Barks at People She Doesn’t Know.

Maya barks at people

Maya

Maya barks at people she doesn’t know.

A while ago they moved from a busy place to the country. Her nervousness at encountering an unfamiliar person on a walk is getting worse now that now she meets fewer people.

Maya is a sweet Cocker Spaniel age nine and she lives with another adorable Cocker, Tia, who is a year younger. The two dogs get on famously. Fortunately Tia hasn’t caught Maya’s fear and doesn’t bark at people.

Maya also barks at people she doesn’t know who come to the house.

Her barking generates a response from her humans that could be increasing her anxiety, not helping her at all.

At the door it is, to quote the lady, bedlam!

A person arriving generates a confusing range of commands and scolding from both the man and the woman. The humans undoubtedly will be contributing to the mayhem.

Now they will train the dogs to go into another room when the bell rings. They will feed them for doing so in order to build up positive associations.

They will also train their visitors (often a challenge!). The person’s language and behaviour can help Maya greatly.

Most of all, they themselves will keep quiet. When they resort to repeated commands or scolding, they merely compound Maya’s fears. It will seem like unfamiliar people are making them upset too.

I always ask people of dogs that get very excited or that are wary (but not likely to bite), to take no notice of them when I come in and for a few minutes. It’s surprising how hard people find this. They are often surprised how unusually quiet their dog initially is with me.

This actually is not because I have any strange powers. It’s largely to do with the owners acting relaxed themselves and the dog picking up on it! 

Walks are something of a ritual.

The lucky dogs are daily walked about three miles by the gentleman. They have a very strict route and routine.

The first and last part of the walk is on lead. Then, off lead, they do their own thing with a couple of clever ‘check points’ where they meet up so that he never loses them.

Then there is a place where they stop for fifteen minutes of ball play.

When he calls them back they come – ninety-nine percent of the time. It’s that one percent when Maya sees a person that she won’t come back. The time when it’s most important.

She will rush the person, barking intimidatingly. GO AWAY. If they were to put a hand out she may well bite. She’s scared.

If, on lead, they encounter an unfamiliar person, the man will hold the dogs tightly beside him. He may put himself between which may help. However, he will allow the person to come far too close for Maya and she is trapped.

A walker should engage with the dogs.

Day after day the walks are on automatic, punctuated by meeting a dog or person. The man does his own thing and the dogs do theirs, coming together at prearranged times and places.

I suggest he becomes unpredictable!  This way the dogs will take more notice of him.

Tia – what eyelashes!

He needs to react a lot sooner when he sees a person, taking his lead from Maya. Tightening the lead immediately can only make matters worse, The lead should be long and loose and he should remain at a comfortable distance.

He can then feed her or have a game.

Off lead, if he only calls the dogs at the prearranged ‘check-in’ places or when he sees another person, Maya will have wised-up long ago that being called means someone is about!

By engaging more with his dogs, keeping their attention, they will be walking with him. He should call them at random times throughout the walk and vary what he offers them when they return. It can be food or fun.

Out of sight, out of mind.

I would discourage allowing Maya and Tia out of sight.

With a bit of imagination he will much more easily be able to get Maya back well before she barks at people.

If he helps Maya to associate meeting people with with good things, over time her confidence should grow and she will no doubt get nearer before she panics. Ultimately I can see no reason why they can’t walk past or stop to chat to a person she’s not met before. It will be his job to make sure they don’t invade her space.

His Fear of People is Puzzling

I have just met another Henry – a Miniature Schnauzer age two. He is quite unusual to look at, being brown and with a poodle-like curly coat. Cute! fear of people makes him bark at them

Henry was barking behind a door when I arrived. Let out after I had sat down, he came charging up to me, barking quite fiercely. This didn’t last for long and I could see that he was scared whilst also wanting to make friends. He backed away and inched forwards. He licked his lips.

Within a very few minutes of being left to do things in his own time, he was taking food from me and we were friends.

Fear of people when out is causing problems.

Henry is very reactive to anyone he meets when out on walks. It’s even worse if they have a dog.

Unlike some scared dogs that back away and try to make themselves small, like others Henry seems to feel that attack is the best form of defense.

It’s puzzling why he has become like this. His mother has an even temperament. He was introduced nicely to everyday life at a young age and so far as I can see they did everything right. Nothing seemed to scare him early on, it just slowly developed. Nobody has ever hurt him.

On lead he will walk nicely until he sees a person or a dog, and then, while his human traps him tightly on a short lead as they pass, he strains to get to them, barking all the time. Their very common approach teaches him nothing. It won’t be making him feel any less fearful of people and dogs.

The million dollar question is what should they be doing?

