Distressed, Trembles, Whimpers at Bedtime.

Millie is a Beagle, a Lemon Beagle, ten years of age. She has lived with my lady client for eighteen months.

She is a sweet and gentle dog but she carries some baggage. Three things in particular make her very distressed. Her bedtime behaviour, her panic when left alone and continuous barking and crying when being driven in the car.

Distressed at bedtime

distressed at bedtimeBedtime is a puzzle. Last thing at night Millie is asleep on the sofa beside the lady and very comfortable. She has to be woken and goes out into the garden calmly.

The lady then fetches Millie’s bed and takes it into her bedroom, followed by Millie. She gets ready for bed then gives the dog a treat for getting into her own bed. She goes to bed herself.

Immediately everything changes. Millie jumps onto the lady’s bed.

She trembles. She whimpers, jumps on and off. Obviously very distressed, she drools.

This can go on for a couple of hours before she gives up. She has done it from the day the lady brought her home eighteen months ago.

Millie has sometimes asked to be let out and then does nothing but mooch around the garden. She doesn’t need to toilet. There is nothing in the bedroom that is different from daytime apart from the fact the lady is in bed. Leaving the light on makes no difference.

Meanwhile the lady is repeatedly saying, ‘Go to bed, Millie’. Understandably she is tired and will be getting a little cross and stressed, unable to do anything about her dog’s distress.

Eventually, after an hour or two, Millie settles on her own bed on the floor. 

The ‘why’.

The same ritual is followed every night and will now be a pattern of learned behaviour. Normally if we can deal with the ‘why’, the behaviour improves. We are doing a bit of detective work along with trial and error in an effort to get to the bottom of why she gets so distressed, so immediately and every night.

The night-time behaviour will most likely have its roots in her past history. (While I am writing this I wonder whether it could be something perfumed on the lady st bedtime that Millie can smell with her Beagle nose. Something she associates with a past terrifying experience).

One thing is certain, if the lady carries on doing exactly what she’s doing now, so will Millie.  Changing the ritual has to be a place to start.

I suggest the lady lets Millie out to toilet a bit earlier and then lets her go back to the sofa for another hour or two. She can ditch her whole bedtime ritual and just get herself ready for bed. Millie can choose for herself what she wants to do.

Shutting her out of the room isn’t an option. The second major problem the lady has with Millie is separation – another matter we will be working on. She can’t let the lady out of her sight.

It will be hard, but I suggest that the lady tries turning over and ignoring all Millie’s distressed pacing, whining and drooling. Her constant trying to tell her to settle doesn’t help at all. It’s just possible that her constant agitation and ‘Go to bed, Millie’ is in some strange way reinforcing.

Could pain be involved?

We also noticed that Millie looks a bit awkward when she sits and when she lies down. She was spayed recently and nothing picked up, but I wonder whether she has pain in her hips. Her distressed behaviour at night is certainly panic, but maybe it’s pain as well. Pain always affects behaviour

The separation problems will also be baggage she brought with her. The way forward is to deal with the emotions she is feeling – the panic – and gradually get her to feel differently about being left.

Getting into such a distressed state at night time and again about four times a week when she is left alone for a few hours, Millie’s stress levels must be constantly raised. Added to this is the car ordeal. This happens daily as they have to drive somewhere for her walks.

Although Millie looked calm and slept while I was there, there will be more going on inside.

All her problems are due to fear in one way or another. Each thing we can do to build up the lovely, gentle dog’s confidence and reduce her stress levels will have a knock-on effect.

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. Fears need professional help. Click here for help.

Puppy Joyfulness Lost. Tail Between Legs. Acts Careful

Hettie is an adorable Cockerpoo puppy, now sixteen weeks old.

Why has she lost her puppy joyfulness?

For the first four weeks that Hettie was with them (eight to twelve weeks old), she was a typical confident, happy and energetic puppy. She would fly around in puppy joyfulness, grab things and cause the usual puppy chaos.

she used to be filled with puppy joyfulness

Before getting her, they had already booked their holiday. While they were away, they left her in what they believed was the best place possible. This was a well respected daycare and kennels.

From what I observed of Hettie’s new careful, tail-down behaviour, something must have happened while they were away. She had come back a different puppy. Not to be too dramatic, it’s like something had broken her spirit. She had lost her joyfulness.

