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.

Old-School Training Classes Making Border Collie Worse

This photo doesn’t do justice to beautiful 15-month-old Border Collie Barney.taken to old-school dog training classes

Barney was re-homed by my lady client just two months ago and is becoming increasingly reactive to other dogs when out. When they first had him he was playing with them. He also has started to bark at people.

Dog training classes

The lady has been taking him to traditional dog training classes – old school dog training classes. I can only wonder whether being physically controlled around dogs, isn’t actually making him worse. He’s being told to ‘Leave’ them rather than politely allowed to sniff and say hello which is a lot more natural. He’s being ‘corrected’ to stop him pulling on lead rather than being taught to walk like there is no lead at all – through choice.

For many years I did traditional, old-school dog training. I know all about it.

Barney is playful and extremely biddable. The lady herself is serene and gentle, and having met many of the Border Collies of his age, I am sure he would be a lot more excitable and hyped up had he gone somewhere else. My modern, gentle, non-coercive methods will suit her down to the ground.

Barney, like many Border Collies, will also lunge at traffic. It seems he had a very sheltered life previously with little enrichment. The lady has, very sensibly, got him a harness so he doesn’t hurt his neck, but he rears up and he is strong. I have recommended a better kind of harness, one where the lead is attached to the chest, along with a simple procedure to follow each and  every time he looks like reacting to a vehicle. He needs to know that his lady is in control of the situation.

For now she should avoid walking beside a busy road. Then, over time but only within his comfort threshold, his exposure to traffic needs gradually be increased so that he is habituated.

Walking nicely

It is a shame that old-fashioned training classes make walking the dog seem like a battle. He must be to heel or else he will be ‘corrected’. But, if the lead isn’t too short and is he doesn’t pull, why should he be stuck to the walker’s left leg? Does it matter if he is sometimes ahead so long as the lead is loose? Why shouldn’t he stop to sniff and explore? It is a dog walk, after all.

Reacting to traffic, people and other dogs can be treated with understanding of just how the dog is feeling and the emotion which is driving the behaviour is addressed. It may take a bit longer than using force, but it will be permanent and not a temporary fix that is dependent upon his being ‘dominated’ by a bullying handler (which fortunately this gentle lady just cannot be).

I have yet to discover modern, reward-based classes in my region, classes with small numbers that will use clicker, luring and reward to teach the dogs. (This was written back in 2013. There are several I can ow recommend).