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)

Yorkie Pup’s Separation Barking

Yorkie pup who suffers separation

Gizmo could fit in my bag

The tiny six-month Yorkie is so beautiful I could not resist three photos.

Gizmo cries when left alone.

The key to relieving him and his young humans from all the anxiety and stress around separation is to find out just why he is unhappy when left.

Separation Anxiety is a blanket term that covers a lot of possibilities.

In many separation cases the dog won’t let a particular person out of his sight. Gizmo is fairly independent and is perfectly happy to go into the garden alone. He’s a confident little fellow and he has a lovely life, being trained and treated as a ‘proper dog’ despite his minute size.

He may cry at the gate, however, if the lady goes upstairs for more than a minute or so. I’m sure he believes that his noise is what brings her back down (because it always does).

From looking at the whole picture of his life, like any puppy he generally doesn’t want to miss anything that could be action or fun, and he’s learnt barking is a way to get it.

Gizmo wearing a hat?

In the early hours of the morning he barks, which results in someone coming downstairs and letting him out, then taking him up to bed with them. For the past week they have tried having him in their bedroom all night, but he’s still barking at the same early hour.

When Gizmo stays with the young lady’s mother for a night or two he doesn’t bark at all and he will sleep in until much later.

These two things rule out the barking at night being due merely to loneliness, and it’s not that he can’t last through without being let out to toilet.

Everything points to the fact that unintentionally they have taught him to call them. Gizmo wants action and company and usually gets it when he barks!

They have very helpfully taken a video of his first ten minutes alone.

The little dog seems unconcerned about being left initially. He starts by working on the Kong he has been left. Gradually he gets tired of that and starts looking around for company. This develops into some wandering around and pacing like he’s looking for them, some crying for them. He gets a bit more agitated, probably because he’s getting no response. Then he eats the food he’s been left.  A really distressed or scared animal would not want to eat. Food finished, he’s barking and wandering almost like he’s looking for something else to do and for some company. He only briefly goes to the back door the lady had walked out of.

Certainly he’s distressed, but not in a real panic.

When the lady does get back after two or three hours, never longer, Gizmo is getting out of his bed.

This pattern seems to be much the same at night when, if left to carry on crying, after about half an hour he gives up and settles.

Gizmo’s humans will work on him being happy to be by himself for longer while they are in the house. We have worked out a few carefully controlled and graded exercises with them leaving him to go upstairs, leaving him behind the gate in the kitchen and leaving him to go out of the house.

Added to this, more fun things should be available when they’re not there and not always when they are there.

Sleeping Yorkie pup

Gizmo asleep

People have more control over the situation than they realise. Gizmo’s humans can influence what happens before and what happens afterwards.

They can prepare Gizmo for people departing. The exercises will help this. They can put in place much more imaginative things to occupy him when he’s left. There are several things they can work on to help him associate being left alone with good stuff and with relaxing.

They can pre-empt the barking for attention in the evenings by initiating more fun themselves instead of responding to his barking, in order to teach him that barking is not the way to get what he wants. They can rehearse over and over tactics for getting him used to being left for short periods and they can change their rituals immediately before leaving for work. Being left will be associated with all sorts of good stuff.

And what happens afterwards? They have control over that too and how they respond. If reuniting is too big an event, it gives the dog yet another thing to bark for. Barking generally ends up in attention and fun, after all.

With separation issues, whatever the reasons, the dog is not happy. This makes his humans unhappy too.

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 Gizmo. 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 which it’s hard for someone to do with insufficient experience and living too closely to their own situation. One size does not fit all and there are various causes for separation issues 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 Get Helppage)

Jumpy and Easily Startled

Yorkie

Bud

I was welcomed at the door by two very friendly and seemingly confident little dogs – Bud, a Yorkie age two and his five-month-old son, Bentley, a Yorkie mix already double the size of Bud.

Bud, however, was strangely jumpy and startled by anything that might make an unexpected sound, even soft sounds coming from another room. He would instantly recoil and might run away from even what seemed like a soft tap, but he was back again in no time like nothing had happened.

Bud will also run the other way if he simply senses a sound was coming. If the man carries something through the room, Bud will run away in anticipation of the sound that object may make if put down noisily. If someone goes to push their chair back to stand up, Bud runs, anticipating the sound of the chair scraping against the floor.

Puppy Bentley seems now to be copying him. He also startles, but not so much – yet. Very possibly there could be a genetic element.

Bud’s bounce-back recovery was amazing really.  It all seemed a bit odd.

A dog quite this reactive to noises is likely to have other issues like excessive barking and fearfulness of new people coming into his house. Bud is friendly and confident with both new people and with other dogs. It seemed almost like an automatic reaction rather than deep-seated fear.