It stands to reason that if people continue as they are, nothing will change. The only way is to do things completely differently.

Any continued close encounters with people and dogs will merely go on making things worse. Where can they go to avoid them? There are people and dogs everywhere.

Where there’s a will there has to be a way.

The three choices are stark.

There are three choices when considering what to do about reactivity, barking and lunging through fear of people and dogs when out.

The choices aren’t based on convenience or lifestyle. They are just fact.

One is great, one is dreadful and the third is doing nothing.

Either Henry’s root fear needs changing so that he no longer feels scared. No longer feeling scared, he will no longer be noisy. He will in time be a happy and much more confident dog. Everyone will enjoy walks. Job done.

It’s all about building up trust.

Another possibility (which Henry’s humans won’t be doing!) is to deal with just the symptom – the barking, pulling and lunging – with no regard for the emotions which making him behave like this. This is punishment administered by a human who is simply bigger and stronger and may also have painful equipment to use on the dog.

This is the ‘dominance’ approach used in the bad old days. Cruelty used to force a dog through pain and fear.

This destroys all trust.

It’s hard to believe in this enlightened day and age that there are still trainers and TV programmes that advocate this kind of approach.

Who could want their relationship with their dog to be on that footing? Certainly not Henry’s owners.

There is a third choice which some people understandably end opting for. That is simply to give up and live with things as they are.

Harry has six loving adult humans in his life who have always done their best for him. Between them they will do whatever is required to build up his confidence. They will all need to pull together. Behind his fear of people is a very friendly little dog ready to burst out.

All people must be consistent in keeping the threshold distance for Henry from dogs and people while they work on things. This isn’t optional. The will each know how to react should someone unexpectedly appear or if they have a ‘near-dog encounter’.

Henry is never let off lead although they live very near to parkland. Here they meet few dogs and people which is ideal for a dog with fear of people. They can drive there. They can even jog to get there. He’s not reactive while they are running.

They will get a long line for him so that he has some freedom. This will make his walks fulfilling.

Fear of people doesn’t involve avoiding people altogether but working on them within Henry’s comfort zone. If Henry’s humans all stick to this and take it slowly, his confidence is certain to grow.

They will need to be tough about appearing unfriendly by creating distance between themselves and people who want to talk to them. If they want success they have no choice. Here is a little video about how to increase space without seeming rude.

There are certain sacrifices to be made but it will be so well worth it in the end.

 

Recall Could Save his Life

RockyCh1If a dog won’t come to you from the other side of the room when called, he’s unlikely to do so when out and chasing off after another dog!

They call him and little Chihuahua Rocky may just stand and look. If he does come he will stop short by several feet and then they will go over to him. Mind you – his humans give him attention whenever he chooses so in a way they are teaching him that he doesn’t need to do things when they choose.

What a great little character Rocky is.

The other day he ran out the front, and ignoring their calls was nearly run over. This prompted them to get in touch with me.

His ‘not coming when called unless he feels like it’ is also a problem out on walks. He is very reactive to other dogs (scared but brave) and will chase after them barking.

WRockyChhat’s the secret? Food! There must be something ‘in it’ for him if they want him to come back.

The tone in which he’s called has to be clear and encouraging too but not repeated over and over. Being given several chances looked like he was being begged to come – and Rocky just turned and walked away!

Whilst he’s fine and friendly meeting new people when out, Rocky is barky and wary when they come into his house.  Although he quickly accepted me, he started barking again when I walked towards the lady. He alerted to every sound outside and does a lot of barking in general.

We worked on rewarding not barking with food – particularly when he alerted having heard something, catching it immediately before the barking started with an ‘okay’ and food.

Where reliable recall is concerned I introduced a little game. The process needs to be done over and over (I usually say a thousand times) before it becomes sufficiently engrained to be a conditioned response which can be relied upon to work when really needed.

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

Dog Stares, Transfixed by the Cat

When Johnny sees the cat he is transfixed – they call it trance-like.When Johnny sees the cat he is transfixed

Although the ultimate aim is for dog and cat to live happily together – the cat is confident and placid fortunately – there is a lot of groundwork to do first. The matter can’t simply be approached head-on because he has other issues which I’m sure are associated.

Johnny is a German Shepherd crossed with something – and from his behaviour I would say there is Border Collie in there. He is ten years old. About three years ago his owner moved in with a lady and her cat, and despite numerous efforts and trying different things, the two animals have to be kept apart.

Johnny likes to keep everyone together, rounded up so to speak. If someone goes out of the room he stresses and barks. When I arrived it was strange. He barked at me, but when the lady went out to the kitchen he turned and barked at her instead, like he was upset that she had disappeared. When she came back and we were all together, he went back to barking at me. He howls and yelps when a guest leaves. He does the same thing when one of the couple goes out – but, strangely, is much more accepting when they both go out together and he’s all alone.