Her tail goes between her legs even when the lady owner appears.

It could have been that this holiday care was totally the wrong environment for a young puppy. Too many dogs all at once and too much noise, perhaps.

It can only be guesswork.

Hettie’s not scared of dogs, however. It’s people she’s wary of now; she’s generally reserved and what I can only call careful.

Sensitive period for socialisation

The damage done resulting in her fear of humans won’t have been anything deliberate.

To quote Dr. Sophia Yin: ‘From about 3 weeks to about 3 months of age, puppies are primed for bonding to other animals and individuals, for learning that objects, people, and environments are safe, and for learning what the body cues and signals of others mean. It is their sensitive period for socialization and it is the most important socialization period in a dog’s life. …….but what types of interactions should puppies actually have? ……it’s important to actually make sure that the puppy is having a positive experience and learning something good.’

For the first four weeks the family did all the right things, exposing Hettie gradually to the outside world of traffic, noise, people and other dogs.

During her stay away there could have been one or two single incidents that were negative and scary to Hettie. It could be that the whole thing – the number of big dogs and the barking may have just been too much for her.

Could this explain why Hettie has lost her puppy joyfulness?

Building up her confidence with people

The priority now is to build her confidence in every way possible. They will always use encouragement and avoid scolding. They will put no pressure on her. When the lady approaches she will throw food to the puppy; I’m sure her tail won’t be between her legs for long.

Most importantly, they must train all visitors. Knowing what to expect, I had avoided walking towards her. When I did move, it wasn’t directly. I avoided eye contact and spoke quietly. As I moved about, I leaked food from my hand onto the floor.

Hettie was very soon quite literally eating out of my hand.

What we would love to see is a return of the enthusiastic, excited puppy she had been before they went away. A return of a her puppy joyfulness.

PS: From an email that evening: ‘Hettie has been much more ‘naughty’ this evening and stolen lots of items from the sitting room plus made a break for upstairs – quite a relief after such a withdrawn persona earlier on’.

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.

Left All Alone. Panics. Tries to Escape.

The Beagle can’t be left all alone.

When they adopted Libby a couple of weeks ago, they had no clue they wouldn’t be able to go out to work and happily leave her.

She had previously been fostered out by the rescue – to a home with several dogs. Her history was sketchy; she was from Ireland and had had at least one litter of puppies.

There was no hint of the problems to come.

Left all alone makes her panicThe couple had gone out to work, leaving Libby in the kitchen. They came home to a wrecked bed and chewing around the front door. She had jumped the gate.

It was the same the next day so they had to put her in the crate and set up a camera. Libby again went frantic.

They came home to bent bars where she had tried to get out and only through luck she hadn’t damaged her teeth.

They have since left her with someone else and Libby is fine. It seems she’s not in a panic about losing her new owners so soon after finding them. Her behaviour at the foster home suggests other dogs are sufficient company.

Left all alone. Panic.

In all other respects Libby seems a calm and peaceful dog – perhaps a little ‘careful’. It’s early days. She greeted me with polite interest and lay in her bed much of the time as we chatted.

Being left all alone, in a new place, has set off big panic.

I use an analogy of one of us stuck alone in a broken lift, believing nobody knows we are there nor how long we will be left before being rescued – if ever. We would frantically try to get out, to break the door.

Shut in her crate, all alone, she might be feeling something like this.

Once she’s had the panic attack she will be very alert to the same thing happening again.

They are now making temporary arrangements to avoid Libby being left all alone. She will be going to dog daycare on certain days and will get temporary help from a neighbour.

They face two challenges at present. Firstly Libby now won’t easily trust them not to desert her again. Secondly, they have to go to work.

A systematic approach.

They will work on the crate and on leaving her as two separate things, but concurrently. Then they can integrate the two. Keeping a chart is useful.

Libby doesn’t seem worried by the crate itself so probably has been crated before. She will even choose to go in there at times.

Some things need to be constant each time they leave her sight. Other things need to deliberately be varied.

Constants include ritual when they leave her sight and return into her presence. They will drop food on leaving but be boring when returning.

Variables include randomising the times they put her in her crate, how long she stays for, whether they shut the door or leave it open, whether one of them walks out of the room or house, whether they go upstairs…… and so on.

