Bark Bark. Excitable Vocal Clever.

Winnie is so cute. She is soft and fluffy.

She is also NOISY!

The adorable Cockerpoo is now eighteen months old and she has something to say about everything. We get people like that don’t we, who just don’t know when to stop talking!

She will bark at everythingShe is on high alert much of the time and, being the vocal kind of dog she is, she reacts by barking. A good bark, whether because another dog may be walking past the house or a bark for some attention, always works in some way.

An alarm bark session drives the person or dog away (people passing the house don’t hang about, do they) and a good bout of barking for attention gets it – even if it’s to be told to stop.

A Poodle mixed with a Cocker Spaniel.

You wouldn’t mix these two breeds and guarantee an easy life. I have read that a Poodle was originally used as an aid for duck hunters and loves water. Winnie loves water. The Poodle comes second to only the Border Collie on the doggie IQ ranking. The Working Cocker Spaniel? An energetic hunting dog, a sniffer, a tracker; highly alert, vocal. (This describes my own Cocker Spaniel, Pickle, perfectly).

The working dog in Winnie doesn’t have enough work to do. A good walk each morning for about an hour, perfect for many dogs, isn’t alone sufficient stimulation or interest for a dog like Winnie.

She spends much of the rest of the day ‘making things happen’.

Repeatedly chasing a ball fires her up.

Ball play can become addictive when a dog is bored. It not only winds her up, getting her more and more excited which makes her bark more, it also makes the man her servant. He’s constantly on hand to throw the ball for her. If he doesn’t obey her, what does she do? Bark!

Activities like repetitive ball play are not natural – not things she would be doing if not with humans. If out by herself, any chasing would be spasmodic – only when she saw an animal or a bird or if playing with another dog.

Barking also probably makes Winnie feel better, even if only to vent some of the arousal, stress or frustration that has built up inside her. A lot of it now will simply be a habit.

Giving her more healthy stimulation and enrichment, stuff that activates her brain and her instinct to sniff and hunt, will cause her to bark less.

A bright and alert dog, she will bark at new or sudden things.

Because they live somewhere quiet, she reacts to things to which she’s not habituated. If they took her for more frequent but shorter walks, she would find going out less arousing. Encountering more dogs (at the right distance), she would become more accustomed to dogs. If dogs had constantly passed the house since she was a puppy, she would take no notice of dogs passing the house. If they had frequent visitors to the house or the house was always full of people, she would not bark at people coming to the house.

Some of these things can’t be changed, but some habituation can be done. They can take her on several extra very short walks for instance. People who live in flats whose dogs have to go out several times a day to toilet, are much less likely to get excited when the lead comes out.

Any scolding, ‘no’ or telling her to be quiet may work in the moment but, in the end, will make her bark more. They will add to the stress and pressure she is feeling and not address the cause.

You can’t ‘train’ the dog out of feeling alarmed.

The feeling itself has to be changed.

They will be working on doing all they can to calm Winnie down whilst enriching her life with suitable activities. The rough and tumble play will stop and hunting, sniffing and brain games introduced. A stirred up dog will bark more. A mentally satisfied dog will bark less.

When new people come to the house the barking normally continues for quite a while and she starts again if they stand up.

When I was there, Winnie didn’t actually bark much at all. That is often the way!

We had arranged things so that when I arrived it would be as easy on her as possible. Consequently she relaxed with me almost straight away. I also made things easy for her when I wanted to get up by warning her. I called her and dropped a bit of food and then moved about. No barking.

“What do you do when your dog barks?”

I usually ask people, when their dogs do something they don’t want them to do, what they themselves do in response. In the case of alarm barking, the answer is usually something that would ‘put a lid on it’. In the case of barking for attention, the dog would get attention even if it was to be told to stop.

The next question has to be, if they have always been responding in this way, has the dog improved? Usually the dog has, over time, got worse.

So, things need to be done differently. The barking itself is just a symptom and something that works for the dog. This may be for no better reason than to bark makes a stressed dog feel better. It gives a vent.

They will start working on the underlying emotions that are causing Winnie to bark.

The delightful dog will always be vocal, because that is Winnie. They can however help her to be calmer and more confident and therefore to bark less.

 

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 approaches I have worked out for Winnie. 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. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Multiple Dogs – they have ELEVEN!

A chaotic atmosphere is troubling to some dogs - just as it is with childrenOne needs to run a ‘tighter ship’ with multiple dogs if things are not to be chaotic. A chaotic atmosphere is troubling to some dogs – just as it is with children, and the behaviour of the 5-year-old Cocker named Jigs is evidence of this.

