Too Much Barking From Little Dog

Jack Russell Yorke mixLittle Scamp’s barking and vocalising is driving his lady person crazy! He is an eight year-old Jack Russell Yorkie cross and he has lived with her from eight weeks old.

This has been going on for years, so the lady does accept that what she has been doing (mostly scolding and getting cross) hasn’t worked, therefore she may need to do things differently.

Having spoken to her on the phone, I was expecting something a lot worse. Scamp barks to get attention, he whines and squeaks too. He also alarm barks at sounds outside. The phone rings and he rushes to the lady and barks until she picks it up.

As I asked all my usual questions I could find a whole lot more GOOD things than bad. I encouraged the lady to look for these things too. Here are some: Scamp stops barking when the lady picks up the phone unlike may dogs I go to, throw something and he brings it back and (usually) gives it up, he may bark at the cat in play but he is brilliant with the cat, he settles quietly and quickly whenever he is put into his crate, he has no problem with being left alone, he is very friendly to everyone and every dog, when touched or examined he relaxes like a rag doll… I could go on and on.

We need to look at what is really only to do with noise and why he makes it. Firstly he alarm barks when someone passes the house, the phone or doorbell rings or there are sounds outside. He barks when the lady goes to look out of the window (he senses it’s because someone may be outside?). Secondly, he barks when the lady doesn’t give him the attention he is asking for. Finally he barks with excitement when he’s playing.

Barking is what dogs do – some more than others. I wonder how many dogs would like us humans to talk, shout and sing less!

Scamp makes all this noise because it works. If he barks at someone passing by what does that person do? Go! If he barks at the lady for attention what does the lady do? Either plays with him or gets cross which is – attention. Scamp always gets a result.

Just as with children, if we start looking for the GOOD things in our dogs it actually makes them behave better, and the things we don’t like become smaller. It makes us happier too.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Scamp, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs 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).

Clever Westie Needs More to Do

WestieFraserOh Joy! This was one clever little dog.

Eighteen-month Westie Fraser that I went to yesterday lives with a couple and their 3-year-old son. He has two different traits, both of which result in toileting indoors.

When the little boy is up and about Fraser can become very amped-up. The child is bright, talkative and energetic just as little boys should be, and he is very hands-on with the dog. Mostly it is a lovely relationship, but at times I feel it gets a bit too much for Fraser, who, during the day can be displaying stress-related behaviours whereas in the evening, with the little boy in bed, dad at home and less happening outside, he is altogether a more peaceful little dog.

Fraser has developed a sequence of behaviours beginning with his hearing or seeing something outside the sitting room window and ends with his toileting on the floor. They live on a corner so there is plenty passing by.  Fraser first starts to bark, he carries on being agitated and barking for several minutes, then he starts pacing and compulsively sniffing the floor. His agitation ends with him either peeing or pooing – or both.

The other thing he does that also results in toileting is in the kitchen when they are busy cooking or doing something with the little boy. Fraser’s not getting their attention – they will be ignoring his usual squeaking and whining (something that usually ends in getting what he wants), so he pees – or poos. He may even look at them as he does so. Although they don’t scold him as such, he certainly gets a reaction! Whatever they are doing stops for a while.

When he is left all alone in the kitchen at night time or when they are out, the place is always clean so this backs up my theory. At most other times his squeaking and whining at them will get him the desired result.

The bottom line I feel is that Fraser doesn’t have enough to occupy his brain so he’s fairly frustrated. I thought we would just try some clicker work to see how he got on. In the past he would sit and stay on request but he refused to lie down.

This little genius got the hang of earning clicks (hence food) in no time at all. He was lying down/getting up/lying down repeatedly, really chuffed with himself.  The couple also caught on very quickly and soon the lady was teaching him to touch her hand (‘touch’) and to look into her eyes (‘watch me’). The options are endless.

We now have a tool for interrupting the alarm-barking routine and teach him to do something else instead – which this morning the lady told me is already working. The other thing they will do is to put static plastic window frosting on that window so he can’t see out.

