Labrador Barks Till They Get Up

Chocolate Labrador Tilly posing on the turquoise rugThere was no barking when I rang the doorbell. Was I at the right house? I was greeted politely by beautiful 16-month-old Chocolate Labrador, Tilly. Here she is, posing on the turquose rug!

By 6am every morning Tilly wakes up and starts to bark. She barks and she barks. This happens in the weekends also which is annoying. Because they get up at 6.30 anyway Tilly obviously feels that her barking is rewarded if she keeps it up for long enough. Then she is usually given her breakfast straight away.

The only possible external cause we could think of for the early wake up is the boiler coming on at about 6am. Neighbours may routinely be going to work, but not at weekends. She is, however, rewarded for barking in a big way. Either the lady or the gentleman comes down. LOVELY. She is probably given a bit of fuss. LOVELY. Then she has breakfast. LOVELY. All these lovely things happening at the beginning of the day under her own terms (or so she believes).

Upon examination many of the other things in Tilly’s life are regulated by her if she is sufficiently persistent, including when she is touched (she mouths when she hasn’t initiated the contact), she is played with when she chooses, if she whines and barks at food time she is fed, when they are out she will only come back when called when and if she chooses. A typical teenager, one might say!  In order to help the morning problem, Tilly needs to start to realise that she’s not the main decision-maker in other areas either.

She needs to be offered plenty of attention and lovely stuff, perhaps even more than she has now – but when they choose and not when Tilly chooses! Our plan for the mornings is, for a start, to try setting the boiler for later. When they come down, to take no notice of her at all for a good ten minutes so their entry into the kitchen is no longer particularly lovely. They will feed her later and do other things first. In order to reinforce that feeding only happens if she has been quiet before they enter the room, they will try leaving the room for a minute or so before coming back in and feeding her.

She is wary of young children but, being so friendly with people and other dogs, that should be easily solvable, as should the mouthing and the recall.

So, today I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful dog with some issues that could be worrying if they get worse, and they are wisely nipping them in the bud.

A week later: “Just wanted to give you a little update on Tilly. She barked at 6.30 BUT after a couple of barks stopped! started a little again at 7.00am then stopped and we went down when she wasnt barking at 7.15am progress!!”

How Can Molly Protect Herself From the Unwated Attentions of a Toddler?

Molly, a five-year old Goldendoodle – cross between a Golden Retriever and a Poodle, is a tolerant, gentle, friendly and stable dog, and seems to have fitted in remarkably well with being effectively sidelined by the arrival of baby Thomas a year ago. Recently, however, wi Goldendoodle Molly is a tolerant, gentle, friendly and stable dogth his increased mobility, Thomas has been falling on her, lying on her and banging her with toys.

The problem came to a head yesterday. She had started to growl when she had had enough. I’m sure there were other signs that another dog would have recognised immediately that were ignored before she resorted to growling. When she did growl, as had happened one or two times previously, Thomas was immediately whisked away and Molly was told NO. What had she learnt from growling? That it was the only way to get rid of the ‘problem’ (so growling achieved its aim). Yesterday the ‘problem’ – Thomas – came straight back to her and Molly had no choice but to take it one step further; she opened her mouth and slightly caught the baby’s head.

Watching them today, I was surprised at just how much she will tolerate, though she is obviously uneasy. When I first arrived the baby was in bed, and Molly lay relaxing on the floor. As soon as Thomas was brought down she started to show signs of stress which her owner hadn’t noticed before. Sometimes they need pointing out to people.Goldendoodle Molly is a tolerant, gentle, friendly and stable dog

The sitting room is only small, with a gate in the doorway. I watched Molly carefully as she started to pace about, she then licked me which she hadn’t done previously. Then she found herself a bone to chew (chewing releases calming pheromones). She was working so hard at calming herself. Thomas went to touch the bone, but Molly didn’t flinch. What a good girl. She was doing all she possibly could and this was only about fifteen minutes so far of Thomas being in the room. She probably had been enduring this for a long time, doing all she could to both tell him to give her space whilst calming herself, before being driven to snapping. She was probably pushed beyond endurance.

Molly needs to be given sanctuary out of reach of Thomas, the other side of the gate where she still can see them, immediately she shows signs of unease or when Thomas goes to lie on her or to bang her. It’s essential Molly has a means of escape. This isn’t banishment. It has to be done kindly and she can be given something nice to do – like a bone to chew. Children with animals must learn to treat them with respect – as I’m sure Thomas will as he gets a little older. The young lady needs to act appropriately now. The wrong responses in this sort of situation can only make things go downhill, and where does that leave the poor dog?.



Dear Little Wirehaired Daschund, Wary of Young Child

Wirehaired Daschund isn't happy when the child is nearNot a good photo as he merged with the background and the flash gave him eyes like flashlights!

Matty is a lovely friendly little dog, six years of age. He was with the breeder for the first three years of his life and came to my clients not well socialised at all.

They have worked very hard and with great success at habituating him to  real life, people, traffic and other dogs, and he is now a pleasure to walk – with the odd lapse when he sees a dog that for some reason he doesn’t like.

Recently a new child joined the family – a three year old boy, Sammy. However, Matty isn’t happy with him. There have been two mishaps. One when Matty suddenly leaped across the room, barking fiercely at the child and was fortunately intercepted by the lady, and another occasion where he grabbed his shorts. The lady, already nervous, is now on tenterhooks. In addition, there is a new baby due in a few months’ time.

The main ongoing problem has been that Matty is very reactive to all noises, on guard duty at the front door and charging around barking. He can wind himself up into a frenzy. The gentleman who works from home is finding it very hard, especially when he is talking on the phone to a customer and Matty is barking frantically in the background. Understandably Matty is shouted at which may stop him temporarily but doesn’t help him at all long term. All this barking will be raising his general stress levels, leaving him less tolerant of little boys and other dogs.

If the child is always kept away from Matty he will never learn that he’s harmless. In the same way that they have patiently socialised Matty by habituating him to real life, traffic, the town and so on, they need to do the same thing with the child – but making sure the environment is completely safe for both of them – in the same room but unable to actually make contact. Everyone must be relaxed and not fussing or on edge else Matty will pick up on it, and calm behaviour from Matty can be rewarded with food. It can be a slow process.

Matty’s humans need to take charge of the ‘perceived danger’ and barking, and help him out. A calmer dog will be much better able to cope with an active little boy.

A Christmas email, nearly three months later: “Just to let you know that we had the family here on Christmas day, my son, his partner, Sammy and the baby! All your advice has come to fruition and the pen definitely helped Matty and Sunny adjust and adapt to each other.  Matty was so good with Sammy and they more or less ignored each other all day!!!We cant thank you enough for your help and advice, it definitely would never have happened without it. Your help is priceless…and so very much appreciated! We cant thank you enough….”
 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.