Bud apparently only became so jumpy at about nine months old and it coincided with a break-in when he was alone in the house. Despite men breaking into his house, he’s not scared of people as you might expect.

Other noisy things that frighten him include the usual – vacuum cleaner, things with motors like hairdryer and the ironing board.

People so often think that if they force the dog to remain in the presence of these sounds that he will gradually get over it. Called flooding, it very occasionally can work, but the risks are great. Nearly always the fear becomes deeper rooted, transfers onto other things, even to the point of the dog shutting down altogether. Unexpected bangs and noises are so much part of daily life they can’t all be avoided but they can avoid the obvious. Because stress and fear builds up in the system, the calmer the dogs can be in general the less jumpy they are likely to be.

Bud and Bentley

Bud and Bentley

So, the plan now is for them to do their very best to keep Bud (and Bentley) away from the things they know scare them whilst working on controlled sounds that they generate themselves.

I suggested they deal with one specific sound at a time and I believe that as time goes by the progress will spill over onto other sounds.

I noticed Bud flinched and ran away when I unthinkingly moved the footstool beside me. So, with my tastiest tiny treats and with the very friendly Bud beside me, I moved the stool a fraction, dropping food as I did so. He jumped slightly but I hadn’t pushed him over his threshold and he ate the food and stayed with me. I did this quite a few times, lifting the stool and putting it down again, a little more loudly as he stopped reacting.

Then the man said ‘Try this’, and dropped some keys beside me onto the stool. Bud ran. When he came back he was seriously spooked by the keys. I just reached out towards them and fed him. I silently touched them and fed him but he was already backing off. When they made a small sound he ran.

If the keys had been put down really gently initially we would have got further and it was a good example for the family to see of just how slowly and carefully they need to take desensitisation. It also demonstrated how once the dog is ‘over-threshold’ he’s not in a mental state to learn anything, so the session needs to end.

With each thing, the aim is for Bud to actually welcome that particular sound because it means yummy food. With sufficient careful work he will learn to love keys being put down, if not suddenly dropped!

Talking of food, the dogs’ diet has little nutritional value along with colourings and additives which could well encourage nervous behaviour. Unless people know better they fall for colourful packs and often rubbish food tastes good – we know that don’t we!  Many people don’t realise just to what extent food can affect their dog’s behaviour and nervous system. That is something easily changed.

As the jumpiness is so out-of-place with the rest of his character, I just wonder whether Bud may have inherited a tendency to startle. He was originally bought from a pet shop at about twelve weeks old so very likely was bred in a puppy farm. Who knows what his life was like during those first very formative weeks of his life?

He will probably always have the jumpiness in him if something is unexpected or sufficiently loud but they can help him greatly through deliberately avoiding exposing him to things that get him startled, jumpy or scared whilst working on controlled sounds.

Hopefully we have caught it soon enough to avoid Bentley going down the same route.

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 Bud. 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).

Barking at People and Dogs

Yorkshire Terrier sibling barks too much

Daisy

Yorkie twins Daisy and Cody are now five years of age.

There are well-documented disadvantages of taking on sibling puppies – see here for more information. One common problem is that one of the puppies becomes shy, even when both puppies started off as bold and outgoing. This means that the shy puppy never reaches his or her potential. Another problem is that same-sex siblings in particular can end up arch enemies.

It’s a tribute to their family that these two little dogs have turned out so well.

I would say that although Daisy, on the right (look at that little face), is a lot more nervous than Cody, they are no different many other two unrelated dogs.

Their problem is too much barking at people and dogs from Daisy, particularly when they are out or when people come in the house. Cody is self-assured and has ‘attitude’ on walks but Daisy is scared.

Because she can sometimes sound quite ferocious when a person or another dog approaches, the lady has been so worried that her little dog is aggressive. She is on lead with a tense and anxious handler and she feels vulnerable.

But it varies. It’s not consistent. Because some days she is fine where other days she is very nervous, it’s useful to look at what is happening in all other aspects of Daisy’s life. There are many things that stir her up daily which don’t affect Cody at all, including the post coming through the door, the vacuum cleaner or lawn mower, and even enthusiastic greetings. Without too much effort the family can save her the build-up from all these stresses and it will make a huge difference to her.

Yorkshire Terrier sibling is the more confident

Cody

The lady in particular is very concerned her little dog could be ‘dangerous’ by all the barking at people and dogs. When they are out or when someone comes to the house she is both nervous and apologetic.

The people holding the leads will need to keep a close eye on the dogs for their reaction – to nip it in the bud. They must move Daisy away to a distance where she feels ‘safe’ and then work on building up her confidence.  When over-threshold she barks and lunges and snarls – and then may redirect onto poor Cody with a nip.

