Management. Management. Management. Changing Routines

To address the problems the lady faces with Harry and Toto, management has to come first. Harry is an 8-year-old terrier, and Toto a Bichon Frise age three.

Over the years, Harry has bitten several times when out, including a child. Fortunately so far he has done little more than to break the skin.

Toto, a more recent rescue, is fine outside the house, but may go for the feet of anyone moving about indoors.

Toto bit a child

Continue reading…

Little Dog Barks at Everything

Scared Shihuahua Yorie mix


Sometimes people can be at their wit’s end with a dog that seems to bark incessantly, particularly when they know it affects the neighbours. This is the case with the owners of little Chihuahua Yorkie mix Freddie, on the left. He is only ten months old and lives with thirteen-month Westie/Yorkie Belle, who is now joining in.

Actually, although Freddie spends a lot of time barking, he’s not a barker as such. At times when other dogs would be barking, he is quiet – like when he is put in the kitchen alone. He doesn’t bark for attention either. He has a lot of attention and gentle training so isn’t lacking stimulation. It is very evident that the one and only cause of his barking is fear.

If fear is causing barking, then it’s the fear that needs to be dealt with rather than the barking as such. His barking is basically yelling ‘go away, go away, I don’t feel safe’. On the left I just caught a break in his barking at me for this photo,

Westie Yorkie cross


When I arrived and for much of the time I was there, Freddie was so aroused that it was hard to do anything at all about it, so we experimented with various approaches before popping him into the kitchen for a break where he calmed down, eventually leaving him in there. It seems that so many things alarm Freddie that he’s in a permanently heightened state, most particularly when he hears any sound, when he meets a new person – particularly someone coming into his house and also people, dogs and noises when he’s out on walks.

The five-minute walk to the park is yet another story of barking that needs working on! The lady has resorted to carrying him so he can be off lead to play with Belle. I am a believer in little dogs walking, but in this case I would say that anything that can be done to reduce Freddie’s stress and anxiety is valid just now.

We ‘unpicked’ Freddie’s day and found quite a few little things that, when added together, should make him calmer. The two main ones were to block the dog flap so that he hasn’t constant access to the outdoors even when they are out and can bark at everything he hears, and to control the two dogs’ unchecked and prolonged wild play when they are out in the park.

Again, like a jigsaw, there are several small pieces that when added together can create a better picture.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Freddie, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet 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 and a Neighbour has Complained

Jack Russell Tilly is friendly and biddableJack Russell Tilly lying peacefullyWhat a lovely little dog Jack Russell Tilly is! She is friendly and biddable. She is also inclined to be excitable and a barker, but a lot of this is because her humans don’t understand her needs. They are imposing human values on her – assuming what would be important to a person is also important to a dog and often it’s completely the reverse.

The other day they received an anonymous complaint from someone living nearby, about Tilly’s barking. It’s surprising how many people I go to where the neighbours haven’t the guts to knock on the door and resort to anonymous notes. Tilly’s owners hadn’t realised that Tilly was barking so much and the last thing they want is for her to be distressed – or for neighbours to be disturbed.

The lady is of the belief that Tilly needs lots of freedom and space when they go out. She has run of the whole house, from their bedroom, down the stairs, to the sofa overlooking the front window and then out the dog flap and open access to the garden. So it is, for the hours when her people are out, she will be charging about barking at sounds. She is reactive to most noises as many Jack Russells are and she’s being given guard duty.

She will be a whole lot more settled shut in a smaller, less stimulating and more den-like area without the stresses of noisy neighbours, dogs barking, pigeons, cats teasing her from the fence and so on. Humans may feel shutting her in and away from windows is unkind, but from the dog’s perspective it is a lot kinder. She will feel safe.

Just to double-check that there are not other issues causing her to bark when she’s left alone, the teenage son will rig up his iPod to record exactly what she does when they are out. This will be easy now that she will be contained in a smaller area.

 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.

Separation Panic

Staffie mix


Staffie mix


Hercules, on the left, lives with Shadow. I am told they are Staffordshire Bull Terriers, but believe they must be a mix. They are both eleven years old.

Hercules isn’t as strong and brave as his name suggests. He is very nervous, and starts to shake at the slightest thing.

The main problem is the terrible distress he suffers when his owners go out and leave him, and being with Shadow doesn’t help him.

Hercules has always suffered from separation distress. This was compounded by six months in kennels in quarantine when the people came back to this country. A short while ago his lady owner went back to work after maternity leave and for a year the dogs had got used to not being left alone for very long.

Hercules did an amazing amount of damage to the house and furnishings when left in the past; they tried a crate and he broke out, damaging himself and losing teeth, and he also managed to escape from the house which involved the police. So they have converted a shed in the garden into a comfortable and safe kennel. Unfortunately Hercules goes into an utter panic when shut in there in the morning, and cries and howls all day without a break.

The neighbours have been very patient, but the council has now become involved.

This is a very difficult situation. The dogs are eleven years old and set in their ways. If I had come six months ago while the lady was still at home, we would have had the time needed to very gradually work on Hercules being left for very short periods, very frequently, and gradually build it up.

Now we have a tragic situation where Hercules is so stressed his life is almost unbearable at times. His owners also are extremely worried about him. The neighbours understandably have had enough.

We are looking at every behaviour aspect we can along with strategies to show the dogs that as ‘leaders’ the owners should be able to come and go as they wish and can be trusted to return. Within their time constraints they will be working on frequent small separations, starting by shutting doors behind them in the house. In addition to behaviour work, we have also been looking at management. Funnily enough, he is fine if left in the car, so maybe a ‘den’ in the shed would help, an old table with the sides covered perhaps. There are a lot of small ideas which, added together, I sincerely hope will help Hercules.

As a normal rule curing separation issues can take a long time, and in this case there simply isn’t time – either from the harm it must be doing to Hercules, the stress to the owners at a difficult time when the lady has to adjust to going back to work as well as organising the baby, and the impact on the neighbours.

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