Non-Stop Barking Down the Road

Cavalier King Charles stretching

Sunny

Little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Sunny’s barking is a big problem for his family. He barks in the night, he barks at TV, he barks at anything he hears, he goes mental when the post comes through the door, he barks at birds in the garden and he barks on walks from the moment they leave the house and all around the village.

His companion, a little girl Cav called Sky, is quieter (a ‘little angel’).

Barking can affect people’s lives big time. Night time barking means they get sleepless nights, barking on lead means walks are stressful and embarrassing and barking at the TV means their evenings are frustrating and punctuated by shouting at the dog.

Shouting at barking dogs just doesn’t work more than perhaps temporarily. Shouting does nothing long-term and merely adds stress to an already stressed situation.

People understandably concentrate on finding ways to STOP their dogs barking. Like many, Sunny’s people had resorted to using a Citronella collar but it stopped working as the dog got used to it (for dangers of Citronella collars please see here).

We concentrated less on the barking itself but on doing something about the hyped up emotions that drive the barking. In Sunny’s case I feel it’s a mixture of excitement tinged with a bit of fear, and some of it has been unwittingly reinforced. He is being taught to bark. He barks as they go down the road – and they keep going down the road. He barks in the night, and eventually someone comes down. He barks at the TV, and he gets their attention away from the TV and onto himself.

Sky

Sky

The gentleman, with me beside him, walked him out of the door and around the road a couple of times. After a number of false starts while we worked out the most suitable method to use, we were marking and rewarding quiet on the door step, he stepped out, said ‘Yes’ and rewarded, each couple of steps we stopped, said ‘Yes’ and rewarded quiet until we got to the difficult corner where other dogs lived before turning back for home. Sunny was still quiet.

The gentleman was quite chuffed at how well he had managed. In effect, he wasn’t teaching Sunny not to bark; he was showing him how to be quiet.

We worked in similar fashion with the barking at TV. The daughter had a clicker and food. Each time Sunny glanced at TV and before he could bark, she clicked and rewarded him by dropping food – he had to look away from the TV to pick up the food. Obviously programmes will need to be carefully selected to start with.

Sunny

Sunny

They are now putting the dogs in a different room at night-time. The rule simply has to be ‘no coming down’ – not even the once – unless they want the barking to continue. This is a behaviour that has only started recently.

The dogs should be kept away from the front of the house because passing people and post coming through the door only encourage barking, and they should only be let out into the garden when someone is about to help Sunny out immediately he starts to bark at something.

The less barking Sunny does the less stressed he will be. A calmer dog will be less reactive and quieter – sort of chicken and egg. He will for the time being be earning much of his daily food quota for being quiet. As you can see, he is a real little cutie!

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’, 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 Sunny. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog 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).

Considering Putting to Sleep their Puli

Puli

LC

Hungarian Puli as it normally looks

A Puli

 LC is the first Hungarian Puli I have ever been to. The picture on the left shows how they usually look, but they have had her clipped (on the right) so this is what they really look like under all those ringlets! They feel she seems a lot happier like this.

They had been within half an hour of having four-year-old LC put to sleep for biting the midwife when she called to see the daughter’s new baby a few days ago. This was the first woman she had bitten.

The biting occurances are increasing. Until the midwife it’s always been when men who are standing or walking. It is when they arrive or want to depart. When I stood up to go she suddenly changed from being a really friendly little dog, lying on her back for tummy tickles, to an angry barker.  I say angry, because from her body language it just didn’t look in any way like fear.

They also have a Miniature Poodle, Pickle, who LC likes to control. She won’t let her out through the garden door ahead of her and on walks LC has to be in front and if not, she will body slam her or even go for her. They have had a few serious fights because, although Pickle is scared and the one that ends up bleeding, she is now also beginning to stand up for herself.

The common denominator is excitement and stress. Both dogs bark at the slightest thing and LC may go for an over-excited Pickle.  When people come into the house, family or friends, LC will redirect her frustration onto Pickle – and a spat may ensue. The humans then will be shouting at them to be quiet and to get down which adds to the mayhem.  When I arrived at the house Pickle was barking and jumping up on me and LC, barking also, went for Pickle.

There are a several things to deal with in these dogs’ lives to calm things down drastically. Their diet may be compounding the problem. The first step is to desensitise them to the things that work them up the most – including family walking in and out of the house, picking up keys and having harnesses put on.

Poodle Pickle is now beginning to stand up for herseif

Pickle

Tomorrow is Christmas Day!  They are having a large family gathering on Boxing Day.

We had to think up something quickly to protect people and dogs. They have already bought a couple of gates so each dog now has her own ‘zone’ whenever necessary, and the family are working on the logistics of their comings and goings, making sure the dogs are shut in their zones until calm. It is complicated. When someone wants to go out they must first put the dogs in their places. When they want to come in they will use the front door and ring the bell, to give people already in the house time to ‘zone’ the dogs!

The dogs will not be let back together or into company until they have calmed down. This could take time, and shouting at them to be quiet is not allowed!

I know how badly the family want to succeed and to be able to keep their dear dog, and they are dedicated to doing all that is necessary now that they know what that is. Putting to sleep a dear dog is heartbreaking. The ‘zoning’ won’t have to be forever, but is necessary in order to manage the situation while they work on it.