Non-Stop Barking Down the Road

Cavalier King Charles stretching

Sunny

Little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Sunny’s barking is a big problem for his family. He barks in the night, he barks at TV, he barks at anything he hears, he goes mental when the post comes through the door, he barks at birds in the garden and he barks on walks from the moment they leave the house and all around the village.

His companion, a little girl Cav called Sky, is quieter (a ‘little angel’).

Barking can affect people’s lives big time. Night time barking means they get sleepless nights, barking on lead means walks are stressful and embarrassing and barking at the TV means their evenings are frustrating and punctuated by shouting at the dog.

Shouting at barking dogs just doesn’t work more than perhaps temporarily. Shouting does nothing long-term and merely adds stress to an already stressed situation.

People understandably concentrate on finding ways to STOP their dogs barking. Like many, Sunny’s people had resorted to using a Citronella collar but it stopped working as the dog got used to it (for dangers of Citronella collars please see here).

We concentrated less on the barking itself but on doing something about the hyped up emotions that drive the barking. In Sunny’s case I feel it’s a mixture of excitement tinged with a bit of fear, and some of it has been unwittingly reinforced. He is being taught to bark. He barks as they go down the road – and they keep going down the road. He barks in the night, and eventually someone comes down. He barks at the TV, and he gets their attention away from the TV and onto himself.

Sky

Sky

The gentleman, with me beside him, walked him out of the door and around the road a couple of times. After a number of false starts while we worked out the most suitable method to use, we were marking and rewarding quiet on the door step, he stepped out, said ‘Yes’ and rewarded, each couple of steps we stopped, said ‘Yes’ and rewarded quiet until we got to the difficult corner where other dogs lived before turning back for home. Sunny was still quiet.

The gentleman was quite chuffed at how well he had managed. In effect, he wasn’t teaching Sunny not to bark; he was showing him how to be quiet.

We worked in similar fashion with the barking at TV. The daughter had a clicker and food. Each time Sunny glanced at TV and before he could bark, she clicked and rewarded him by dropping food – he had to look away from the TV to pick up the food. Obviously programmes will need to be carefully selected to start with.

Sunny

Sunny

They are now putting the dogs in a different room at night-time. The rule simply has to be ‘no coming down’ – not even the once – unless they want the barking to continue. This is a behaviour that has only started recently.

The dogs should be kept away from the front of the house because passing people and post coming through the door only encourage barking, and they should only be let out into the garden when someone is about to help Sunny out immediately he starts to bark at something.

The less barking Sunny does the less stressed he will be. A calmer dog will be less reactive and quieter – sort of chicken and egg. He will for the time being be earning much of his daily food quota for being quiet. As you can see, he is a real little cutie!

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’, 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 Sunny. 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 dog (see my Get Help page).

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.

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).

Lovely natured little Pug, but used to getting his own way.

Two-year-old Pug Bungle is just the kind of dog many of my clients with little dogs would like and don’t get – aused to getting his own way dog that loves being cuddled and touched. The perfect lap dog.

Getting his own way

From the start the young lady has taken him everywhere with her and he is confident and well-socialised, fine with both people and other dogs. Delightful.

But there is a downside. Bungle is used to getting his own way. He has always got just what he wants and this has led to the three problems I was called out for. Basically, if he barks or fusses, it always works.

No more sharing their bed

Most pressing is that they don’t get a good night’s sleep. Bungle has been accustomed to sharing the bed, but now that the young lady is in a relationship they don’t want Bungle moving about the bed during the night and burrowing.

They have tried putting his bed on the floor, but he will be whining and snuffling and padding about on the wood floor with his nails tap-tapping, agitating to get back up on the bed – hence the bootees!

They have tried leaving him in the kitchen, but this is next to the neighbours so when he has barked he has been invited back into the bed. No wonder he makes a fuss – getting his own way WORKS!

We have a plan which I’m sure will solve this – and a back-up plan if not.

Non-stop barking in the car

Pug Bungle wearing his booteesThe second problem is non-stop barking in the car. This could be due to anxiety as things whizz past or it could be because anticipation of what may happen at the end of the journey which can be very exciting to him. It could be a mix of both.

Bungle has been taught that barking brings results. It always does – eventually.

The third problem is that they can’t eat out in a pub garden without constant barking for their food.

At home they will give him something else to be doing while they eat (a specially prepared Kong). There will never be any of their food for him either during or after their meal, should solve this – though it could take a while. Used to getting his own way in the end, he is bound to try all he can before giving up.

Nothing works quickly because habits need to be broken and replaced with new habits. It is all dependant upon Bungle’s humans keeping their heads and not giving in to his demands whether it’s for play, for food or to get into their bed.