Our ‘left all alone’ programme.

The aim is to come back before she begins to stress.  Otherwise she could learn that her frantic behaviour, noise etc. actually can get them to come back.

They have a camera and can watch her from their phones.

In the house they will regularly shut doors and the gate on her so she gets out of the habit of following them about. Initially they will do this with someone still in view.

As someone walks out of sight they will drop food (fortunately she loves her food). When they come back in sight they will ignore her.

Gradually they will add to this one person actually going out of the back door and after a short while returning (with someone still in the house). Next with nobody in the house for a few seconds.

They will gradually increase duration left all alone.

Now they do the same with the front door – the door they went out from when going to work.  And so on.

Adding the crate to the process.

Putting her into her crate will continue to be random so it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s going to be left all alone.

When absences get to ten minutes or more they will leave her increasingly good things to do.

I am hoping that, with sufficient time and patience, Libby will be sufficiently happy being left all alone for three or four hours she won’t need the crate at all.

One novel idea is DogTV.  From America, it’s available online and for dogs that are left all alone. If they can get it onto their TV screen it could just be that dogs running about and doing stuff could feel like company.

As the next few weeks go by, other things will very likely develop so we will be ready as so happens with an adopted rescue. She probably hasn’t yet blossomed into her full potential yet – whatever that is.

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. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Libby. Neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog as it can do much more harm than good. The case needs to be assessed correctly. There are various causes and types of separation problems so we need to get it right. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page).

Fear of People. Separation Distress

Bentley has a fear of peopleBentley barks.

The little dog’s main fears and consequent barking is either directly, or indirectly, associated with his fear of people.

Bentley is an adorable and much-loved Coton de Tulear. In researching the breed, the first site I looked at said that they hate being on their own and that they like the sound of their own voices.

The first, distress at being alone, certainly applies but I don’t think Bentley barks and cries because he likes the sound of his own voice. 

The cause of his barking is his fear of people…

…and things associated with people.

This is whether someone just comes to the door, if someone comes into the house or when they see a person out on a walk. It’s the same with noises that people make, like slamming car doors and voices outside. (This dog that usually barks takes absolutely no notice at all of fireworks!).

His fear of people colours any trips to the vet or the groomer.

Changing his fear of people gets to the root of the barking problem and is the challenge. People should now be associated with things that Bentley likes and whenever possible on walks at a distance where he feels they are no threat to him. This threshold distance is important.

Here is a very short excerpt from my BBC 3 Counties Radio phone-in on the subject (referring to encountering other dogs, but it’s the same principal). https://youtu.be/7HNv-vsnn6E

Most unusually, when I came to the house he barely barked at all, although he was still wary of me. This is because of how we set it up. They will now use the same technique with other callers.

How they actually respond to the barking will also help his fear of people and the sounds he can hear.

All alone, Bentley probably feels vulnerable.

This can only be guesswork, but he invariably toilets soon after he is left. He’s very attached to the lady and follows her everywhere. It’s most likely he feels safest when with her.

They will be getting a camera so they can watch what happens when he’s left. This will tell us more.

Separation problems are slow to work on, particularly if it can’t be done systematically due to people having to go out to work. However, the more Bentley associates their leaving with good things and their returning as no big deal, the better.

He currently has run of the house when left. I suggest keeping him away from the front door area. This is where scary people may come and go and where people have pushed items through a hole in the door.

The higher are Bentley’s general stress levels, the less he will be able to cope with his fear of people and being left. Lowering arousal/stress is key. This may sound a bit boring at times but over-exciting activities can be replaced with those that help him to be calmer and more confident.

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. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bentley because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do much more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where fear is concerned. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page).

All Alone, he Howls Cries Shakes. Life Without Daisy.

 

Nine years ago Banjo came to live with their other Jack Russell, Daisy. She was four years old at the time and all his life Badger lived with her and relied upon her. Daisy was the in charge.

Daisy has died.

Badger never before had been left all alone.

His young couple have to go out to work and Badger howls and cries. The young lady sneaked up to the window and looked in when he was quiet. He was sitting on the rug, shaking. This was the rug where he had last seen Daisy when the vet came to put her to sleep a couple of weeks previously.

unhappy left all alone

His life has been torn apart in more ways than just being all alone when his humans go out. Daisy was the dominant dog of the pair. All Badger’s life he has been used to following her and now he’s alone. It has left a big void with both her humans and with Badger and I’m sure he feels insecure without her. The separation problem is part of the bigger picture.

