Frantic Barking. Littermates. Not Prepared For Real Life.

I walked in the door to be met with frantic barking.

Brave Luna, with frantic barking, came right up to me. Her sister backed her up but with less enthusiasm.

Frantic barking at people and sounds

Luna

Luna and Bear are same-sex siblings. They are two-year-old Cavapoo Collies. What a mix! They were a bit smaller than I expected.

Walks are a nightmare due to the dogs’ reactivity to everything, their frantic barking and pulling. Consequently, the family don’t walk them regularly.

Their frantic barking at every sound when at home is annoying the neighbours. The lady has tried all sorts of things to stop the barking, some not pleasant for the dogs. None worked.

Addressing the root of the problem is the only way to get lasting improvement.

Clever dogs need variety, exercise and enrichment but their behaviour makes taking them out impossible. The family can’t walk them separately as the two little dogs won’t be separated.

Luna is the most stressed of the two and she is the more bossy one. This is often the way. One will overshadow the other. Bear, however, is more relaxed and without Luna may well have adjusted better to life.

Lack of exposure in crucial early weeks

Three main points have been working against the family.

Bear

The first is that the dogs, in the vital first twelve weeks of their lives, didn’t get the required socialisation and habituation to daily life all dogs need. Early socialisation and habituation.

They picked the puppies up at sixteen weeks old.

They were not prepared for meeting people, other dogs, bikes, sounds, vacuum cleaner…..all sorts of things. The real world is a scary nightmare.

The second point is that they are littermates which brings its own challenges.

The third is probably genetics. They tell me that the dogs’ brother is even more scared and reactive than Luna.

I didn’t list these things to discourage them, but so that they are realistic about what they are up against. It’s also important that they don’t in any way blame themselves.

Stress reduction

There is just one of these three things that they can actually do something about. That is what people call socialisation but which is really systematic desensitisation, habituation and counter-conditioning.

For their dogs to react differently, they need to work on their fear and stress levels.

Every time they take them out, every time they take them in the car where they simply shake with fear, the dogs are ‘flooded’. Flooding does them no good at all. Everything is too much.

Stress, fear, excitement/over-arousal is at the root of their behaviour. They haven’t been properly prepared at a sufficiently young age for the real world. Too many things both at home and out stress Luna in particular.

Living in a war zone

Just imagine being terrified every time you go out. It would be like living in a war zone.

Stress needs reducing in every way possible. Each time the dogs are alarmed and react with frantic barking, their stress levels go through the roof. With exploding stress levels, they bark and react even more. It’s Catch-22.

Stress reduction underpins everything we will do. The family will work on calming the dogs constantly and in every way possible.

So, against a calmer background, we need a plan of baby steps. We need to break things down into the tiniest of increments to desensitise and counter-condition the dogs to one thing at a time.

One dog at a time

Progress will be impossible with both dogs together. They will simply keep bouncing off one another rather than relating to their humans.

So, the first challenge here is to get them to accept being apart for just a minute or two to start with. Baby steps.

The family will start with a barrier or gate across the room so the dogs, whilst together, are separated. They can give each dog something to chew so it’s a positive experience. Bit by bit they can extend the time.

Then they can take one dog out of sight of the other.

The dogs must be comfortable with one step before going on to the next.

Eventually one dog can be on a long and loose lead by the open front door. Now the frantic barking at sounds and sights of the outside world, of passing people and so on, need working on.

Just being at the open front door is too much

How can the dog go for a happy walk when even being at the open front door is too much?

It’s impossible to say what progress they will make or how fast. Frequent short sessions in tiny increments will be a lot better than one long session.

Walks can currently only do more harm than good to the dogs. They are a nightmare for all due to the frantic barking at everything and the pulling.

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

Little Dogs Bark at People, Dogs, Traffic, Bikes

The two little dogs bark at the smallest provocation. One sets the other off – or they may erupt into barking simultaneously.

