradors, one aged fourteen and the other a strong two-year-old Chocolate  elevn year old Springer SpanielLabrador. She also has an eleven-year old Spaniel (I couldn’t resist taking this picture of him!). Because of their behaviour on walks which now have to be mostly on lead and where they encounter more people, dogs and traffic than they are accustomed to, she is unable to walk more than one dog at a time.

She now therefore has quite a complicated daily dog-walking rota which she admits has become a tedious chore where once being outside with her dogs and horses was a joy.

Because of the constant worry about the barking dogs upsetting the neighbours every time they hear something along with the walks being challenging, neither the lady nor her dogs are enjoying life together quite as they used to.  Dog problems can become quite overwhelming at times, but changing objectives and doing things a bit differently will change all that.

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

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).

Little Dogs and Too Much Barking

Poodle sisters Squirrel and Teddy

Squirrel and Teddy

20-month old Poodles Squirrel and Teddy were joined a couple of months ago by little Westie/Bichon cross Lily who is now 5 months old.

Their family runs a children’s nursery. As our meeting progressed, they kept saying, ‘I can’t believe this is just the same as we would do with the children. Why didn’t we think of that’?

Instead, they had been reading books and stuff on the internet. With so much conflicting information it’s not surprising that some of it was a bit unwise – stuff to do with dominance and trying to stop behaviours they DON’T want, rather than positive reinforcement for behaviours that they DO want.

Too much barking

The problem manifests as much too much barking. The Poodles were not too bad until Lily joined them. Lily barks and reacts to everything. Little sounds outside, birds in trees, animals on TV, other dogs and nearly everything when out on walks, and in the middle of the night the sound of one of the cats walking over the floorboards outside the room.

Squirrel

All three dogs charge down the stairs barking, they charge out into the garden barking, they suddenly rush around the house barking at a sound. Teddy barked persistently at me when I came, obviously fearful. The two Poodles had a little spat as a result of built-up stress. We worked out a strategy for Teddy’s lady owner to take control of the situation and then we tackled his fear using food.

There are quite a few ways that the barking opportunities can be reduced through simple management and then they need to approach the problem differently. If more doors are kept shut the dogs can’t charge around the house like a noisy doggy whirlwind. They agreed that their usual ‘Be Quiet’, ‘Shh’ and getting cross simply haven’t worked. In fact, saying ‘Shh’ while the dogs are actually barking is probably labelling the noise with ‘Shh’, in effect telling them to bark and not to be quiet! ‘Shh’ needs to label NO barking for a long time before it can be effectively used to mean ‘be quiet’.

Each time the dogs start barking they need reassurance that there is nothing to be alarmed about because the owners take charge of the situation.

Using food

too much barking

Lily

The humans are missing big opportunties by not using food.  Jean Donaldson in The Culture Clash says this:

‘Exploit the most potent motivator in animal training. If you have puritanical misgivings about food as a reinforcer, get over them and fast. He has to eat anyway. ….it is like saying, “Yeah, but if your employer pays you for working, won’t you always expect it?” ….. Suffice to say that you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you deprive yourself of food training and expect to compete with the rest of the environment using your personal charm only. (Food training) enhances your bond by associating you with one of the most potent reinforcers on the planet. The alternative to training with positive reinforcement is training with aversives (punishment). Choose and stop agonizing”.

So now the family will be concentrating on reinforcing the behaviour that they want and on dealing with unruliness, and Lily and Teddy’s fears in the same sort of way they they would children in their care.