Without Daisy beside him, the previously calm dog is now on alert when out on walks.

Without this strong influence, Badger is lost. He is, in his way, grieving.

All alone without Daisy

He is now on window guard-duty alone. He has to deal with the invasion of post through the letterbox alone. They will block his view, put up an outside mailbox and help him out when he becomes alarmed.

The lower his stress levels are in general (I keep banging on about stress levels don’t I), the better he will be able to cope with this huge change in his life.

You might think now that they take him out everywhere with them – something they couldn’t do with Daisy – it would compensate for life without her.

Banjo needs time.

Introducing him to activities that suit his brain should help to enrich his new life without his strong-willed companion to control him – things to do with sniffing, foraging. He doesn’t play.

Helping to get him used to being all alone is tricky when they both work. They have arranged cover for the next couple of weeks and after that will take him to doggy daycare twice a week. He can then be without Daisy but somewhere he’s never had her with him – he loves other dogs.

A controlled and systematic plan.

A slowly slowly plan involving desensitising him to the triggers that precede their going out is fundamental. They will repeatedly go through each thing individually, coats on, checking the house, lifting keys etc. and then the whole sequence without actually going out of the door to begin with. Then they will add going out of the door – for one minute only initially. They will use food.

They can watch him from through a camera and an app their phones. This will enable them to time their returns, to be back before he panics.

When they are gone they can leave Badger a stuffed Kong and a chew, though it’s likely in his state he won’t yet be interested in food when all alone. Departures should be associated with good things and returns fairly boring.

There are other things things they can try that may help to comfort him when left:

  • Thundershirt. It works brilliantly with some dogs and not at all with others. First associate wearing it with calm and happy times. so that it doesn’t become yet another trigger ‘oh heck, they are leaving me all alone now are they?’.
  • Pet Remedy plug-in Watch this video explaining it.
  • Dog Music – downloadable. Why does Through a Dogs Ear music work to relieve canine anxiety?
  • Song for Daisy and see this explanation.
  • Continual boring talking like a speaking book is said to keeps some dogs company and calm.

We can review the situation in a couple of weeks. We may need to get the vet involved. The fact Badger will still have to be left all alone for several hours some days will unfortunately slow things down, but it is what it is.

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. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Badger and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you 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 as not all separation issues are the same. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

 

Separation Problems. Leaving the Dogs Alone.

Yesterday I met Cockerpoo Marnie and Springerpoo (Springerdoodle Sproodle?) Luna. The are adorable friendly and polite little dogs – a real tribute to their owners.

They have just moved to a new house with much closer neighbours and have become aware that the dogs cry and bark when left alone. They hadn’t realised there were separation problems. Not wanting to upset anyone, the lady, who no longer works, now feels she can’t go out unless the man is home.

In addition to not wanting them annoying neighbours with barking or crying, they don’t don’t want their beloved dogs to be unhappy.

Breaking a habit takes time.

Separation problems when left alone

Luna and Marnie

They agree that it’s more than likely the dogs cried and stressed with separation problems in their old house. If that’s the case it will be a habit too. Something that they have always done.

Another aspect is that they may believe their crying gets their humans back home eventually – because it always has.

I was able to see a short video of the dogs having been left. It wasn’t like the kind of panic I have seen in some other videos. They showed their separation distress by whining, whimpering, looking at the door and occasional barking. They spent much of the time just standing still and quiet by the door. The real barking started only when they heard the man’s car draw up, in anticipation of his walking in.

With some questioning it soon became apparent that the dogs don’t have enough ‘happening’ in their lives. Everything revolves around their humans being with them in the house. They are seldom taken out. When the couple goes out and leaves them, their only enrichment and fun goes out too.

They lose their whole world.

With no humans at home, there is no activity, a vacuum. Luna is obsessed with the ball – so her ball-thrower has disappeared! The action and excitement begins again as soon as they come home.

I feel the dogs need much more enrichment of the right kind – things they can do by themselves like foraging, hunting and chewing. They need much more than repetitive ball play and cuddles. The obsessive dropping of the ball to be thrown should be stopped and other activities offered that will stimulate their brains instead. Here are 35 simple ways to keep your dog busy indoors.