The  Maltese/Chihuahua mixes (Malchis) are one-year-old brothers. Two dogs of the same age can be hard work, particularly if they are littermates.

The adorable Reggie and Ronnie bounce off one another. Much of the work involves working on them separately – treating them as individuals.

The little dogs bark a lot!

The pair are extremely easily aroused, torn between fearfulness and being friendly. They bark at people, at other dogs, at traffic of all sorts, bikes…. nearly everything.

the little dogs bark at everything

Barking at me

When I was there, the smallest sound that we humans couldn’t even hear had the two little dogs racing out into the garden, barking.

When dogs are reactive to something our natural instinct can be to push them into the situation. To ‘get them used to’ it.

A dog can be reactive to traffic by lunging or barking at it, and people will keep walking the dog near to traffic, holding the lead tightly.  When the two little dogs bark at an approaching person with a dog, their humans don’t divert but may even try to make the dogs say hello.

It is actually exactly the opposite we need to do. If we translate it into human terms it’s easier to understand. If a child is scared of something or has a phobia (even if we find it unreasonable), we would deal with it slowly and not force the child to face it. We wouldn’t shut a child that is scared of the dark in a dark room for an hour to get him over it! We would be aware that therapy could take months.

It can be embarrassing.

On top of this, when our little dogs bark at people – or our big dogs for that matter – it’s embarrassing.

The temptation then is to attempt to stop them in some way. Fortunately they hadn’t yet tried to use the compressed air dog ‘corrector’ they had bought. They can now see how that is the equivalent to smacking a child who is screaming ‘Go Away’ to something that is terrifying him and coming too close.

The noise might stop, but the fear will increase.

The only way to change the barking behaviour is to get to the root of why they do it and deal with that.

They barked at me for a while, making it impossible to talk, but soon stopped with the help of dropped food. They started again a couple of times – like when I went out and came back in while we were rehearsing a technique for people coming to the door.

The little dogs bark at things they might hear from the garden. This means reacting instantly, calling them away, making it worth their while – and not giving them unlimited access (difficult in this very hot weather).

The thing that impacts on their humans the most is when the little dogs bark at everything when they take them out on walks.  

Helping the dogs one at a time.

They will walk each dog, one at a time, to their garden gate and watch the world go by. Lots of very short sessions are best. The very instant he shows alarm, they will drop food. The idea is to pre-empt the barking whilst building up positive associations.

They must be ready to retreat quickly back to the house at the first reaction or bark – increasing distance. Bit by bit they will build up the dogs’ confidence and trust in them. They must not get impatient and try to push ahead too fast.

Only by keeping ‘distance’ from the car, person or dog at the same time as those things triggering something good, will the situation change.

Currently, the opposite is happening. Because their leads are attached to collars and not harnesses, reactivity and lunging will result in discomfort to their little necks. Humans get agitated.

Only when each dog is much less reactive individually should they try them both together. Slowly they can advance further away from their house.

They need not walk the dogs daily while they are doing this. People can play with them in the garden. For ‘proper’ walks I suggest they find somewhere open with as few dogs and people as they can. Until Reggie and Ronnie can walk beside the road without being being upset by everything, they need to take them by car.

The car?

This is another problem. Seeing people (or other cars, dogs, bicycles) from the car window makes the little dogs bark frantically. The only way out of this for now is to somehow prevent them seeing out – by being creative. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Six weeks later: ‘All is going really well The boys have calmed down so much. They have adapted well to me saying ok come on boys to get them back into the house when they start barking in the garden. They have stopped barking when I  let them out. Throwing food over the gate works well when I leave them now and they are far more settled. No more destruction of furniture. Walking has been a lot better. Whilst on holiday if they became anxious and started to bark we adopted the ok lets go and turned the other way which worked well. Reggie ignores cars now whilst on a walk. We feel that your techniques have worked really well. There is hardly any reaction now when we come home from work.
They are 2 different dogs a much happier home.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. Click here for help.

Redirecting Onto His Brother

Redirecting onto Lincoln is how Lucas deals with arousal.

