Aggressive When People Leave

Paddy is aggressive when people leave.

I had been sitting on their sofa for a couple of hours and had slowly made friends with him.

Then I stood up.

The little dog thought I was leaving. He changed in a flash into a snarling, barking, biting dervish.

The Jack Russell now has a lovely home with a lady who cares for him deeply, but he is highly stressed much of the time. Continue reading…

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…

Alarm Barking. How ‘Stopping’ the Barking Can Make Barking Worse.

It was hard to imagine as I sat with Cocker Spaniels George and Rupert that the problem is alarm barking. Having had a sniff of me they simply settled down for the evening.

These two dogs have a very good life! They want for nothing. They go to a very good daycare while the couple are at work. They are taken on holiday with them and are very much loved.

Neighbours have complained.

Continue reading…

Emotional Barking. Window Barking. Barking on Walks

I have just been to two lovely little dogs, a Westie and a Miniature Pinscher.

Both bark in a frenzy when someone knocks on the door. Westie Jock barks non-stop when out on a walk.

I group barking roughly into four types – one when the dog simply wants something, another when the dog has been trained to ‘speak’.  Then there is barking in play. The fourth and most common type of barking that I go to help reduce is what you could call ’emotional barking’.

Barking – a symptom not the problem

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

Aggression Towards Other Dogs Began Six Months Ago

Aggression towards other dogs when out on walks might be the problem but the causes probably have tentacles in other areas of her life.

Reactivity is always as a result of some sort of stress – fear being the most likely. Stress isn’t a thing that is there one minute and gone the next. The surprise or shock may be sudden, but the effects linger. We know with ourselves that once things start to go wrong nothing seems to go right. We get into a progressively touchy mood. Stress builds up. Continue reading…

Management. Management. Management. Changing Routines

To address the problems the lady faces with Harry and Toto, management has to come first. Harry is an 8-year-old terrier, and Toto a Bichon Frise age three.

Over the years, Harry has bitten several times when out, including a child. Fortunately so far he has done little more than to break the skin.

Toto, a more recent rescue, is fine outside the house, but may go for the feet of anyone moving about indoors.

Toto bit a child

Continue reading…

Antisocial With Dogs. Insufficient Early Habituation and Socialisation.

His young lady owner refers to him as antisocial – towards other dogs in particular.

Gunther is yet another young dog that has lacked the right kind of early socialisation or sufficient habituation. He should have encountered a variety of people, other dogs and been exposed to life in general during the second, third and fourth months of his life – before he came. It’s little wonder he’s antisocial at times.

The 8-month-old Dachshund I met wanted to be friendly but he’s torn between friendliness and fearfulness.  He barked at me for a while before, quite suddenly, becoming my best friend. Continue reading…

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.

Addressing the root of the problem is the only way to get lasting improvement.

Clever dogs need variety, exercise and enrichment but their behaviour makes taking them out impossible. The family can’t walk them separately as the two little dogs won’t be separated.

Luna is the most stressed of the two and she is the more bossy one. This is often the way. One will overshadow the other. Bear, however, is more relaxed and without Luna may well have adjusted better to life.

Lack of exposure in crucial early weeks

Three main points have been working against the family.

Bear

The first is that the dogs, in the vital first twelve weeks of their lives, didn’t get the required socialisation and habituation to daily life all dogs need. Early socialisation and habituation.

They picked the puppies up at sixteen weeks old.

They were not prepared for meeting people, other dogs, bikes, sounds, vacuum cleaner…..all sorts of things. The real world is a scary nightmare.

The second point is that they are littermates which brings its own challenges.

The third is probably genetics. They tell me that the dogs’ brother is even more scared and reactive than Luna.

I didn’t list these things to discourage them, but so that they are realistic about what they are up against. It’s also important that they don’t in any way blame themselves.

Stress reduction

There is just one of these three things that they can actually do something about. That is what people call socialisation but which is really systematic desensitisation, habituation and counter-conditioning.

For their dogs to react differently, they need to work on their fear and stress levels.