So far as whining for attention is concerned, he needs to realise in all other situations as well as when they are busy in the kitchen, that it doesn’t work. He will actually be getting far more attention and mental stimulation, but not instigated always by himself, and certainly not as a result of whining and squeaking.

The lady will also be clicker training the little boy with Smarties (and the word Yes instead of clicking so as not to confuse the dog)! She will reward him when he gives the dog space, when he lets him eat in peace and so on.

I was really excited at how quickly this little dog picked things up, and the couple were amazed. We actually carried on for far longer than I would normally without a break, and he still wasn’t ready to stop. There are all sorts of things he can learn to do.

Fraser has a very rosy future and I’m sure it won’t be long before their floors are clean!

Belgian Shepherd Keeps Everone in Sight

GSD Collie mix has breed related herding and guarding tendenciesMarley is a beautiful Collie/German Shepherd cross age seven. He has been with the family for two years now.

This was their initial message: ‘Attacking anything that comes through the post slot. Cries and whines every time any family member leaves the house. Unwilling to sleep in his bed, sneaks into daughter’s room in the night or sits outside our bedroom door and whines. Continual whining and jumping over seats in car when someone gets out’.

Marley occasionally toilets in the kitchen in the middle of the night, but only on those rare days when he has not had a good walk. They assume this is down to lack of exercise. My detective work unearthed the connection between lack of a walk and their having been away for longer. It seems a lot more likely due to stress from having lost his ‘flock’.

They have no evidence of him being anxious when everyone is out which I would have expected. No crying and no damage. I suggest they video him. It has been proved that the most distressed dogs may well not be vocal. It could be another angle to work on.

Marely is a great family dog. He is polite and friendly – they have lots of friends and he is very relaxed around children of all ages. He loves the postman – but not those invading objects that crash through the letterbox (I’m a big advocate of having an outside mailbox to save a dog from unecessary extra anguish). They regularly take him to work with them and also to stay with friends. This is where his night time habits can be difficult. They would like him to sleep downstairs in his bed, but he gets too anxious if he can’t regularly do the rounds, checking up on them all.

It’s clear his issues are largely to do with  breed-related shepherding and guarding instincts.  Family members are his flock but he’s without a shepherd to direct him!

For starters they will work on getting him accustomed to being left alone downstairs behind a gate while they go upstairs – very short periods initially. They will leave him shut downstairs when they are out – to get him used to some physical boundaries as well as being left downstairs. They will work on a family member walking out of the house while another family member keeps his interest and makes it fun.

People departing needs to be good news and people returning needs to be boring. It will be hard work, starting with going out, shutting the door and coming straight back in again, increasing the duration of absences very gradually.

The same sort of thing needs to be done with family members getting out of the car, one at a time. He cries throughout the journey – probably in dread because most days he’s left in the car while the lady and her daughter walk away from him to drop the child off at school. For now they can take him to the school gate with them whilst getting him to associate journeys with good stuff (chicken?).

At present Marley’s not much interested in food, but that is because it’s left down all the time. I have suggested more nutritious food as diet can effect mood and not to leave food freely available so that it gains more value.

They feel that they owe it to this lovely, biddable dog to do all they can to reduce his worrying and insecurity. They understand that it will probably take quite a long time to relieve Marley of responsibility for the family’s safety and whereabouts.

Living with the Weimerana is a Battle

DiefenAs I walked in, 6-year-old Weimerana Dudley was jumping up at the child gate near the front door, barking somewhat scarily. Following the young lady into the living room, he leapt up at my face. I just kept turning away until he got the message and sat down and then I briefly tickled his chest just to show him I appreciated a polite and controlled greeting. I quickly discovered that positive feedback for desired behaviour was lacking. When he is quiet and good they quite understandably and literally ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ so as not to start him off again.