Lucas and Lincoln. Calm.

When someone new comes to the door, the two Dalmatians are shut away behind a gate and will be barking loudly as the person enters the house.

Lincoln is barking with excitement. Lucas’ excitement quickly spills over into redirecting onto poor Lincoln, attacking him.

I witnessed this for myself.

Fortunately Lincoln is very easygoing and has not retaliated – yet.

They settled quickly and were both fine when let out to greet me.

Things weren’t so good a few days ago when someone they didn’t know came to the house. While the dogs were still barking she put her hand over the gate. A mistake.

Bite!

The two brothers are now sixteen months old. Everything they do has been together. They are the best of buddies most of the time.

Their humans will now be working at two things in particular. They will be doing their best to lower both dogs’ arousal and stress levels in every way they can. They will be building up their own relationship with each individual dog rather than treating them as a pair.

Keeping arousal levels as low as possible is key. Stress builds up over days until the dog will be ‘ready to go’ and much more reactive than when calmer. Like a volcano, he will ultimately blow. See this video on ‘trigger stacking‘.

Lucas’ way of erupting is to take it out on poor good-natured Lincoln.

Lucas’ redirecting excitement and arousal is causing problems.

It’s a busy household. The two males like to stir the dogs up with rough play. The dogs also get over aroused when there is push and shove between the humans. All this results in Lucas redirecting either his own uncontrolled excitement onto Lincoln by going for him, or by reacting to Lincoln’s excitement in similar fashion.

As is often the case with two dogs, particularly siblings, it’s hard to leave them with toys or Kongs because it can either cause trouble between the dogs. This is a shame because chewing is one of the best ways they can self-calm.

Separating them one each side of a gate for short periods will mean they can chew without actually being separated. Instead of taking his feelings out on Lincoln, Lucas can take them out on a bone, Kong or Stagbar!

The redirecting happens on walks too and got so bad they muzzled Lucas. Once the dogs, always off-lead, are let out of the car and having built up a head of steam, Lucas goes for Lincoln, redirecting all his uncontrolled, built-up excitement onto the other dog. They have now recently started walking the two dogs separately.

Walks will be overhauled, starting with the right equipment (Perfect Fit harnesses recommended), loose lead walking and controlled exits from both house and car with plenty of recall work and the use of rewards. By not using food in training and for getting their dogs’ attention, they are missing their most valuable tool.

They will do everything they can to take away all opportunities for Lucas to rehearse redirecting his arousal, whether it’s fear, excitement or both, onto Lincoln. The less practice he gets, the less it will happen. With lower stress levels, the aggressive redirecting should lose its fuel so to speak; he simply won’t need to do it.

People asking for help usually ask for help with the behaviour itself – the symptom. It’s actually the emotion, the stress and excitement which is the cause of the behaviour that needs to be  dealt with.

The two Dalmations will now learn to be calm before getting the things they want whether it’s attention, a welcome, to be let out form behind their gate or out of the car, before getting their food and so on. 

Lucas and Lincoln will learn to earn what they want by offering calm behaviour.

At present hyper behaviour is being rewarded and unwittingly compounded by receiving all the attention.

We ourselves need to be what we want our dogs to be. If we want them to be happy, we can be happy ourselves. If we want them to be calm, we need to behave as calmly as possible ourselves.

 

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 Lucas and Lincoln 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 ny 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)
Benjie and Bella sitting still at last

Springer Siblings Like a Hurricane

Having two young dogs can be a challenge. Having litter mates can be a challenge. Having young working Springer Spaniels without a job to do can be the biggest challenge of all.

The lady admits that when they picked up the two bundles of fluff they had no idea that later they would be driven to the brink of despair when they became adolescents.

Eight month old brother and sister Benjie and Bella are absolutely beautiful both in nature and to look at, but they are certainly hard work! One reason the are such hard work is because insufficient work is done with them.