Work can only be done with the dogs walked separately for a while.

It’s the stress and fear that needs to be addressed – both dog and human! Already the lady has said, “I feel more at ease with the barking knowing it isn’t aggression”.

When Daisy calms down and everyone gains confidence, they should have no problems on walks – as has already been proved on ‘good’ days.

To change the behaviour we must change the emotion that drives it.

Already, after one day of implementing a few changes, the lady says: “We can’t believe how quiet they have been – less stressful today all round for the dogs and me!
Seven weeks later: ‘Things are improving – I walked Cody the other day and came across a lady with 3 dogs I turned and walked away then turned back and stayed on my side of the road (lady was on the opposite pavement talking) we continued walking with no reaction from Cody at all – I was very pleased with him as previously he has barked at the dogs – I have been going out when it suits me rather than when its quiet – most days we don’t see anyone but if we do I know how to handle them.  We have seen such an improvement in the dogs and agree with you it is as much about us changing as well as the dogs.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Daisy and Cody, which is why I don’t go into all the exact details 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).

 

Once Friends, Now the Dogs Fight

Whenever tiny Yorkie is out in her garden, she runs up and down by the fence, in a frenzy of barking

Mia

Both little dogs got on beautifully until Coco matured and then the conflict started – with a fight over a chew. Things escalated until tiny Mia was badly injured. They are now enemies.

Now the dogs have to be kept apart.

Tiny miniature Yorkie Mia, left, is now 6. When she was three years old they got a puppy – Wire Haired Daschund Coco. They are much loved little dogs.

Coco lives with the couple and their young children, and Mia lives next door with her parents. They dogs used to have a special hole in the fence so that they could go freely from one house to the other, but no more.  Their hole is now blocked.

A lot of problems can be averted if we learn to read our dogs

Coco

Whenever Mia is out in her garden, she runs up and down by the fence, in a frenzy of barking and trying to dig under it to get to Coco. It’s very similar to behaviour she does when the air blower is on. I videoed it. http://youtu.be/jUr_x1Lj79U. They thought Mia  enjoyed the action because her tail is wagging and she looks up at them. I feel, to this tiny dog, it’s like a puffing monster at nose level behind the wall, and she is frantic to make it go away; she is looking at them for help.

People often think that tail wagging means happy but it’s not necessarily so. It means aroused in some way. Another misreading is when Coco lies on her back with the little 2-year-old boy. They think she is asking for him to tickle her tummy. She may be saying ‘I give in, I’ve had enough’.

A lot of problems can be averted if we learn to read our dogs.

We have a plan to get the two dogs back together. Everyone knows that it could take a long time and they are up for the effort and self-sacrifice. Both little dogs are extremely excitable and think it’s their job to protect their homes and gardens. This needs to be addressed. They need to value food more so that it can be used for working with them (not left down all the time). Over time they will learn to come whenever they are called and to be each side of the fence calmly.

The plan is that eventually two much calmer dogs who no longer feel that guard duty is their responsibility will meet out on neutral territory, starting with walking parallel at a comfortable distance. We will take it from there.

Over-exciting and hands-on play with a dog would equate to tickling and ruffling a young child who would doubtless end up in tears. Egging a child on in the way people wind up their dogs, wrongly believing they find it fun, would probably end in a temper tantrum with a child.  Just as good parents create a reasonably calm, safe and controlled atmosphere for their kids, we need to do the same for our dogs.

I am sure the eventual outcome will be the two dogs back together. But their humans must never go back to their old ways or so will the dogs.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Mia and Coco, 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).

Chaotic. 6 Dogs, 3 Fighting Males and a Parrot!

Doesn't react well in chaotic environment

Alfie

Life for the six dogs and the parrot is chaotic.

Two months ago there was a big change in their lives. This coincided with the start of their unrest.

Jack Russell X Alfie, on the right, attacks Yorkshire Terriers Benjie and Archie. Benjie (on the left) has sustained injuries.

In the chaotic heat of the moment, the two Yorkies may also redirect onto one another and fight.

Then there will be a lot of barking and shouting.

There are also two females, a very old German Shepherd and another Jack Russell, and an old Yorkie who is at the end of his days – in the bed behind Archie (below). They keep out of it.

The parrot shouts Shut Up!

Benjie has sustained injuries

Benjie

The dogs live with a middle-aged brother and sister. What makes this situation especially difficult is that the gentleman, being at home all day, is the main carer. He had an accident as a child which has left him with certain cognitive problems.

In addition, the lady is extremely stressed and this will be picked up by the dogs.

Even the parrot shouts ‘WILL YOU ******* SHUT UP’ at the dogs – a clue to the level of stress in this chaotic household!

