Barking For Attention and Getting it

Barking for attention is ultimately guaranteed to succeed.

Taking a break from barking for attentionWhat constitutes attention to Stella?

Anything involving a human looking at her, talking to her or touching her – or all three at once which is usually the case.

She may be glared at. She may told QUIET. She may be pushed away.

Stella is sixteen months old. She is mostly French Bulldog with a bit of English Bulldog thrown in – which makes her quite a bit taller than a Frenchie. She is remarkably agile and it’s nothing for her to leap from the floor directly onto the table.

In the photo we are have managed a brief respite from the barking by giving her a Stagbar to chew.

Stella lives with several people – a couple with adult sons, two of whom can get her very stirred up. There is also an older calmer dog, a Great Dane.

The family all work together and the dogs go with them, remaining in the office. The dogs have a great life. At work Stella is no trouble. There is no barking for attention at all.

Why is her behaviour at work so different to her behaviour at home? It might be because at work people are busy and regularly moving about. At home it’s when they have sat down that the barking for attention routine starts.

I had not been there for long when the barking for attention began – mostly directed at me.

Stella is not a dog deprived of love and attention – not at all! However, she has learnt that barking brings her results and very likely if she’s quiet she will be ignored.

Let sleeping dogs lie. Why wouldn’t you?

 

Now the family will need to go cold turkey.

If they want the barking for attention to stop, there must be no more responding to it.

They must all ignore her noise and keep their nerve and patience. Very difficult. When I was there it was hard to think, let alone talk.

When barking wasn’t working she would then push her luck by doing other things – jumping on the table, jumping on the seat behind me to get to my treat box on the table, chewing the leaves of a house plant and nicking a wooden clothes peg which she couldn’t be allowed to keep owing to danger of swallowing the metal spring.

Running off with something can be guaranteed to result in a chase!

It’s very hard for them not to keep scolding her and telling her ‘no’ and to get down (all reinforcing to Stella). They will get a harness (Perfect Fit like in the picture below) so they can give her a bit of gentle help ‘Off you Get’ and then ‘Good Girl’ when down. They must act casual and keep their cool!

They may need to resort to shutting her alone in the kitchen with something to do for a while if she pushes her luck too far.

What a little monkey! What a challenge!

 

This is a project requiring a sense of humour and endurance.

To help her learn not to bark, she must learn that what they do want – quiet – is rewarding.

So, in addition to not reacting at all to her barking for attention, we started to mark and reward just moments of quiet – gradually increasing the duration. She kept reverting, but we made a little headway. The lady said ‘Yes’, I used my clicker. It doesn’t matter which is used so long as Stella learns to associate it with not barking and the sound is followed by food.

When people are moving about at work she doesn’t bark, so this gives us another strategy to try. As soon as she starts, the person she’s directing the barking at can move about or walk out of the room.

Stella in my harness

Stella in my harness

I see it as being quite a challenge in so far as the whole family needs to be reliably consistent. ‘Can’t be bothered’ could compromise success.

Stella has two or three walks a day. She comes back from her evening walk wired up. It’s like she has built up a head of steam which she has to release when she gets home.

This of course is when everyone wants to settle down after their day at work.

We have drawn up a list of constructive activities that should help her to calm herself down and keep her more busy. Walks need to be adjusted so that they are less arousing in terms of length, exercise and encountering things she’s reactive to, so that instead of careering around the place when she gets back, unwinding in the only way Stella can, she has a drink and settles for a while.

Instead of responding to any barking for attention, they will respond to breaks in the barking instead with ‘clicking for quiet’ sessions.

They should resist all play activities that over-arouse her. They will do all they can to keep her as calm as possible.

Instead of ‘letting sleeping dogs lie’ they can initiate short useful activities at times when she’s quiet – thereby showing that NOT barking works a lot better than barking does!

 

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 Stella. I don’t go into detail. 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, making sure that we are dealing with the real causes of barking. I also provide moral support and they will probably need it for a while. 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 Get Help page)

Rescue Dog Not Home Trained

Rescue Rottweiler house-trained not home trained

Missy

Missy is house trained but I wouldn’t say she is home trained.

I had been in the house for just a few minutes when the large three-year-old Rottweiler jumped straight from the floor onto the dining table I was sitting at (to discourage her from jumping on me), probably smelling treats in my bag on the table out of her reach, knocking my cup of tea flying!

They also have another rescue dog, a calmer German Shepherd mix aged five called Duke.

The lady got in touch with me about a week ago – just before she brought Missy home. She was very worried that the two dogs might not get on although she had already taken Duke to the kennels to be with Missy seven times. I advised that the two dogs met up away from her house on neutral territory and then were walked back into the house together and all seems to be going well between them.

Moving into a house is a huge adjustment for Missy and the lady is determined that it’s going to be for keeps. The dog had been passed between several rescue kennels for most of her life before landing on her feet at last with a lovely home and someone who is prepared to do what it takes to give her the life she deserves. It’s hard to see why the gorgeous dog wasn’t adopted a long time ago. She is very friendly but just needs to learn house rules and adjust to home life.  Everyday things like a floor mop or getting into a car are unfamiliar and stressful for her. Considering what must be overwhelming changes in her life and routines she’s having to adjust to, she is managing surprisingly well.