Instead of associating their humans’ departure with losing everything that matters, they should feel more fulfilled in general. The absence of their humans should be filled with good things as well.

Changing how Luna and Marnie feel about the front door being shut on them will take slow and patient work.

Against a background of a more enriched life including outings if only to mooch about near to home, the couple will then work on the separation itself.

A systematic programme for their separation problems.

They will start by shutting doors on them in the house. Dropping food as they shut an inside door on the dogs, they will turn around and come straight back in again. They will do that multiple times, varying doors and then doing the same with the front door.

Gradually, a second at a time, they will extend the time they spend the other side of the door. Then they will walk a short way away. Always they will aim to come back in before the dogs begin to stress, and for this they have a camera and app on their mobile.

Never again should the dogs think making a fuss brings them back.

When they begin to leave the dogs for a bit longer, they will set up the environment for success with special music to help separation problems, a calming plug-in and stuffed Kongs.

Absent humans won’t leave a vacuum anymore. When they do come back, their return shouldn’t herald fun. They should be boring.

The special exercises worked out for Marnie and Luna will be done many times until the two dogs are convinced beyond any doubt that when their humans go out, they always come back. (I don’t go into too much detail of the whole procedure here, because one size doesn’t fit all).

Now Marnie and Luna should no longer feel that when the lady and gentleman both go out that their whole world has gone with them.

They will have other enriching and stimulating things in their lives also.

A couple of months later: Our two dogs are sooooo much calmer now.They could possibly tune into our unsettled feelings?Luna is no longer mad for a ball. I am able to leave them now for 2 to 3 hrs at a time.

 

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. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Marnie and Luna and because neither the dogs nor situation will ever be exactly the same. Listening to ‘other people’, 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, particularly where separation problems are concerned. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Barks When Left. Separation Panic. Over Interdependent.

Max barks when left. Even before the door has closed he begins to bark.

This used not to be the case and questions unearthed some clues. They moved house a couple of months ago and this coincided with a family tragedy that caused great distress. He now barks when left alone.

Max barks when left – by the lady.

Barks when leftHe seldom barks when the man is last to leave. He just barks when left by the lady.

Yorkie Max is three years old. He’s a gorgeous little dog. His lady owner absolutely adores him. Loving him and touching him makes her happy. To quote her, ‘He makes my heart melt’. Could this level of constant devotion be a bit too much pressure?

The more dependent upon him she gets, the more dependent upon her he becomes. They are over interdependent. We know that dogs read and reflect their humans’ emotions.

That he barks when left mainly by the young lady has to be because of their relationship. She does everything Max wants, when he wants it – particularly if he barks.

Barking works.

Basically, by always obeying, they have taught him to bark whenever he wants something. If he wants the lady to come back home, it’s logical that he will bark until she returns.

Each day a sitter keeps him company for an hour or two but, although he isn’t barking, Max is quite plainly waiting for her to go and for the lady to come back. He either ignores the sitter, lying somewhere away with his back to her, or takes himself off to the bedroom! I’m sure he has learnt that his owner never comes back while the sitter is still there.

Because the young lady behaves a bit like Max’ servant or slave, it’s unsurprising he thinks he owns her. He could well feel he might lose her or that she, his resource, may come to some harm.

As his possession she’s a nightmare to keep track of – she keeps going walkabout!

This is a big burden for a little dog. When I came he was uncharacteristically scared. The first thing he did was to mark all around the pouffe on which the lady was sitting. Insecurity?

Barking will now no longer work.

They will now no longer respond to barking each time Max wants something. It will probably be a difficult few days while he tries harder.

They can change things by sometimes getting him to do things for them.  The lady will teach him to come to her when she calls him. On walks he decides where to go and how far to go – which is very nice in a way and I feel most dogs should be given more choice.  She will now give him time on each walk where she doesn’t do what he wants, five minutes to either get him to come where she wants or simply to stand still for a few minutes until she is ready to continue.

Instead of responding to barking, the lady in particular can regularly initiate activities when she feels like it. They will hide the ball – the thing that he most uses to get them to obey him – and get it out for short sessions when he’s quiet, before putting it away again.