The lady loves her dogs and doesn’t want to have to part with any of them.

Jack Russell mix Alfie is the instigator.

Alfie is very close to the man and now spends most of his time in his room upstairs where he’s made to feel very special. He growls if the lady approaches when he’s on the man’s lap.He growls particularly if one of the male dogs comes near.

All the fights occur only in the presence of the man.

He has to walk them in relays to avoid walking two boys together. The first two to be taken are those who happen to squeeze through the door first!

At the end of each walk, when dogs reunite in the kitchen doorway. Fights kick off at the man’s feet. This is unsurprising really when there is such, chaotic, manic excitement and jostling to get through the door first.

Fights also occur around food. The man simply puts three or four bowls down around the kitchen and it’s a free-for-all.

ManagementMKparrot

Archie and Bobby

Archie and Bobby

Simply with safety in mind, the situation has to be managed before we can go any further.

It’s a logistical nightmare. There are just two downstairs rooms and the only entrance to the house leads directly into the sitting room. This leads through to the kitchen.

We need a gate in the kitchen doorway so that Alfie can be near the other dogs but safely. It will make comings and goings easier.

They will get a puppy pen for the kitchen as there is currently no way to separate dogs when necessary.

Role play

Now the chaotic environment needs sorting out.

The man is unable to read so a written plan doesn’t help him. I role-played with the him the quite complicated routine for taking the dogs in and out for walks.

He takes Alfie first, then leaves him upstairs before entering the kitchen where the other dogs are.

Now he sits down and has a cuppa, waiting for all the downstairs dogs to calm down.

Then he chooses the next two, leaving a couple in the pen. On returning he sits down and waits for calm again …. and so on.

We also role-played a routine whereby the dogs were fed separately from their own bowls in their own areas. No food was left down.

I so hope the pen idea works and that the gentleman can remember the routines. With all the swapping about and dogs left in different places it will be a bit like a doggy Whitehall farce!

Once peace is established we can do more work on the behaviour side of things.

Three days later: I’m over the moon! I called, almost dreading what I might hear, and the man has taken all our role-play completely to heart. The first words the lady said were ‘Absolutely fantastic’! No fights. Much calmer. In a couple of weeks we will work at gradually integrating the dogs again.
Nearly three weeks have now gone by, and things are going from strength to strength. The gentleman is sticking to the plan to the letter, and is now enjoying the dogs. Alfie is much happier and waggy-tailed, and is gradually being integrated with the other dogs. He plays with Archie and Maggie and has short periods when he is together with all the other dogs including Benjie – with no fighting.

Two Yorkie Puppies Off to a Good Start

Two Yorkie puppies toilet indoorsLouie and Kasper are five-month-old Yorkshire Terrier puppies – the cutest you can imagine. Their owners’ previous Yorkie had been quite a handful which they readily admit was due to overspoiling, and they are determined to get it right this time with their two little puppy brothers.  They have made a very good start in quite difficult circumstances.

The lady owner is bed-ridden and although immobile she has her wits about her where the dogs are concerned! The gentleman has a lot to do without worrying about puppies as well, and I could tell from the the puppies’ behaviour that he has really been trying hard.

The current situation is that the puppies tend to fly all over the lady in her bed and she’s not strong enough to stop them. The puppies have the door to the garden open all the time and don’t seem to know the difference between toileting indoors and outdoors. They have not actually been taught. I have just been strongly reminded with my own three-month-old Labrador puppy Zara that it is hard work! But put in enough effort for a couple of weeks and the job is usually done.

Because she was toileting all over the place, I made a chart, entering every time Zara ‘went’ and where. It soon became apparent it was far more frequently than I had thought – about fifteen times a day for pees alone. The more free space a puppy has, the slower it seems to learn, so during this time while I was working at my computer I had a puppy pen around us so she couldn’t creep off quietly to toilet. Any time Zara had a mishap, it was my fault – not hers. As soon as she awoke she needed to be taken out. As soon as she broke off from playing or chewing and started to prowl around or sniff, I took her out.  In the space of ten days she has stopped toileting indoors altogether. The breakthrough came the day she connected my command which is ‘Go Pee’ with actually peeing, leading to a reward.

When I am out Zara is always contained in her crate, and she has never toileted in there. She is also contained at night time. If caught young enough, dogs prefer to toilet away from their beds.

There are other minor issues that could develop as the Yorkie puppies get older, like potential trouble between them over food. Kasper is more nervous but more possessive and dominant – that’s him peering out from under the lady’s bed. Louie is more confident but is the barker. Already the owners have the situation well under control when the carers and nurse come, and they need to do the same when family and friends visit. It’s about leadership/dog ‘parenting’.

That will do for now. The gentleman has more than enough on his plate at the moment.

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