Go Away barking works. Now a learned behaviour

‘Go Away’, they barked. Four of the last five dogs I have been to are scared of people they don’t know well.

Bouncer, a Havenese, is generally anxious. He doesn’t like people approaching him. He barks Go Away.

Dudley is a Cavachon who barks Go Away madly when people come into his house, particularly if they try to touch him. He has snapped at a couple of children

Oreo barked quite fiercely at me for a short while. Go Away! He may go to nip people on walks who walk past too closely. He has bitten the post lady. Oreo is a Westie/Shitzu/Bichon mix.

Bronson barked Go Away on and off for a couple of hours

Today a visited gorgeous little Manchester Terrier called Bronson. Bronson barked at me on and off all the time I was there. Continue reading…

‘Go Away’ he Barks. Often it Works. They Pass By.

Go Away!

The big dog stands on the chair looking out of the window. When someone goes past he barks ‘Go Away!’. They go. Success.

Go Away, he barkedHe prances and jumps around a jogger and they run away. Success.

Why is Einstein like this? Great name, isn’t it, probably reflecting the Poodle component of his mix which includes Rottweiler and Doberman.

There is guard dog in his genes but there is more to it. In a yard with guard dogs is where Einstein spent the formative first five months of his life. He will undoubtedly have been taught by them to bark ‘Go Away’ at anyone daring to come into the yard.

I found two-year-old Einstein’s barking at me rather curious. It’s like he wasn’t serious. It sounded quite fierce but his heart wasn’t really in it. He isn’t as emotional as he sounds. His body language didn’t back up his vocals.

If he was really intent on guard duty he wouldn’t take a break to sniff around for a bit of dropped food.

It’s tribute to the work and love of his young owners that, considering his start in life, he’s not a lot worse. He is affectionate and friendly to people he knows and okay with people when out so long as they don’t invade his space and aren’t running.

Behaviour learned from when he was a young puppy.

Experiences, particularly early ones, actually change the brain: see Changing behaviour from the neurobiological perspective.  It will be difficult to break.

The way to deal with Einstein’s Go Away barking involves a ‘jigsaw’ of pieces that, when added together, should help the situation. Here are some:

His bed is placed against the front door – the most important guarding location in the house. I suggest they move it. They will prevent him looking out of the window to bark Go Away at passing people. They will get their neighbour to throw him a ball (Einstein barks for him to go away too).

When he sees a jogger, instead of barking Go Away he will be given something different to do.

Gradually people coming to the house should become a positive thing. At present they have few visitors for obvious reasons. They now need plenty of people calling to their house.

Using myself as a guinea pig we devised a plan. When I arrive I never have a dog like this in the room. I like to sit down first and then the dog is brought in. A sitting person is less of a threat.

He soon found that his initial bout of barking brought no result. I didn’t go away. I was relaxed and casually threw a couple of bits of food away from me. He ate them. There was none of the usual fuss and comforting he might get from his lady owner who was holding his lead. 

Reinforcing him for not barking.

At each break in barking she now clicked and dropped food. She clicked when he briefly sat and settled. He was up again and barking. She clicked and fed when he stopped.

Now it was obvious that he wasn’t seriously aroused – it was like he did it out of a sense of duty, so when he started again I asked her to immediately walk him out of the room. In and out. In and out. The fifth time he no longer looked at me when he came back in. Click and treat. Settle, click and treat.

Like many dogs with this behaviour, if he is out of the room for a few minutes it’s like he’s forgotten the person is there so he starts again. They can take advantage of this with their guinea-pig guests by leaving him out for five minutes and bringing him back in, then going through the whole procedure again.

Interestingly, he is fine at a couple of other houses where he spends time. The only occasion when there was an incident with a person arriving there was when the lady owner was present. Very possibly he’s protective of her also. She will no longer ‘pander’ to his barking at people with fuss and comfort. He’s not scared after all. It’s like she’s in cahoots with him. She should act cool and unconcerned!

Einstein should be left to work out for himself what works (quiet – click and food) and what doesn’t work (you want ‘Go Away’? Ok, but it’s you who leaves).