She will make a real effort not to smother Max. He needs to gain some independence from her so that he’s less needy. When he’s on her lap, she will give him 5-minute breaks from being touched.

Freedom to be able to stand on his own four little legs!

Changing their relationship so that they free him to be a bit more independent is the way to go, along with getting him used to the lady walking out on him and shutting the door. Show that she’s not reliant upon him and she always will come back.

Each time she leaves the room she will follow the same ritual of good things happening and each time she comes back she will make it a minor event. She will do her best only to open the door when he’s not barking.

I hope they will be able to film him. We will see then if there is more to it than I have diagnosed. We know that he is barking at the door when she leaves. Does he move about? Does he settle at all? The neighbour says he barks all day but that can’t be quite accurate as the sitter comes daily. To a neighbour it may seem continuous.

A couple of weeks have gone by: ‘I think we’ve turned a small corner with Max I can now leave confidently for an hour and know that there won’t be any barking. I’m slowly extending that period of time each time by about 5-10 minutes at a time. It really is a little bit more weight off my shoulders each time I return to hear nothing.’ 
Two more weeks later: ‘I think Max is doing absolutely brilliantly! I can leave him for a few hours while I go to work and my sister still pops in same time everyday but there has been no barking whatsoever. The neighbour downstairs hasn’t heard a peep out of him. There are most days now where he honestly does not move from his position when I come home he just lifts his head and plops it back down again paying no attention to me at all.
He also now when I am home is no longer climbing on me or laying/sitting on me all the time. He’s quite happy to be in the bedroom away from me or on 1 of his beds.  It truly is like having a completely different dog.’
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. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Max and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. Listening to ‘other people’, 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. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Barking at the Door. Anxiety? Something Else?

At last, after going to several dogs reactive to visitors, here were dogs that were pleased to see me!

Two Border Collies greeted me, two of the most polite, chilled and friendly dogs I’ve met for a while. Absolutely beautiful.

It was hard to imagine one of these dogs barking at the door, disturbing the neighbours.

When looking at a problem, I ask myself ‘what does the dog get out of it’?

Barking at the door – what’s in it for the dog?

What can Forrest, aged two, get out of standing at the front door and barking? What does the younger Luna get out of wrecking things? Often the answer is that because of the dog’s state of mind the behaviour simply helps him or her to feel better – to vent.

barking at the door when left

Forrest – my treat box is beside me!

These two dogs are quiet dogs. There was no barking when I rang the bell and they greeted me calmly.

Before ten-month-old Luna arrived there was no barking at the door. Forrest never barked when left. Puppy Luna was more of a challenge.  She would cause wreckage including digging in the carpet. The dogs also had access to the garden where she would dig and then bring the mud indoors.

They tried various things including, more recently, crating her. This seems to be when the barking at the door began.

It seems that, from the crate, she would whine – maybe bark. The assumption is that she is either bored or unhappy at being left.

I wonder.

In the crate she was, unlike previously, separated from Forrest who had free run of the downstairs. She may well have wanted to join him. Even when they abandoned the crate the two dogs were now left in different rooms. Luna continued to bark and whine.

The noise however that has got the neighbour unhappy is Forrest’s barking at the front door which had only started since they began to confine Luna due to the damage she was causing. This also coincided with when the dogs were no longer left freely together.

Things may not always be what they seem.

That dogs barking when left alone are suffering from straightforward separation problems is an obvious assumption to make.

Could it be that Luna’s crying when unable to join him started the whole thing by unsettling Forrest?

Could it be that the very neighbour who is worried by the barking has himself actually taught Forrest to bark at the front door?

Both dogs can hear him doing things down the side of his own house. They can hear when he’s about. Forrest, with access to the front door through which people enter, barks.

What has the neighbour (who, incidentally, loves the dogs) done?

He has come to the front door with Forrest behind it, let himself in, no doubt made a big fuss of the dogs – and then taken them for a long walk!

It is very likely that Forrest’s barking at the door eventually brings the neighbour round. The result is a walk.

Bingo!

I asked the question, does Forrest bark after the neighbour puts the dogs back after the walk? They think not, but will check. If the answer is no, it adds weight to my argument.

Luna

Luna may be different. She is a young dog and inseparable from her humans. She is only ever alone if they are out, so she could well be anxious, particularly if separated also from Forrest.