Dudley has been staying with his young lady owner’s parents for several weeks and he has turned their lives upside down. They are doing very best to meet the challenge. His owner is trying to sell her house and because of his behaviour can’t have Dudley there when she is showing people around. In fact I was the first guest the parents had dared have to their house in the weeks they had had him there.

There were such a catalogue of things that need dealing with that it was hard to know where to start without overwhelming them. They all fed into Dudley’s almost obsessive need to control them. With their attention not on him, he whined constantly knowing they all have a breaking point and will give in – I watched him whine at the lady until gave up her place on the sofa to him.

Dudley whines for them in the middle of the night if he hears any movement, he whines if they are talking or on the phone, when he shares the lady’s bed he will bark at her if she moves her legs, he guards the door to stop people leaving. In addition to his own meals, he whines while they are eating so they give him some of their own food.

He’s not as brave as you’d think, though. He backs away and shakes when approached with his collar or lead, and is likely to snap if they’re not careful. They use a Gentle Leader head halter to control his pulling – you can see the mark on his muzzle in my photo (I find it hard to see how this is ‘gentle’ but he is extremely strong and heavy; I hope he will soon be walking nicely without it).

Worst of all, Dudley has bitten several times, drawing blood. He bit the father a couple of times while guarding something he considered a resource, he has suddenly bitten ‘out of the blue’ when stroked, he has bitten the mother on a walk when she bent to untangle the lead from his legs. He may lean his heavy body on them, growling and grabbing an arm or sleeve if he thinks they may be going out somewhere, and may attack the door handle.  ‘Commanding’ him invites defiance. Using rewards can be difficult because he mugs the hand with the food in it.

His behaviour took a dramatic turn for the worse after he had been left with a dog sitter for a week a couple of years ago. One can fairly safely guess that this person used ‘dominant’, punishment-based methods on him in order to force him to comply. It seems that poor Dudley is totally confused and it is all about STOPPING him from doing things. It’s a battle. I started by suggesting they control his food and control his access to certain parts of the house.

I showed them positive feedback for desired behaviour instead. I got them to completely ignore all the whining because he would have to take a break eventually, and we then immediately and in silence dropped tiny treats on the floor in front of him. We did the same whenever he sat down quietly, whenever he lay down – in fact, whenever he did something good. I called him quietly, rewarded him, asked him to lie down which he did, and I worked him. I used gentle ‘requests’, not ‘commands’, and simply waited until he did what I had asked. Then I demonstrated how to get him to take a treat from my hand politely.

Dudley was focussed; a different dog. He needs more fulfilment in life so that he no longer needs to create his own.

This beautiful boy is going to be a big challenge and they will need to be determined, patient and consistent. They have shown already how committed they are. I shall keep closely in touch with them until they feel they have turned the corner. Understanding the things he SHOULD do will take a huge weight from him and he should become a lot more relaxed and cooperative.

 

Poor Sabre was Badly Provoked

A brief respite from Sable's attention seeking activitiesSabre is a rescue German Shepherd, probably around eight years old. He has a very friendly temperament. In the evenings poor Sabre can become almost obsessively attention seeking and stressed.

It took Sabre getting on for three hours to calm down completely. All evening he was whining for attention, jumping up on his owners (he is a large dog), pacing, squeaking, barking and persistently asking to go out – anything to get them to react to his demands. He has learnt that this behaviour does eventually get him what he wants because it is so hard not to give in, and now he just carries on and on, becoming more and more worked up. Even when he wins the attention he continues to want more. His stress was evident by the panting, licking of his lips and nose, and excessive drinking of water.

We worked on how to react appropriately – like another stable dog would do if pestered. It was lovely to see him eventually lie down, sigh and relax. Soon he will be able to get plenty of attention – when he is polite and calm, and not always on demand.

Sable himself is very good at giving other dogs messages that say he doesn’t want to be jumped on and pestered so I am sure he will get the message if it’s done in a way he understands. He’s not interested in other dogs and wants to be left alone, which is fair enough.

