Butter wouldn’t melt!
I didn’t take this beautiful photo – at no stage were the little dogs either still or quiet enough.
Blaze and Rolo, three-year-old Miniature Daschund brothers, are very excitable and extreme barkers. In order to get them to stop even briefly when people visit they have had water sprayed at them, they have been shouted at, they have had a bottle of stones shaken at them and noisy compressed-air ‘corrector’ spray to frighten them out of it. Incessant barking can really drive one crazy.
These ‘solutions’ may work in the moment but they do nothing at all to ease the real problem apart from making it worse.
The tiniest thing starts them off. Blaze (in front) is probably the instigator, but they charge about in manic barking tandem!
To deal with any behaviour we need to deal the emotion that is creating it. In cases where barking is such an automatic reflex it’s also become a habit. The more they have practised barking, the better they have got at it. Automatic barking can be a difficult habit to break.
The times that worry the family the most are when someone comes to the house (whether familiar or unfamiliar) – and when their grandchildren visit. Blaze may accompany the barking with little nips. He is also obsessed with nappies!
Normally when someone arrives the dogs are put into the garden – or if they do join them it will be hectic. There was the spray water bottle on the side at the ready. I asked for everyone to ignore them. As I usually do, I wanted to see what happened without human interference. We could hardly speak and I had hoped we would be able to sit it out, but after about ten minutes they were still standing close in front of me as I sat on the pouffe – barking, barking, barking at me.
The lady took them out of the room and put them into their crate. They still barked. We got on with the consultation.
Eventually they were quiet so I asked the lady to let them in again. This time we had tiny bits of cheese prepared and fortunately both dogs are very food orientated.
They came charging back into the room, barking.
I held bits of cheese out to them. They couldn’t bark and eat at the same time – but they could still bark between bits of cheese! They also snatched the food, so I taught them a bit of inhibition and manners which meant they had to be quiet and back off for a moment before I opened my hand with the cheese – a few moments of blessed silence.
Soon we were at the stage when as soon as they started to bark again the lady called them back out of the room. They were reasonably willing because of the food reward – something they don’t usually get. After they joined us for about the fifth time the barking was minimal and the lady herself was doing the feeding. Progress.
These little dogs will be associating people coming to the house with panic and scolding. Blaze was even driven to bite a friend who insisted on picking him up against instructions. The aim now is for the dogs to begin to associate people with good stuff – food.
When the grandchildren visit the dogs will either be the other side of a gate or brought in on leads and taught not to nip fingers and jump on them using positive methods. Currently they have never been taught what IS wanted of them – only punished for what is NOT wanted.
The underlying problem of extreme excitement and stress has to be dealt with. This won’t be easy. No more rough play from the teenage members of the family which is encouraging the mouthing and nipping.
Being so hyped up is not good for the dogs any more than it would be good for us, and not only causes problems for the family but also for friends, the neighbours and on walks.
From now on the motto should be ‘good things come to quiet dogs’. Food won’t go down until they are quiet. They won’t step out of the front door until they are quiet. They won’t be let out of their crate until they are quiet, they won’t be greeted until they are quiet, and so on.
If the people themselves are quiet, calm and consistent these adorable little dogs should eventually get the message.
About four weeks later: ‘The boys are definitely showing signs of improvement in several ways, they are a lot quieter, calmer and are not trying to be top dog with each other as much as they used to. I’m so pleased with the help you have given us so far and have recommended you to other people. Its so nice to enjoy the boys again rather than telling them off for all the noise they make. ‘
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Blaze and Rolo, which is why I don’t go into all 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).