Separation could be the cause of damage but so also could boredom and frustration generated by Forrest barking at the door where she can’t join him. It could be a mix of all three.

We try the most likely and obvious things first. (We will look at separation distress of some kind if Forrest is still barking later when he realises barking at the door no longer results in a walk). They have a camera and have watched him on their phone and that’s all he is doing – barking at the door. No pacing or other signs of distress. This is what they tell me, they haven’t recorded it.

He could of course get worse before things improve. If barking has always resulted in an exciting walk, he’s not easily going to give up trying!

Changing the environment.

Keeping Forrest well away from the front door is essential as is leaving both dogs together. If nothing else, the barking will be more muffled in the kitchen. Giving Luna plenty to do and to chew will help any boredom and chewing will help any stress.

If we are very lucky, leaving Forrest and Luna in the kitchen with no access to either back or front door may be different enough for Forrest to be less persistent at barking at the door as a way of getting a walk. Of course, the neighbour could spoil that very quickly by entering the house while Forrest is barking! I suggest he doesn’t walk the dogs at all for a couple of weeks and after that only enters the house when it’s silent.

Looking at the overall picture of the dogs’ lives.

The dogs are a great tribute to the way their family care for them. There are however a few other things they can do a bit differently that should help any underlying stress which may or may not be compounding the problem but would be good for them anyway. I like to take a holistic view.

These include getting Luna used to not following them everywhere by sometimes shutting doors; by changing diet, by providing more brain work and less physically arousing stuff.

They give their dogs at least two wonderful long walks daily, one being immediately before they leave them – which is never for very long. The walk is meant to tire them out physically, but would it be better to have the kind of walk that would relax them? The dogs, off lead, have the environment and all its smells – what more could they need? See Worshipping the God of Exercise Walks.

So let’s see what happens.

They family will first get the dogs used to being left together in the kitchen for short periods with something nice to do, like a stuffed Kong each. They will film and record them this time. It will be interesting to see how Forrest reacts after a few days when he can’t get to the front door and realises that barking from the kitchen, away from the front door, never results in a walk.

Progress! ‘I’ve waited to message as I wanted to be sure but we are now into the 3rd week of sticking to the routine and both dogs seem calmer and happier when left. Keeping regular checks but fingers x all seems ok.’

 

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. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Forrest and Luna and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same.  Listening to ‘other people’, 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. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

 

Barks in Panic When She Leaves Him

Barks in panic when left

Murphy

There has been a big change in young Cockerpoo Murphy’s life recently. They moved into a new house two weeks ago.

The lady was able to go out without any problems before. Now he barks in panic as she walks out of the door.

She comes home to a panting and distressed little dog.

She put Murphy, along with her other Cockerpoo, Missy, in kennels for a week – to save them from the upheaval of the move itself. Could this have something to do with his fear of being left now?

To better understand the different kinds of separation distress, imagine a bitch and her puppy. If we separate them, the mother will suffer from separation anxiety, unable to see, and therefore protect, her puppy. The puppy suffers from abandonment anxiety because he is missing his point of reference and safety. 

Murphy barks in panic, “Don’t leave me!”

I believe it’s abandonment Murphy’s feeling. He barks in panic at the door even as she leaves, “don’t leave me!”. It’s not like he’s alone for a little while and then begins to get uneasy. It’s immediate.

Missy

This case is a good example of the importance of asking questions and not jumping to conclusions. I was about to go when something occurred to me. The lady works at home and would go out a couple of times a week, for two or three hours.

I asked her, what time of day do you go out? She said it always used to be in the morning. What time of day have you been going out over the past couple of weeks? Afternoon.

What time of day do you usually walk the dogs? Afternoon.

Hmmm. I wonder whether Murphy barks in panic, due to abandonment, because he expects to go out with her as he always would in the afternoon? It’s possible. Wasn’t that his old routine after all?

Murphy’s separation plan divides into two separate areas for the lady to work on at the same time. Departures, and the triggers that signal her departure.

Departures and triggers.

Working on departures will be in steps, beginning with just closing the dog gate on him and walking away for a moment, building up to being able to walk out of the back door.

She may need to break the stages we worked out into even smaller increments, keeping on each step until Murphy is relaxed and happy before going onto the next.