An unfortunate incident happened recently. He was out with his gentleman owner when two very boisterous smaller dogs ran up to him. The gentleman put Sable on lead and then tried to walk away. Sable would have been doing his best to ignore the dogs, turning away from them and looking away – giving all the doggy signals he could that he wanted to be left alone, but they simply followed and would not give up. He will have warned, shown his teeth and growled and still he was ignored. The owner of the other dogs never called them back. So Sabre, as a totally logical thing to do in his mind and after all his very reasonable and patient warnings had been ignored, bit one of the dogs on the tail. Sable was blamed.

If we have off-lead dogs, then it is our reponsibility to call them back if we see a dog put on lead. There must be a reason. It’s our duty to control our dogs and the poor dog on lead who is trapped is all too often blamed. If dogs don’t come back when called, then they should be kept on lead around other dogs until intensive recall work has been done. So far as Sable is concerned, his owners need to know how to react as his leader and protector – how to step in on his behalf and how to spot the signs when he has had too much. They also need to reduce his general stress level so that he will be more tolerant.

Email received about five days after my visits – and they have gone from strength to strength: “We have had some unsettled evenings for the first couple of hours. I don’t want to jinx it, but sabre has been fantastic today!. We’re amazed that in such a short amount of time he’s come so far. We’re looking forward to calm walks! We’re still feeling very confident and comfortable with all of the points, the hardest thing has been not getting him excited again once we have him calm…On the whole, early days though it is, we feel already that a huge amount of progress has been made!”
Nine months after we met, things still going well: “We are doing great! I was away (working abroad) for about five months and was amazed to see the difference in Sabre on my return home. Ben has been following all the new rules you gave us….Walks are relaxed now and Sabre seems pretty disinterested in other dogs on the whole…..Even when I walk him on my own I experience no problems with him. So on behalf of all three of us, thank you! Thank you very much for being able to point out our flaws and helping us to find a resolution for them and for Sabre!
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

 

Harry’s Whining Drives Them Mad

Springer Harry lying quietlyMy photo doesn’t do beautiful 8-month old Springer Harry justice.

What is driving the couple mad is Harry’s whining! This mostly happens when they go upstairs and out of sight.

He seems to be fine when they are out, and he goes to bed happily at bedtime. He is quiet during the night….until….early in the morning! As soon as Harry hears movement upstairs he starts to whine and he seems to have an alarm clock in his head at weekends when they would like a lie-in. His whining becomes more insistent until it becomes yelping and is very hard to ignore.

In the past they would come down to him thinking he might want to go out, but on putting him back the noise would simply continue. If they leave him out of his room he simply cries at the bottom of the stairs. He has learnt that if he carries on for long enough someone will always come down to him eventually.

They had already decided to stop going downstairs to him, but when they eventually have to come down anyway he will for sure think it’s as a result of his whining, so whining is merely reinforced. To Harry whining works. This has to be broken. The first step is to make it quite clear that when they do come down it is not to see Harry – to simply walk past the gate (which he will be jumping up at) as though he’s not there. In their own good time they will go to him – but only when he is quiet. They will wait for his feet to be on the floor before opening the gate.

During the day he lies at the bottom of the stairs whining when anyone goes up – he has chewed some of the woodwork.

The result of unconsciously obeying Harry has only increased his stress. The humans need to let Harry understand that they can move around when and where they wish, and that he will remain where they wish, sometimes in his utility room bedroom, sometimes in the kitchen and only sometimes at the bottom of the stairs watching them disappear.

General tightening up of leadership skills will enable Harry to mature into a self-controlled adult dog.

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

Stressed Border Collie

Highly stressed Border Collie Coco is panting

Coco

Coco looks a little like Basil Brush, with one ear up and the other down! She’s an unusual colour for a Border Collie. This is the best photo I could manage, because she was pacing  all the evening.

She lives with a much calmer Border Collie, Shep. The fact the two of them are exactly the same age though from different backgrounds and both treated the same by their owner, just shows the importance of stable genetic makeup.