Benjie is a big barker for attention. Bella is a guarder – she guards resources from Benjie so, following some fights where the lady has been bitten when splitting them up, they can’t be left with toys or chews any more. They are bored. Both dogs fly all over people and they treat the sofas and coffee table like an assault course.

The lady had been advised by the breeder (my heart often sinks when I hear this because breeders are seldom qualified in behavour or training) who said to use a shaker bottle when they are naughty. Not only is scarinBenjie and Bella playingg dogs not good for our relationship with them, they soon get immune to that and you have to try something even more scary. Worst of all, it doesn’t give the dogs a clue as to what IS required of them so can simply hype them up further.

The whole family including three children were very involved which I love.

Instead of shouting NO at the dogs, I showed them how to used food rewards and praise. It took a long time before we could really start to talk, but eventually it was beautiful to see them eagerly sitting. I then taught them to lie down (clever dogs crying out for healthy stimulation), and then even got them to sit and stay for a short while which required a huge amount of self-control from them.

The dogs spend too much of the day together in a crate, with just a visit at lunch time, and walks aren’t as fulfilling as they could be because of the terrible pulling. When people are home and the dogs become too much, they end up back in the crate. The younger daughter wrote a list of suggestions of things they could do with the dogs, individually, to give their lives more interest. They will gate their kitchen door so Bella and Benjie can sometimes be kept apart, and then each dog can have their own box of goodies – things to chew and play with – which must be lifted before they are back together again.

To get them walking nicely they will have to be walked separately to start with. For exercise they will need to be popped in the car to go to an open space. When there, they can only be let off lead one at a time and recall needs some serious work.

The more hours these two dogs are left alone, unoccupied, the more mileage they will get out of any action that is happening when people are home – and if nothing is happening they will make it happen! So, the priority is to reduce stress levels and only do things for the dogs when they are calmer and quieter whilst filling their time more productively. They will get the message if people are patient and consistent. The second important thing which is connected with the stress is to remove any opportunity for Bella to practise her growling at Benjie when she has a resource of some sort. Finally, they need to get to grips with the walking so the Springer Spaniels can sniff and run and chase, what Springers are bred for.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Benjie and Bella, which is why I don’t go into 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 dog (see my Get Help page).

 

Barking at People and Dogs

Yorkshire Terrier sibling barks too much

Daisy

Yorkie twins Daisy and Cody are now five years of age.

There are well-documented disadvantages of taking on sibling puppies – see here for more information. One common problem is that one of the puppies becomes shy, even when both puppies started off as bold and outgoing. This means that the shy puppy never reaches his or her potential. Another problem is that same-sex siblings in particular can end up arch enemies.

It’s a tribute to their family that these two little dogs have turned out so well.

I would say that although Daisy, on the right (look at that little face), is a lot more nervous than Cody, they are no different many other two unrelated dogs.

Their problem is too much barking at people and dogs from Daisy, particularly when they are out or when people come in the house. Cody is self-assured and has ‘attitude’ on walks but Daisy is scared.

Because she can sometimes sound quite ferocious when a person or another dog approaches, the lady has been so worried that her little dog is aggressive. She is on lead with a tense and anxious handler and she feels vulnerable.

But it varies. It’s not consistent. Because some days she is fine where other days she is very nervous, it’s useful to look at what is happening in all other aspects of Daisy’s life. There are many things that stir her up daily which don’t affect Cody at all, including the post coming through the door, the vacuum cleaner or lawn mower, and even enthusiastic greetings. Without too much effort the family can save her the build-up from all these stresses and it will make a huge difference to her.

Yorkshire Terrier sibling is the more confident

Cody

The lady in particular is very concerned her little dog could be ‘dangerous’ by all the barking at people and dogs. When they are out or when someone comes to the house she is both nervous and apologetic.

The people holding the leads will need to keep a close eye on the dogs for their reaction – to nip it in the bud. They must move Daisy away to a distance where she feels ‘safe’ and then work on building up her confidence.  When over-threshold she barks and lunges and snarls – and then may redirect onto poor Cody with a nip.