Considering they have eleven dogs – a mix of various Springer, Cockers, Poodles and Cockerpoos all age under the age of six, these dogs are a tribute to their owners. The lady is a groomer and the dogs are gorgeous. A full-time job.  It isn’t surprising, however, that with those numbers there are a few issues.

At present the dogs rule the lady in particular. As she sits on her chair they leap all over her uninvited. There is some growling between them. There is also some trouble between two of the female dogs, one of which, Jigs, constantly parades a ball, pacing about growling. There has only been one major fight between her and Millly, the 6-year old Springer – so far.The lady sits on her chair they leap all over her uninvited - but not today.

With so many dogs all together most of the time, the lady needs to behave a bit like an orchestral conductor! She should be calling the tune. She could be inviting which dog she wants on her and turning away those she doesn’t. She needs to watch out for and pre-empt trouble between dogs immediately.

All the dogs follow her everywhere – she is like the Pied Piper. It’s quite hilarious really. She is a very warm and lively person, and unsurprisingly the dogs are much more excitable with her than when they are left with her quieter husband. Jigs’ pacing, parading and growling doesn’t happen so much when she is out. She acknolwedges that she has some work to do.

Bo

She needs to take more control and Jigs needs helping out. It will be hard for her initially to get into new habits that are alien to her, but we have made a plan so that she is introduced to one thing at a time, starting by gaining control of her own lap! This will be followed by treating each dog individually, calling one at a time to her.

Most importantly the dogs need to learn that calmness gets the good stuff. At present they are wild with excitement at so many things – being let into the sitting room in the evening, going out into the garden with the lady (they won’t stay out without her), and when people come to the house. The excitement then stresses Jigs and Milly who may turn on each other.  When a visitor arrives the little white American CockerAmerican Cocker is scared of people and may pee (left) is scared and may pee, and Springer Milly runs and hides. The rest are very sociable. Absolutely delightful.

I have been to people with far more problems with just two or three dogs then they have with their eleven. A lot could be done by creating a calmer atmosphere and letting the dogs know that their humans – the lady in particular – aren’t their slaves!

They breed Cockerpoos. Last year they had two litters. This year the four unspayed females will hopefully have puppies (Jigs isn’t one of them). The dad will be handsome year-old Poodle Bo, on the right.

Speak Quietly and Dog Will Listen

Poodle Bosco is a confident friendly little dog is a testament to their good 'dog parenting'.

Bosco

Denver, an ex stud dog in a puppy farm, was rehomed from Many Tears Rescue in Wales

Denver

Two gorgeous Toy Poodles! They have had ten-year-old black Bosco since he was a puppy and the confident friendly little dog is a testament to their good ‘dog parenting’.

Denver they rehomed from Many Tears Rescue in Wales a couple of years ago and he was used as a stud dog in a puppy farm. The damage done to these dogs with years of being being pent up and complete lack of early socialisation is awful. He is about five years old. Initially he spent most of his time hiding – especially from the man. They have come a long, long way with him since then but now need that final push, someone with experience who can see things through different eyes.

Denver will still make a wide berth around the gentleman, running to hide under the kitchen table from where he watches in ‘safety’. Where cajolling and trying to win him over has gone some of the way, I feel running around trying to please him is exerting its own pressure upon Denver. The man in particular needs more of a ‘take it or leave it’ approach. Both little dogs have too much freedom with dog flap left open day and night, even when the couple are out. They graze on food permanently left down. Some basic boundaries should also go some way to making Denver feel more secure.

He keeps his distance – quietly watching – on alert. He was wary of me; with my body angled away and my hand slowly out with a piece of cheese, he gently took it from me then quickly backed away to safety.

Little Denver needs to learn to happily engage with the man as he does now with the lady, so I showed him what I would myself do. I first demonstrated with Bosco so Denver could watch him being rewarded with cheese. Looking away from him, I then very quietly and gently asked Denver to sit which he did at a distance of about six feet from me. I gently tossed him cheese. When he was just one inch closer I asked him to sit again – cheese. In this way, over a period of days or maybe even weeks, the man will get Denver close to him – he can even earn some of his daily food quota in this way. The reason I asked Denver to sit was so he might feel the food was for doing something easy – sitting – rather than doing something very hard which was to engage directly with the man.

Once Denver is sitting close, he can hand him the food rather than drop it on the floor. Next step is to touch him just once before feeding – and so on. Later on he can gradually be taught to ‘touch’ people’s hands and to look them in the eye using clicker-type method (operant conditioning). The secret is to break everything down into tiny steps and to be very patient.