I am sure his attitude towards the cat has something to do with his needing everyone to be together, under his eye. A cat is simply too independent. If she moves he will chase. He is transfixed by the cat.

Before they can make any headway with the cat problem they need to do some groundwork on Johnny relaxing his herding, lowering his stress levels in every way they can and on teaching him to give them his full attention.

Actual work on Johnny when the cat is about will start very slowly with the cat safely contained. Johnny’s owner already has been very successful with desensitising him to fireworks using food (they live in an area where bangs go off at all sorts of times) and now whenever he hears a bang he looks to her for food. He loves bangs! Once everything else is in place, the same sort of positive approach, along with patience, will bring success with the cat also.

I am sure that they will be able to teach their old dog new tricks and the two animals will ultimately be occupying the same room in harmony.

This is the situation six weeks later. they are taking their time and have now sowed all the right seeds for the final step – dog and cat being freely together: ‘We are delighted that he demonstrated ‘stay’ with me running around him in both our parents’ gardens. This is quite significant for us because his behaviour sometimes seems linked to location. Needless to say, they were very impressed! We have also had several comments on how much calmer he is now.
We have also been able to start using ‘come away’ as a means to get his attention when out and about. He picked this up in the house very quickly but another rule seemed to apply outside. We practise it every time he sees a cat outside whilst on walks and reward as soon as he looks away.
In a strange turn of events, our cat seems to have gained confidence and seems more interested in him. She has been sleeping on his bed when he is upstairs and she is downstairs (she would previously walk around it), will now go into the bedroom he has been in and have a good look around, and has a new interest in sniffing anything belonging to him, such as his raincoat. Could it be she is picking up on less stress in the household and has a new confidence because of it? We now feel ready to start working on re-introducing them but are heartened by the changes in both their behaviours.

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

Fearful Jack Russell Barks at people

Jack Russell Rosie is a well behaved little dog when not stressedHere is Rosie, a two-year-old Jack Russell re-homed from Wood Green a couple of weeks ago.

She has landed on her feet with a lady who is very empathetic to her needs and who instinctively understands the balance between loving Rosie and giving her space.

Previously Rosie had been living much of the time in a crate, muzzled. Because of how she drinks water in a strange way with her head on one side, she must have worn the tight muzzle for a long time.

She is an extremely well-behaved little dog when not stressed. She’s not demanding, she is polite around food, she doesn’t bark at passers by, she can be left alone without crying, she never damages things, she never toilets in the house and, as you can see, she is beautiful!

However, she is very scared of people. She barks frantically at anyone coming into her house and has now nipped a guest. When I arrived she was barking and growling from behind the gate. We worked on this until, by the end, I was walking around the room without a reaction. You can see she was now quite relaxed!

She needs to be gradually desensitised. They need plenty of callers who are willing to behave exactly as requested, friends popping in for half an hour whilst the lady follows our plan. There is a thin line between pushing Rosie beyond what she can cope with, whilst stretching her a little. I know her new owner will be getting this right.

Rosie has similar problems when encountering people out on walks, and dogs. She’s not consistent however. She is worse at the end of a walk – an indication that the walk is too stimulating or too long.

With work, patience and given sufficient time, I am sure that Rosie will eventually be happy for people to come into the house and that outside she will not react adversely to people and other dogs.

Here is an email I have recived two days later: ‘Now, a remarkable walk this morning.  I put Rosie on a long lead like the one you showed me.  I held it loose and Rosie did not pull.  As we got to the end of the Chinese Bridge we were approached by two people and two greyhounds.  Still on the loose lead Rosie did not show any calming signals.  As we got nearer she did then prick up her ears and so I did the arc movement.  Amazing, she then walked past the dogs without looking at them!!  … I kept her on the loose lead whilst we walked.  Two dogs in the distance both on long leads.  She showed no interest.  When they had gone, I let her off the lead and we played with a frisbee type toy.  … as you suggested I called come and each time she came I rewarded her for the ‘come’ rather than asking her to sit.  It works!!  Heading back home we came across two more dogs, both on long leads.  Rosie seemed calmer and only ‘looked’ and as she moved forward again I used the arc movement.  Miraculous.  I know it is early days, but I cannot even explain how much better this makes me feel.  It is so demoralizing to have an aggressive dog, but today was a pleasure’. I replied to be prepared for there to be many lapses. It would indeed be an unusual miracle if a permanent corner were turned quite so easily, but you never know, a combination of appropriate strategies and the lady’s own karma may be the perfect mix!
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.