I heard scared barking as I knocked on the door.
Sid is gorgeous and I was expecting a Cavapoo. I don’t believe he is a Cavapoo though. The scared barking came from a dog looking more like a newly trimmed Cockerpoo.
There is definitely something fishy about his start in life, where they got him from at eleven weeks and the fact he was already incubating kennel cough.
The ‘breeder’ wouldn’t give her address until they were on the road. When they got there Sid was handed over to them straight away. There was a small Cavalier KC that they said was Sid’s father and a small black poodle that they said was his mother. No other dogs.
My suspicion is that this smart house was a front and very likely Sid had been shipped there from somewhere else.
Quarantined with kennel cough
Unfortunately, the couple lost even more time in acclimatising him to the real world because of the kennel cough. He had to be isolated for a couple more weeks.
I met a very fearful dog. Fortunately the scared barking stopped and I soon won him round with food.
I had to assure his lovely humans, first-time dog owners, that the fear issues were in no way caused by themselves. He’s now twenty-one months old and is a tribute to how well they have done generally.
Sid’s way of dealing with things is with frantic scared barking. It can be anything from a bird, to an approaching dog to a squeaking metal gate. He’s quite brave really.
Imagine what everything in the world must be like for a puppy that hasn’t had positive exposure to different people or dogs. Even those he has encountered may not have been the most pleasant experiences.
Sid doesn’t feel safe
Everything is a potential danger. In his highly-strung state he directs scared barking at anything and everything.
His arousal levels before he even starts a walk are such that he’s already set up not to cope. People and dogs he meets, bangs he hears and everything else around him is simply too much for him. So he reacts with continual scared barking.
He barks all the time they are out.
Sid barks loudly before even getting out of the car. This starts as soon as they slow down. It will be a mix of excited anticipation and scared barking I would imagine.
There is one bit of grass about fifty yards from the front of his house where he will toilet. He doesn’t even feel safe there. He looks all around first, then he does his business quickly and then runs away from it fast.
Taking things back to the beginning.
The work starts before they even leave the house (Sid’s sanctuary).
Before they open the door he is already getting stressed. He is scared of the harness and over-excited by the routine leading up to going out. They will work on the harness problem and change the routine. Slowly they will wait for calm.
He will never feel safe further afield if he doesn’t feel safe immediately outside their house, so near home is the place we must start.
They can lace the nearby grass where he feels so unsafe but where he must toilet with food – something he loves to help neutralise something he fears.
For the first couple of weeks they can spend lots of short sessions standing about outside, counter-conditioning him to all the sounds and sights that alarm him.
There is unlikely to be much traffic. They can use a long line so he can run for home should he wish to. An escape route is essential.
Walks are doomed
Meanwhile, they will need to go to further off-lead places by car. However, because of the state he gets into when getting out of the car, these walks are already doomed. I suggest they leave this, too, for at least a couple of weeks while they work closer to home.
Our next priority will be a quiet exit from the car to reduce scared barking and control over-excitement. People naturally resort to scolding; words like ‘enough’ may give a short break. This will only work in the moment and do nothing to improve the emotions that cause the scared barking – probably make it worse.
When he’s ready, we will look at teaching Sid what we DO want (quiet) rather than what we DON’T want (barking).
Clicker training will be the way to go so we can ‘capture’ the briefest of silences initially, gradually extending how long the quiet periods last for.
Though the scared barking is the problem for Sid’s humans, the barking itself isn’t the real problem. It’s a symptom. The problem is the emotion that causes him to bark.
They unfortunately can never make up for lost time or the ‘socialisation‘ Sid should have received ideally between three and thirteen weeks. They can, however, make a huge difference.
If never a social butterfly, he can become a lot more confident – given time and patience.