She should do these exercises many times until Murphy is convinced beyond any doubt that when she departs she always comes back.

Working on the triggers will include putting outdoor shoes on and off regularly, leaving her bag about, walking around with her keys, taking the keys out of the back door and so on.

Every time the lady walks out on Murphy, however briefly, she will drop food. The idea is that her departures are associated with good stuff (food) and her returns are fairly boring.

She can add calming music. Noise from TV or radio may actually be too varied and stimulating. Through a Dogs Ear music can relieve anxiety.

When she starts actually going out of the house she will do so in the morning.

I suggest she has a camera so that she can see Murphy from her phone. She should always come back in before he starts to show signs of distress.

Murphy may well still associate the afternoons with walks, regardless of whether he’s already been walked in the morning. Returning to her old routine may well speed things up.

 

Abandonment Anxiety. Separation Anxiety.

I couldn’t believe how calm and confident Sketch was when I arrived. She was interested without being pushy.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that the ten-month-old Wirehaired Pointer had arrived with my clients. Previous to that she had been turned out onto the streets with her siblings in Hungary, picked up by a rescue and fostered for a few months. Then transported by plane and car to her new UK home.

So far the only problem that has surfaced is her distress when left alone.

Fear of abandonment.

She and their other dog, a beautiful gentle Vizsla called Doodle, get on great. Sadly, Doodle’s company isn’t what Sketch needs. (Don’t you just love their names!).

Abandonment anxiety when leftSketch needs the permanent presence of a human.

Two weeks ago she wouldn’t let the lady out of her sight at all. Now is fine left alone with the gentleman. Things are improving daily. The other day they had a pre-arranged appointment and a dog walker had her all day. She was walked with various other dogs; the walker treated her as she would her own dog for the day. Sketch was absolutely fine.

This is good news because while they work on the separation or abandonment issues, should the need arise they have cover. They won’t need to leave her alone before she’s ready. The lady works from home.

It is totally understandable that Sketch may be feeling insecure in a very different new world. Her distress at being left with no human about could more accurately be called abandonment anxiety.

She is now fine alone in the night, knowing that her humans are in the house.

Where only two weeks ago she had to have human company during the night, Sketch is now okay shut in the utility room with Doodle.

This is a big step forward. She is beginning to feel more secure now she is realising her humans remain in the house. Fear of abandonment isn’t an issue during the night anymore.

They are now at a stage where she can be left in the utility room for short periods during the day also so long as nobody goes out of the front door.

Their front door is very noisy due to a draft excluder that sticks. The sound of this, now, is Sketch’s main trigger for panic.

Where would it be best to work on leaving her when they both need to go out?

As she now seems okay in the utility room at night time, it seems sensible to build on her increasing acceptance of the utility room for when they go out of the house.

So, to start with, they will work on her being comfortable left for very short and gradually lengthening periods in the utility room during the day, probably with Doodle too.

At the same time, they need to work on any triggers that herald their leaving. At the moment it’s the sound of the front door.

Breaking things down.

To start with they will build on getting her comfortable with being separated briefly from them by now shutting doors on her as they go around the house.

They will build a good routine of the dogs being called happily into the utility room at random times for food. This won’t yet involve their going out of the house.

They will work on getting her to feel good about the main trigger for her panic – the noisy front door opening and closing. They will work on this trigger until it is no longer a problem to her – until they can walk out and back in.

When Sketch is happy with the front door opening and closing, they can pair the two things they have been working on. They can shut in the utility room and add the sound of the front door opening and closing.

Next they can add walking out of the front door, shutting it, opening it and walking straight back in again. Then letting her out of the utility room.

Gradually they will increase the time they are outside. With camera and phone app they can ensure they come back to her before she is agitated. They don’t want her stressing or crying to herald their return – they will come back in while she’s calm and happy.

We can then see what to do next. Maybe other triggers that predict their leaving will arise. Perhaps things will get worse before they get better.

Maybe as she gains a feeling of security in general the problem of abandoment will resolve faster than expected. This is possible. Her humans are very perceptive and sensitive to her needs.

Proud.

They must be so proud when they are out with their two wonderful, well behaved and social dogs.

 

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. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Sketch and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. 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, particularly where fear issues of any kind are concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)