Apparently I saw Coco at her worst as she was already unusually hyped up before I arrived. She had had a particularly stimulating walk involving lots of ball play, and there was Trick or Treat out in the street. There may have been other happenings during the day contributing to the build up of her stress levels. Once things get to this stage there is little one can do. From the moment we mentioned the ‘W’ word in conversation, she was pacing to and from the door, whining, panting and jumping onto people. This carried on for over three hours. Restraining her in any way simply made her worse, or made her redirect onto poor Shep.

The  perpetual stress results in her being reactive to dogs and scared of people, chasing traffic, barking in the car at anything moving and being especially frantic around small children who visit. Consequenlty her owner is anxious, and clever Coco will know this.

Where it’s tempting to spray with a water pistol to simply stop her barking at children, or to physically scold and hold her back from moving vehicles, this is not dealing with the problem. Techniques like this will only associate children and traffic with more unpleasant stuff.

The problem has to be dealt with at source by removing all stress possible, and looking at the sort of rules and boundaries that would make a dog feel secure. Often things that dogs seem to love like prolonged ball play, walks preceeded by frantic excitement and lots of running about in general, can prove just too much. Coco loves brain work and I feel this is healthier stimulation for her at the moment. At home, although well trained so far as commands are concerend, she has few restrictions, and may feel safer with some physical boundaries and rules.

I would prefer a stable dog with little formal training to an unstable dog that that is highly trained. ‘Training’ is the icing on the cake. We need to get the cake right first. Collies like Coco who came from a farm, being extremely intelligent working dogs who are no longer doing what they are bred for, can be a challenge. People so often think that hours of running around and stimulation can replace hours of waiting patiently beside a shepherd, running off when commanded to do their job, and then returning when instructed. Where they go and what they do is controlled by their master and the relationship between the two is clearly defined. What Coco does and where she goes is largely controlled by herself, and the relationship between her and her owner is not sufficiently defined to give Coco confidence in her.

So, giving Coco fair, consistent physical boundaries and working on reducing excitement and lowering her stress levels will do wonders for her I am sure.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
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A Wirehaired Vizsla and a Weimeraner

Wemerana Lulu and teritorial barking

Lulu

Viszla

Hugo

What a wonderful looking pair.

There are a few minor issues to fix, but the main aims of my visit are to control Weimaraner Lulu’s territorial barking and hunting – for her to have reliable recall.

At present the dogs run freely off lead a lot of the time, so the price the owners would need to pay in terms of training and restricting Lulu’s freedom is probably not worth the gain in their eyes, and they may need to settle for the compromise of ‘much better recall’, or on lead only if unsafe! When she sights a deer or a hare, without intensive long line work over a long period of time, they don’t stand a hope of getting her back. She has practised freelancing and hunting for a long time and has an extremely strong Weimaraner prey drive.

They live in a lovely house overlooking fields – ideal for Lulu’s sharp eyesight and keen hearing to spot animals or people in the distance resulting in a lot of barking. She has leapt the fence in the past. Some management solutions will help to a degree – including enclosing part of the garden.

Both dogs have been to obedience classes but obedience training doesn’t necessarily mean an obedient dog, or that the dog won’t choose to disobey a command!

The owners believed that Lulu ran the roost, but I saw it a little differently. In his quiet way Viszla Hugo shares the job. He mainly lets Lulu take responsibility for territorial stuff, but he has other tricks. He is protective of his personal space whilst not particularly respecting that of others. He plays games over food – controlling Lulu. He uses his ball to get people to repeatedly jump to his bidding and throw it whilst not letting them touch him. Because Lulu is more hyper, this disturbs him; he may try to control her by humping her, or he may get very worried if her stress levels get out of hand or cause the owners to get cross with her. Their toddler is a bit vulnerable when Lulu jumps over him or pushes past him to frantically chase or bark at something.