While this process is being worked on, the man must make no attempt to touch Denver at any time. If he plays sufficiently hard to get for long enough, the little dog should eventually feel safe enough to actually choose to be touched.

Denver keeps his distance - quietly watching - on alert.

Denver

I demonstrated with Bosco who had been taught lots of actions just how effective speaking very softly and saying the word only once can be. The dog focusses. A firm command is not far short of using physical force in order to make a dog do something and therefore exerts pressure of a kind. A gentle ‘request’ means the dog feels he’s choosing to do what we want.

Think ‘request’, not ‘command’!

Patience is something these people have already demonstrated over the past two years that they have in abundance.

Scared on Walks, Teddy and the lady

Cute Poodle Maltese mixTeddy is the cutest little dog – a Poodle Maltese mix, three years of age. Teddy lives with his young lady owner and her parents and they are all totally in love with him. Understandably! Here he is begging for attention and he knows it’s impossible to resist! He loves having his photo taken.

Teddy is playful and loving, but has always been a somewhat sensitive dog. However, since about six months ago he has developed more extreme fearfulness. He has become much more barky at people coming to the door or dogs walking past the house, and will bark at anyone he doesn’t know well  whilst at the same time wanting to be friendly!

On walks it is worst.  He can scream with fear if an energetic dog is too close.  Because Teddy seems so small and fragile, the young lady’s mother in particular is very worried that Teddy might be hurt by another dog. He seems not to give off the right signals. He invites play and a chase, and then gets very scared when the dog takes him up, and then he may run away screaming. He has never been hurt by another dog, but even so the lady is now a nervous wreck on walks, worrying about whether Freddie might get hurt. She is undoubtedly passing her fear of the bigger dogs to Freddie. The lady’s father is also fearful, and picks him up, which makes things worse because the other dog then has to jump up to get to him.

The trouble with this sort of panic is that knowing it’s unreasonable doesn’t help. It eats into you.

What Teddie needs most is to be with people who are completely confident because then he will feel protected. At the moment I know that he feels exposed. The daughter is actually a lot more confident on walks, but in other ways she has given Teddy the responsibility of looking after her. She has been at home all day for the past six months. Teddy is mostly with her round the clock, sleeping in her room and following her like a limpet. He sits and watches the front door when she goes out. If another dog comes near her, he warns it off.

We need to work on calm walks for Teddy – things are hectic before they even leave the house. This should be taken gradually, a few steps at a time, with strategies so the people can feel calm and in control should they meet another dog. The mother needs to take it a few steps at a time just as much as Teddy – more so probably! She needs to work on confident body language and when she’s walking him stay near home where she can always turn back straight away if she starts to panic. Teddy can, without doubt, sense or smell her fear. The daughter needs to show some leadership/parenting and allow Teddy independence, so that he is not so needy and vulnerable – sort of wean him off her a bit.

It can be hard to ‘release’ a dog and allow it to be independent when you love him so much – especially a companion lap dog.  But – he is still a dog!

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

Preparing the Dogs for the New Arrival

 

I visited a lovely family yesterday – four little girls aged between two and eight and two large gentle dogs – one a Standard Poodle, Max,  and the other a Poodle Rottweiller mix called Alfie. I have never seen that mix before, and to me he looked more like a black Beardie. As you may be able to see from my not very good picture, PoodleRottie2Max is covered in tight curls.

Alfie the Rottie mix is a laid back gentleman. Max, on the other hand, is much more active and a little restless.  He adores the children, and the little girls who have been taught to treat dogs with respect cuddle him, walk him around with him and play with him – and he loves it. Max can be reactive to other dogs – barking but not attacking, and Alfie may then join in.

To add to this mix, they are getting a female Dalmation puppy in a couple of weeks! Knowing that Max is not at ease around dogs he doesn’t know, they want to make sure that both dogs and the new puppy integrate OK.

So, they are putting a few more rules and boundaries in place, themselves making the decisions around food and protection duty – both of which are roles of a leader, along with teaching the dogs who decides where to go when out on a walk (and it’s not them)!

When the new puppy arrives they are going to introduce Max and Alfie to her whilst quietly keeping her safe, and with the little girls out of the way initially as they are bound to be very excited and a calm atmophere is vital.  I shall be on the end of the phone or email to answer any questions or help with any problems over the first few weeks or months. They have already decided to crate train their puppy, and I advise that this crate is out of bounds to children – so the puppy has a bolt hole where she can go for peace and quiet when she is tired.

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