Work can only be done with the dogs walked separately for a while.

It’s the stress and fear that needs to be addressed – both dog and human! Already the lady has said, “I feel more at ease with the barking knowing it isn’t aggression”.

When Daisy calms down and everyone gains confidence, they should have no problems on walks – as has already been proved on ‘good’ days.

To change the behaviour we must change the emotion that drives it.

Already, after one day of implementing a few changes, the lady says: “We can’t believe how quiet they have been – less stressful today all round for the dogs and me!
Seven weeks later: ‘Things are improving – I walked Cody the other day and came across a lady with 3 dogs I turned and walked away then turned back and stayed on my side of the road (lady was on the opposite pavement talking) we continued walking with no reaction from Cody at all – I was very pleased with him as previously he has barked at the dogs – I have been going out when it suits me rather than when its quiet – most days we don’t see anyone but if we do I know how to handle them.  We have seen such an improvement in the dogs and agree with you it is as much about us changing as well as the dogs.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Daisy and Cody, which is why I don’t go into 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).

 

Bangers and Mash, Daschunds

Miniature daschund having his tummy tickled

Mash

Yesterday evening I went to visit Bangers and Mash (don’t you love it!), brother Miniature Dachshunds age 15 months.

Mash on the left having his tummy tickled (not by me – I never got that close) is the more nervous and noisy one of the pair and despite being considerably smaller than Bangers, he controls him. He prevents him walking where he wants to go with just a stare. He will walk the long way around to avoid a doorway Mash is occupying. Mash bullies Bangers and takes all toys off him to hoard for himself.They play beautifully but occasionally, when particularly stressed by something, they have a full blown fight, with a lot of noise, sounding and looking vicious but fortunately no damage has yet been done.

Bangers is the larger of the two miniature daschunds

Bangers

The other things that cause concern is how they behave when people come to the house, and when they go out on walks. Mash instigates. When people come to the door, the two barking dogs are blocking the doorway making it hard to open, Mash almost goes for ankles in his frenzy, and sometimes they redirect their frustrations and excitement onto one another. When they seem settled they may fire up again if the person walks about.

On walks they lunge and may go hysterical when approaching people and dogs, and again may redirect onto one another if walked together.

I suspect if these little dogs had their time again, and if from the start the humans had done things differently, things would not be like this. I am convinced that in the first crucial eleven weeks when they were still with the breeder, they will not have experienced sufficient handling, different people and environments, other dogs and so on. Their owners, not knowing the importance of early varied and positive experiences, sheltered them further during the next really important weeks, with a lovely large garden to play in. Then, to ‘socialisie’ them they went to puppy classes with Bangers going ballistic at other dogs and Mash shut down and shaking. They persisted in the common belief that it would break down their fears. In my experience it does the very opposite. So this is where we are at.

Reinforcing only calm behaviour with attention, rather than reacting to noisy or anxious behaviour, is the way to start. They have plenty of visitors to practise on, so if this is handled right, over time, the dogs should become more chilled. The same goes for encountering people or dogs on walks. Pressing ahead and forcing them into situations is the same sort of thing as the puppy classes. If this sort of thing worked, then it would have done so by now. So, things need to be done completely differently. In time the two little brothers will be walked together again, nicely, not particularly reacting to other dogs and, being in a calmer state, not needing to redirect anything onto one another.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.
 

Whippet Brothers May Suddenly Fight

Whippet lying on his chair

Fergus

Whippets are just so delicate and graceful. To look at them it’s hard to imagine they could ever cause any trouble!