Every time they take them out, every time they take them in the car where they simply shake with fear, the dogs are ‘flooded’. Flooding does them no good at all. Everything is too much.

Stress, fear, excitement/over-arousal is at the root of their behaviour. They haven’t been properly prepared at a sufficiently young age for the real world. Too many things both at home and out stress Luna in particular.

Living in a war zone

Just imagine being terrified every time you go out. It would be like living in a war zone.

Stress needs reducing in every way possible. Each time the dogs are alarmed and react with frantic barking, their stress levels go through the roof. With exploding stress levels, they bark and react even more. It’s Catch-22.

Stress reduction underpins everything we will do. The family will work on calming the dogs constantly and in every way possible.

So, against a calmer background, we need a plan of baby steps. We need to break things down into the tiniest of increments to desensitise and counter-condition the dogs to one thing at a time.

One dog at a time

Progress will be impossible with both dogs together. They will simply keep bouncing off one another rather than relating to their humans.

So, the first challenge here is to get them to accept being apart for just a minute or two to start with. Baby steps.

The family will start with a barrier or gate across the room so the dogs, whilst together, are separated. They can give each dog something to chew so it’s a positive experience. Bit by bit they can extend the time.

Then they can take one dog out of sight of the other.

The dogs must be comfortable with one step before going on to the next.

Eventually one dog can be on a long and loose lead by the open front door. Now the frantic barking at sounds and sights of the outside world, of passing people and so on, need working on.

Just being at the open front door is too much

How can the dog go for a happy walk when even being at the open front door is too much?

It’s impossible to say what progress they will make or how fast. Frequent short sessions in tiny increments will be a lot better than one long session.

Walks can currently only do more harm than good to the dogs. They are a nightmare for all due to the frantic barking at everything and the pulling.

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 dogs it can do more harm than good. Click here for help

Fear of People. Separation Distress

Bentley has a fear of peopleBentley barks.

The little dog’s main fears and consequent barking is either directly, or indirectly, associated with his fear of people.

Bentley is an adorable and much-loved Coton de Tulear. In researching the breed, the first site I looked at said that they hate being on their own and that they like the sound of their own voices.

The first, distress at being alone, certainly applies but I don’t think Bentley barks and cries because he likes the sound of his own voice. 

The cause of his barking is his fear of people…

…and things associated with people.

This is whether someone just comes to the door, if someone comes into the house or when they see a person out on a walk. It’s the same with noises that people make, like slamming car doors and voices outside. (This dog that usually barks takes absolutely no notice at all of fireworks!).

His fear of people colours any trips to the vet or the groomer.

Changing his fear of people gets to the root of the barking problem and is the challenge. People should now be associated with things that Bentley likes and whenever possible on walks at a distance where he feels they are no threat to him. This threshold distance is important.

Here is a very short excerpt from my BBC 3 Counties Radio phone-in on the subject (referring to encountering other dogs, but it’s the same principal). https://youtu.be/7HNv-vsnn6E

Most unusually, when I came to the house he barely barked at all, although he was still wary of me. This is because of how we set it up. They will now use the same technique with other callers.

How they actually respond to the barking will also help his fear of people and the sounds he can hear.

All alone, Bentley probably feels vulnerable.

This can only be guesswork, but he invariably toilets soon after he is left. He’s very attached to the lady and follows her everywhere. It’s most likely he feels safest when with her.

They will be getting a camera so they can watch what happens when he’s left. This will tell us more.

Separation problems are slow to work on, particularly if it can’t be done systematically due to people having to go out to work. However, the more Bentley associates their leaving with good things and their returning as no big deal, the better.

He currently has run of the house when left. I suggest keeping him away from the front door area. This is where scary people may come and go and where people have pushed items through a hole in the door.

The higher are Bentley’s general stress levels, the less he will be able to cope with his fear of people and being left. Lowering arousal/stress is key. This may sound a bit boring at times but over-exciting activities can be replaced with those that help him to be calmer and more confident.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bentley because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. 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 much more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where fear is concerned. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page).