Hector, the little wire haired miniature dachshund, is absolutely adorable.
His young lady has made every effort to do the very best for him from the start, but at about seven months old he began the barking at people.
Once he starts his barking at people he’s unstoppable.
Barking at people who come to the house. Barking at people on walks. Even barking at people in the distance.
Believing from their advertising that they were the best people to help her, Hector’s young owner called in Barkbusters. As soon as he started to bark, the person, who said he was scared, made a loud BAH noise. Why would you want to make a noise like that at a scared dog? Wouldn’t that make him even more scared?
To quote Hector’s lady, he was so petrified of of the Barkbusters person that he was quiet. However, when she herself tried to implement the techniques Hector, predictably, didn’t take any notice of her.
Now this is the trouble with punishment. When something stops working because the dog gets used to it, the punisher has to be increased to be effective. She went on to try a citronella collar that squirts stuff the dog hates up his nose – stuff that lingers long after the barking stops – and then collars that vibrate or make a noise.
She realised that this was just making his barking worse. Why associate people he’s barking at with something so unpleasant. Surely this will increase his fear?
In trying to punish the barking, often don’t see it as it really is. Barking is the symptom of what’s making the dog bark. Usually fear has a lot to do with it. In punishment they merely make the fear worse. A collar squirting citronella up his nose when he barks is merely putting a temporary lid on the noise, it’s making how he feels a lot worse.
Hector’s barking at people means she can’t have anyone to her house.
Because of his barking at people when out also, she doesn’t enjoy walking him either.
The poor girl simply doesn’t know what to do.
I find the situation quite heartbreaking really because she has tried so hard to do her very best for Hector right from the beginning. She received some very bad advice that started her down the punishment route.
I call it punishment, but people who advocate these methods would probably call it ‘correction’. It’s ‘positive punishment’.
Hector’s barking at me was relentless to start with. I worked with him. We had enough breaks in the noise to cover all my questions and to teach the little genius dog something incompatible with barking. We taught him to touch both the lady’s hand and my own using clicker – and he’d never been clicker trained!
One minute he was enjoying a clicker game, running between us to touch our hands, and the next he was barking at me again.
His initial response was fearful undoubtedly, but not for long. It’s like he simply keeps barking at people until something happens – this ‘something’ will more recently have been punishment of some sort.
He is really a curious and friendly little dog. He wanted my attention and barked for that also! If he doesn’t get what he wants he may then bark because he’s frustrated.
When I got back home I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I wasn’t satisfied that I had fully covered the problem. I had been treating it as mainly fear driven.
Suddenly it dawned on me.
I arranged to go straight back the next evening. This time I was there for just fifteen minutes with a different strategy that worked a lot better.
Basically, barking at people had given him something that made barking at people rewarding to him. It’s impossible to know just what, but he seems to enjoy it. It dawned on me that we should now respond with something completely different, something that has never happened before in response to his barking at people.
She will walk him out of the room straight away when he barks. He has a nice comfortable harness so there will be no discomfort involved.
I went back and found that worked. He really didn’t want to miss all that food on the floor and and he really wanted to be with me. His barking being a learnt response meant Hector and his young lady walked in and out of the room quite a few times before he got the message.
This isn’t the protocol I would use if the barking was simply fear. Because I suggest removing him from something he actually wants – me – this would be termed ‘negative punishment’. I would handle it a bit differently if he was really fearful.
This is a good example of why it’s not wise for me to go into too much detail in my stories. Even I hadn’t got it quite right the first time round. The protocols have to be tailored to the individual dog. Like other stuff people find on the internet, it could do more harm than good otherwise.
The basic principles we are using is to address both the barking at people in the home and people out on walks.
The young lady will now use willing friends as human Guinea pigs, dropping in for about twenty minutes at a time initially.
Over time, as Hector relaxes and learns to enjoy their company quietly, the young lady should be able to enjoy having her friends round again.
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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Hector and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do 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 aggression of any kind 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)