This two-year-old big teddy bear really is a gorgeous dog. He has so many good qualities. He’s great with other dogs, he is biddable, he comes back when called. He is cuddly and affectionate.

They just don’t want or need a guard dog, that’s all.

 

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 Einstein 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. As in this case, it’s could be very easy to jump to the wrong conclusions.  One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. 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)

 

Go Away. She Barks. She Snaps. Go Away.

Abandoned by travellers.

Olive, now 10, was abandoned by travellers three years ago. My clients had gone to the rescue for a Staffie type dog and came home with the tiny Chichuahua Yorkie mix (the photo makes her look larger than she is). She was cowering in the corner behind her bed, shaking. They just couldn’t leave her there.

She wants people to go awayIt soon was apparent that she was in bad physical shape. She had luxating patellas in both knees which had to be dealt with one at a time, each meaning twelve weeks of restriction.

Olive was, and still is, extremely reactive to people either passing or coming into her house. She will bark fiercely at them. Go Away!

If anyone tries to touch her she snaps at the hand.

The young couple had begun to make some progress with Olive and then disaster struck. The tiny dog was attacked by a Lurcher. This sent her fragile confidence spiralling downhill.

Barking ‘Go Away’ works. People do go.

Olive has learnt, probably throughout most of her life, that if she barks ‘Go Away’ the person usually, eventually, will go away.

She barks from the front window at passing people and dogs to go away. They go. However, when someone actually comes into the house, she’s no longer successful in sending them away. She may have to try harder.

Olive has also learnt that if she snaps ‘Go Away’ at any hand coming towards her, the hand is immediately withdrawn. It’s impossible not to automatically recoil when a dog snaps!

For Olive, snapping is successful.

It is very likely that for the first seven years of her life she has been in some sort of pain. Hands may well have hurt her. She may always recoil from hands. If it keeps being put to the test with people putting their hands out to her with snapping working, it is less likely to improve.

What prompted them to get professional help now is that they are expecting a baby at the end of the year. They need her to be a lot more accepting of people coming to their house.

To achieve this, practising barking Go Away at people through the front window needs to stop. They will block her view.

She barks at children one side of their garden and a talkative man who pops his head over the fence the other side. They will work at getting Olive to feel better about the neighbours. We have a plan.

When people come to the house it would be better if Olive isn’t in a doorway that the person has to walk through, advancing upon her. They will get a gate.

All callers must be trained!

When the person comes in, they will drop a Kong with something tasty in it over the gate to Olive. Even if she ignores it until later, there is a message. A person coming into the house triggers the Kong.

They will explain the importance to the person of not putting their hand out to Olive. People simply can’t resist trying to ‘make friends’! I suggested a reminder with a yellow vest on the dog saying ‘No Hands’.

They can allow Olive to calm down a bit before letting her out. They will have her lead handy. The work will begin.

Now they need helpful friends and family to work with her.

Most walks are an ordeal.

She is often very reluctant to go out of the door for a walk. Our overall aim being to increase Olive’s confidence, I suggest they ‘ask her’ if she would like to be carried. She’s fine when in their arms. So instead of walking her they will from time to time put her down and ask her again if she wants to walk or to be carried. They will see her answer from her body language.

People are often worried that picking a tiny dog up isn’t the ‘right’ thing to do. I feel that, if the dog is scared, it’s essential. Here is a short video from Steve Mann about picking up a little dog: Small Dog Syndrome.

Once in the field Olive loves to run off lead – free. After the attack on her they are very careful. They can’t risk another bad encounter. Fortunately she never goes far and her recall is excellent.

Olive did get used to me after about ten minutes and came up to me. I made it easy for her with my own body language. She took food from my hand. If I moved my hand even a little towards her she suddenly snapped and of course I quickly recoiled.

She was more comfortable on a lead, a support line, almost like responsibility of dealing with me was removed from her, being taught to settle on a rug next to the lady where she feels safe.

Building up Olive’s confidence and associating people with good stuff is the way to go, along with giving her something to do when people come to the house that is incompatible with barking at them – settling on her blanket.

Ten days later – beginning to prepare dear little Olive for the baby.

