Barks Aggressively at Dogs. Counter-conditioning. Changing Emotions.

On walks the Deerhound Lurcher barks aggressively at other dogs.

At home Daniel is a well-behaved, quite self-contained but friendly boy, four years of age. The gentleman has had him for two years.

He lived on a narrow boat

barks aggressively at other dogsFor the first two years of his life Daniel lived on a narrow boat.

He has had several years to rehearse barking at other dogs in order to drive them on their way.  When he barks aggressively, it works!  The dogs carry on walking.

Living on a boat, this I’m sure has been the case. I have been to several dogs living in marinas that are very reactive to people and particularly dogs passing along the bank or walking down their pontoon.

Now in a house with the gentleman, Daniel continues to rehearse the territorial and protective behaviour. From the front windows he barks aggressively at people passing with their dogs. He barks aggressively at any animal that dares to come into his garden. Even the more distant dogs that he hears shouldn’t be there.

This behaviour is understandable really when a dog feels in some way restricted, whether out on a lead, in a house or trapped in a narrow boat.

If free, he would increase distance

If Daniel were roaming free he would simply increase distance and stay out of the way. Videos of dogs in countries where they wander freely show that dogs seldom stand barking at other dogs to make them go away. They remove themselves.

Up until now, nothing has been done to make him feel more confident around other dogs when he is trapped on lead. To the contrary. When he barks aggressively he is held even more tightly and not allowed to increase distance as the dog gets nearer.

It’s exactly the opposite needing to happen. Seeing another dog should become good news or at the very least something non-threatening to ignore.

Homework.

Daniel seems to be a beautifully calm dog at home, but this can disguise things going on inside him. His basic state of mind plays a big part. For this reason there are various things to do at home as well like working on getting instant eye contact and attention.

At home, too, he will now be unable to rehearse barking at windows. They will pull blinds and shut doors.

At home in his garden, Daniel will begin to associate dogs he hears barking in the distance with something good (counter-conditioning).

Barks aggressively? Too close.

On walks the man will now use systematic desensitisation. Daniel will be aware of other dogs but at an acceptable distance. Avoiding dogs altogether won’t help at all.

Then he can apply counter-conditioning. This basically helps to neutralise Daniel’s negative feelings towards dogs by associating them with something he loves. I suggest chicken. He won’t get chicken at any other time – only when he sees another dog  and from a comfortable distance.

The whole thing has to be systematic and planned.  Listen to this very short excerpt from my BBC 3 Counties Radio phone-in. It’s only just over a minute long. https://youtu.be/7HNv-vsnn6E

Over time Daniel will be encouraged to look away from the dog and to the gentleman – for chicken.

It’s a slow process.

Prey drive

Daniel barks aggressively at another dog to increase distance, but he may also react in another way. He gets very excited when he sees a small dog, a cat or any animal small or fast enough to be considered prey. Then his prey-drive instinct kicks in.

The gentleman can redirect the dog’s instinct to chase if he catches it fast enough. Currently, the only way he can let Daniel off lead is when the dog is running after a ball, which he does multiple times. Repeated chasing after balls fires him up for more chasing. It’s not natural. Chasing by a Lurcher in real life would be after one animal. When he’s caught it, there would be a break from chasing.

There will be no more ball play on walks.

There is plenty of sniffing to do and a world to explore. Starved of his ball, it will gain even more value to Daniel.

Using a long line, the man can now work on redirecting Daniel’s prey drive onto something acceptable – that ball! As soon as the dog’s body language tells him that his chase instinct is kicking in, he will throw the ball in the opposite direction.

It is particularly important Daniel comes to feel better about other dogs. In a couple of months the man is re-homing another Lurcher from a friend who is going overseas and can’t take him. We have discussed the best ways of introducing the two dogs when the time comes.

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