They have had to put two gates in the kitchen doorway, one on top of the other, so that ‘high-jump’ Missy can be kept safe and the two dogs separated when necessary. She is perfectly happy to be left in there as I guess being behind bars is the norm to her. Rescues have obviously done some training with her within the environment of the kennels. She doesn’t pull on lead. She’s polite around food, she understands to sit and probably more besides.

Missy has redirected with some nipping onto Duke when suddenly over-aroused and she may do the same with people – mouthing and nibbling at them. They have learnt not to do certain things that excite her, like ball play. Life for her at the moment is quite exciting enough. There is a little bit of jealousy from Duke when Missy is fussed so the lady will need to make it clear that she chooses who she will fuss and when, not Duke. Missy is a little bit too playful for Duke at the moment. The lady needs to remain alert if their are valuable resources about like a bone or toy but there’s been no hint of any trouble so far.

The only way the two dogs can be walked is separately and Duke gets distressed when left alone, so they will be working on that. Though fine with larger dogs, Missy seems to be somewhat disturbed by little dogs – staring and what the lady describes as fixating on them, so there is work to be done there.

German Shepherd Staffie mix

Duke

One thing that needs to change as soon as possible is Missy’s persistent jumping up whether the person is standing or sitting. If they are sitting down she will leap on top of them – and she’s a big girl! She doesn’t know what it is acceptable to chew and what isn’t. It’s very much like having a huge puppy to train!

I visited them on just the fourth day in Missy’s new home, so we don’t yet know exactly what we are dealing with yet. When the dust has settled we will be able to work on training and play to help equip her for her new life and things that will focus her brain rather than stir her up. She will gradually become habituated to everyday things, I’m sure.

This purpose of this first visit has been to put things in place so that they start off right and pre-empt any obvious problems that could develop. There are lots of other things we can work on in the future when the time is right and depending upon how long the lady wants me to help her for.

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 Missy and Duke. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good, particularly where aggression may be involved. 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).

Beautiful Dog but Out of Control

English Bull Terrier on the stairsIf a picture could tell a story – this is it!

Sometimes I go to a situation where it’s hard to know where to start, particularly if the dog is jumping up and flying all over the place, desperate for attention – which she’s accustomed to getting in the form of being told off harshly and NO!

We sat down at the dining table and eighteen-month-old English Bull Terrier Millie was straight up onto it. The lady shouted at her to get down which she ignored. She takes very little notice of the lady who has to speak loudly and fiercely to get Millie to take acknowledge her at all. The lady absolutely adores her and it’s hard for her when her dog is so out of control.

It’s amazing what tiny pieces of cheese and a quiet voice can achieve!

It took a long while – most of the three hours that I was there discussing all the things necessary in a consultation – but by the end Millie was sitting down in the corner beside my chair. I did it by simply not trying to tell her to do anything. The lady herself now needs to be able to motivate her to willingly do things without using any force.

First, instead of dealing with the jumping and getting onto the table, I dealt with what we did want – with her getting off the table and jumping onto the floor. Soon we had a reliable ‘Off’ – rewarding with ‘Yes’ followed cheese as soon as her feet were on the floor. I showed the lady how willingly Millie did this when asked once and by then just waiting for her to comply, followed by a food ‘thank you’.

Then Millie came and just happened to sit in the corner beside me. I was waiting for this. I immediately gently said SIT to label what she was already doing and fed her cheese – saying SIT in a very pleased voice and feeding her, loving her, while she remained sitting. Each time she came back and sat I repeated this. It wasn’t long before she realised that just coming and sitting beside me was a lot more rewarding than jumping on me or jumping on the table.

Then towards the end, I had her sitting on cue (when I asked her). I was thrilled. It seems like a small step, but it’s a leap for Milly and for the lady who will continue with this work – starting in Millie’s special ‘sitting corner’ beside the table, speaking to her gently and using food.

The actual problem that has most been distressing the lady is that her black Labrador, Ruby, has had to go and live with her son. Ruby, now three years old, took an instant dislike to the puppy Millie from the moment she arrived. Eventually, at a year old, Millie turned on her. A massive fight ensued so one of the dogs had to go.

The lady pines for Ruby and badly wants her back. There will need to be a very different and much calmer, controlled atmosphere in the house if that is ever to happen.

While Millie is quite so stressed and excitable there is little chance of getting them back together, so reducing her stress levels is our first aim and getting her under some control – particularly self-control. She needs more suitable exercise and fulfilment which we will be looking into next time. We will eventually be working on various protocols with a possible reuniting in neutral territory being the final goal.

Fortunately Ruby is happy living with the son. Millie herself will be a lot happier when she has a bit more healthy stimulation and exercise, and learns what is wanted of her through positive reinforcement.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Millie. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog 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).