So once again it is a leadership issue. From early morning Lulu whines to get them up – and in order to stop her they go to her for fear of waking the baby – proving to her that whining works. She makes it very hard to get her collar and lead on before walks. As I said, a mix of more minor issues, but they all contribute to the overall situation where Lulu in particular ignores what she is being asked to do, her noisy territorial behaviour is causing them problems, she is stressed, and calmer Hugo is a worrier.

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

Jumping up and teeth

Whippet Cocker mixLucy is the most endearing little dog. She is a seven month old Whippet/Cocker Spaniel mix, with a whippet body and cocker spaniel ears – and bounce! With this breed combination one would not expect her to be slow and placid! Mix this with two young children and you have a recipe for EXCITEMENT.

Lucy does many of the things most young dogs do – but to excess. Jumping up, flying about, nipping and whining if shut out. Nothing new really! I have personal experience from my own working cocker spaniel Pickle, now 11 months old, of a young dog fired with rocket fuel.  Everything he does is at double speed – he can’t even spare the time to stay still long enough to toilet so does it on the run. With Pickle I knew what to do from day one and he learnt that jumping up never got him any attention. If he jumped on people we would turn away or simply stand up to tip him off. No eye contact, no touching and no words. If he jumped at a table he would be patiently, quietly, gently and consistently removed by his collar or harness. If he became over-excited he would be calmly put in his crate for a short ‘time-out’ break to calm down.  Consistency is the key.

Pickle never did use his teeth though. This will be because he was with at least one other sibling until eleven weeks of age and puppies learn from one another. Lucy unfortunately left her litter at six weeks old and her new family didn’t realise how important it was to teach the tiny puppy not to use her teeth – but in a way the other puppies would – with a short squeal and walking or turning away. Lucy thinks the children’s reaction to her nipping is play. Shouting OUCH is meaningless to a puppy. Pushing her away is a game and an invitation to nip hands and arms. Tapping her on the nose is an invitation to a rough game or a bite.

This is a superb little dog. We will take things a bit at a time. Firstly curb the jumping and nipping, and basic lead work in the garden and near to home without children or buggy. They will do their best to avoid unecessary excitement. Until she is a bit calmer nothing more can be done. The slightest bit off attention hypes her up.

We can then look at teaching a few basics like sit, down and stay, and taking the walking a bit further afield.

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

Little Staffie

Sophie is a perfect example of how wrong is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s reputation for aggression. It is the owners, not the dogs.  I have been to a good number of Staffies, and in only a very few cases was aggession involved, mostly between siblings of the same sex.

Sophie was rescued by Wood Green Animal Shelter and went to live with her new family at the age of fourteen weeks – she’s now a year and a half old and still quite small. She is very restless indeed. She rarely settles. She flies all over people, leaps right over the chairs, she chases her tail, licks people compulsively and chews her feet. She spends a lot of time pacing about and whining. She also has a skin condition which I’m sure is made worse by her general stress levels.

When I was there she settled a lot sooner than usual when people come to the house because I insisted everyone, including the two children, took no notice of her until she had relaxed – which took a long time. Of course, one touch or word, or even eye contact and off she went again – patrolling, whining, pacing, licking, chewing.

Sophie is a mix of playful and submissive with other dogs on walks, though tends to get excited and jump up at people. She pulls so much she has to wear a Gentle Leader which she hates. After most of my recent cases, it is nice to go to a dog that has no aggression issues towards other dogs – and this a Staffordshire Bull Terrier!

Walks, given because they are meant to calm her down, are having the reverse effect. When she gets home it takes her a long time to unwind – she is even more manic than when she started out. This is a clear indication that walks, as they are now, are doing her no good at all. It’s a case of ‘less is more’ for the time being.

Sophie has a lovely home with a lady who is conscientious in trying to do the right thing, and two helpful children.  This family would like another Staffie puppy in the fulness of time, but agree they must get Sophie ‘fixed’ first, and then they will know how to get things right with a new puppy from day one.

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