Five months later and baby has just been brought home: ‘Still early days obviously but so far Olive is being so good about the arrival of baby. She’s not overly interested and is happy to sit calmly besides us holding her. No barking at her which is lovely! !

 

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 approaches I have worked out for Olive. 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 fear or aggression of any kind is involved. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Go Away! Dogs Too Close. People at the Door.

Milo barks Go AwayThere are two aims to achieve with little Cavachon, Milo. One is for him to be more tolerant of dogs coming near him. The other is to ensure that no other person coming to the door is bitten by him.

In both cases he barks Go Away. This is constantly well rehearsed as he lies looking out of the window barking at people and dogs going by.

Milo barks. People and dogs go away.

Some people don’t go away immediately though, mainly those invaders who are carrying things – deliveries and the postman. They come to the door. The door is opened. It takes a lot of ‘Go Away’ barking to get rid of them.

The four-year-old Milo is shut in another room when someone comes to the door. Or he should be. With several people in the house there is always the risk of a mistake and one day recently that mistake happened. One family member opened the door. Another was in the garden with Milo but the kitchen door was opened.

As soon as he heard the knock he was from the garden to the front door in a flash, pushing out and latching onto the man’s leg.

They will be working on making Milo feel better about people coming to the door. Most importantly, on preventing further barking Go Away to passing people and dogs – by no longer allowing him to see out of the front window. The more he does it, the better at it he gets.

They will also get a gate for the passage near the front door. If this is shut before the door is opened it will prevent a further crisis. Belt and braces.

Milo wants nothing to do with other dogs.

His attitude to other dogs is interesting. A lot of my clients would be pleased to achieve a dog who behaves around other dogs like Milo does. He ignores them. He stays near the lady although seldom on lead and wants nothing to do with them.

Unfortunately they don’t always get the message. When they come to close he barks ferociously Go Away, Go Away. He looks and sounds like he will attack them (hard to believe, looking at him). He’s worst with large dogs and one day he might meet his match.

It’s unrealistic to expect him to want to socialise with all, or many, other dogs. A fair eventual goal would be to tolerate them closer to him but there must be an escape procedure before he becomes overwhelmed.

Milo also barks at dogs on TV which actually is an opportunity – an opportunity, in a controlled situation, to help him to feel better about dogs in his proximity (counter-conditioning him).

Two Chocolate Labradors.

The real reason they want him to be better dogs now is to do with two particular dogs. Two Chocolate Labradors. They have a nearby friend with the two dogs who is soon moving to the West Country. They want to be able to go and stay with her, taking Milo.

For a dog that doesn’t like another dog anywhere near to him, it seems a big step to getting him living happily in the same house. To make it harder, there are two dogs.

The three dogs will now, before the lady moves away, be introduced on walks – carefully.

The friend will walk her two energetic Labradors first to get rid of some of their natural exuberance. Then they will all meet up at opposite sides of a field. The Labradors will both be on lead. They will then all walk in parallel – in the same direction. The distance between Milo and the Labs will be close enough for Milo to know that they are there, but far enough for him to be comfortable.

Each time they all get to the edge and turn around, they come a little closer. The lady will watch Milo all the time. She can even feed him chicken while he looks at the other dogs to help associate their presence with good stuff.

At some point Milo will be close enough to show signs of stress. Before he can start barking Go Away, the lady will stop. The two big dogs can go on ahead and Milo and the lady will follow. Following is always easier.

What happens next depends. They can gradually start to catch up a little. I suggest calling it a day while Milo is still happy.

After several goes I would be surprised if Milo, who is always off lead, has not caught up with the Labradors and they can then all walk together.

New friends?

Going on from here, in time they could walk back home together and enter a garden. Due to Milo’s territorial behaviour, the easygoing Labradors’ garden would be best. They are very friendly dogs – if a bit boisterous. From there they may even get inside the house without problems.

All the time Milo should be given choice. If he’s not ready they will stop. Choice gives him power.

With patient work, perhaps Milo will be sufficiently confident to go on holiday with new Chocolate Labrador friends before the summer is out.

 

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 approaches I have worked out for Milo. 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 fear or aggression of any kind is involved. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).