Whippet

William

These two beautiful siblings are now four years old, and have lived with their family for eighteen months. They have very different personalities, and for most of the time they are model  pets.  Whippet William on the left is much more excitable than Whippet Fergus, who is more controlling.  This can cause trouble between the dogs, and though they are the best of mates, sleeping and playing together, there are certain flash points which suddenly cause them to turn on each other. William’s excitement starts it, firing Fergus up, and in no time there is blood. It’s over as fast as it started. This is usually happening around walks, at the gate and encountering challenges like cats – and around food. William’s over-excited behaviour at the door before the start of a walk may cause Fergus to ‘sort’ William. William, redirecting his stress, even bit the lady owner, so now both dogs are muzzled when out.

All walks start with William running and prancing about, making it hard to catch him to put on his lead, whilst Fergus waits. Walks start off on the wrong note with tight uncomfortable leads and a tense owner on ‘cat watch’. They are going to need patience so that William learns to calm down. You can’t force a dog to become calm, you have to work at it in all areas of his life, understanding that stress builds up over time. Calmness has to happen from the inside. The humans will be working to provide calm leadership in a way understood by the dogs – in all areas of their lives.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
 

Two Little Jack Russell/Parson Terriers

Lugh and Idris are gorgeous very well-loved 14-month-old Jack Russel/Parson mix Terriers with a few unwanted behaviours creeping in.

The owners are ‘bringing them up’ in a fair and caring way and th dogs are mostly well-behaved, although they may be doted on a little too much by the lady in particular. She gets very worried, especially out on walks, because both have slipped their harnesses on occasion.

It is always strange to see two siblings living identical lives with such different personalities. However, different personalities cope with being ‘worshipped’ in different ways. Lugh is more confident and calmer. Idris is more highly strung.

I took no notice of the dogs when I arrived and this spooked Idris – used as he is to everyone paying homage.  He barked at me. Lugh was much more chilled. Idris has started to play ‘owenership’  games over food resulting in a couple of fights between the two dogs. On walks Idris pulls and pulls though not Lugh. He is very hyped up when he sees other dogs, hackles up and barking.  The dogs are never off lead and seldom go anywhere open because it requires a car journey – and neither dog travels well. Lugh is sick almost immediately and Idris panics. Both have slipped their harnesses in the street and the lady who is the main dog walker now feels so worried about this that along with the pulling walks are not enjoyable at all.

They will go back to the beginning with the walking so that Idris no longer pulls, with a strategy for when they encounter other dogs, along with equipment which gives the lady confidence that the dogs can’t possibly be Houdinis. They also have a plan to gradually work on the dogs’ anxiety in the car. Backing all this up, leadership skills at home need working on, especially around food.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
 

Comical Boxers

Comical BoxersBoxers Ollie and Tess are real characters. Their dobs of black on white give them a comical expression, Ollie in particular.  Brother and sister, they were rescued together a couple of years ago. Tess is a much calmer character, more confident, while Ollie is more reactive, more attention seeking and inclined to bark and jump up.

Their owners are keen walkers who would love to enjoy walking with their dogs, but they are becoming increasingly unhappy about Ollie’s behaviour on walks. Where Tess is friendly towards dogs and people, Ollie is very defensive. He will bark, lunge, and if he can get to another dog he will jump on it and make a lot of threatening noise. He’s not yet actually done any damage. He also has a habit, when another dog is nearby, of lying down and refusing to budge until the dog is nearly on top of him – and then he will lunge. He is a heavy dog. A Gentle Leader head collar is used, but that does not give the control and Ollie’s face just isn’t really the right shape for it.

So, once again, it’s a question of a dog being uncomfortable, stressed, defensive and scared around other dogs. Like with most of the other dogs I go to, the owners have done what most people traditionally think is the right thing to do. It’s what some of the TV programmes say. To hold on tightly and to keep going. To correct with the lead. If this hasn’t worked for a couple of years, if things are actually getting worse, then something different needs to be done.  There is a quote I read somewhere, ‘if you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always gotten’.

A dog that is hyped up from the start of the walk, who is uncomfortable due to tight lead on a collar or head collar and whose owner is tense, isn’t going to be in any right state of mind to encounter another dog. So, what would a wise and kind leader do in the circumstances?

If you live within my area, would you like me to help you too?

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.