I rang the doorbell bell. Betty barked – as most dogs do. I sat down, she barked at me. She continued to be vocal on and off for most of the time I was there.
At first I thought she wanted to chase me away, but it soon became apparent that she was excited by my presence in a friendly sort of away. They seldom have callers and to Betty I was therefore a major event. If I touched her she went quiet but then would bark at me for more when I stopped.
Betty is an extremely vocal little dog.
I couldn’t however get on with my job and pet her all the time. By doing so I was merely reinforcing here for being loudly vocal. If we had put her in another room she would have continued to bark and I didn’t want her even more stressed.
From time to time she settled, only to rush, barking, to the front of the house because she had heard something.
She might settle again and one of us laughed. Instantly Betty jumped up and began barking again.
The dogs next door have a dog flap. Every time they go through it, Betty hears it. She barks, and she barks and she barks.
They have another small dog who does little barking, who is settled and quiet. They had both dogs from puppies and believe they have treated them both much the same. Vocal Betty’s high alertness and excitability has to be genetic and not as a result of how they are with her.
The little Poodle/Chinese Crested mix needs some help because this level of reactivity, with the resulting stress chemicals permanently in her body, isn’t good for her. If she were a human she would be on medication of some sort. This is something they may consider at a later date if behaviour work doesn’t make a significant difference.
My suggestion is now to look at day to day life with six-year-old Betty through ‘calm down’ lenses!
They made a list for me of things that get her stirred up and vocal. It includes barking any time one of them goes through the dog gate without her, when someone goes into the garden without her, when they empty the kitchen bin. She is vocal when a dog comes on TV. She will bark if anyone gets up suddenly or they call to one another. She has developed a fear of the freezer door and barks when it’s opened…it goes on and on.
They go to work each day and the dogs are crated. It seems that Betty is resigned to this. She is less vocal though still howls for a while.
Management plays a big part in helping Betty – ‘cunning plans’ to avoid the arousal that makes her vocal in the first place.
They will find as many ways as they can to make all those little things that get her stirred up less exciting or less frightening. They will work to remove or neutralise stressors. Bit by bit, as things that they do slot in, they should begin to notice a change.
Let sleeping dogs lie? Not this time.
Things that alarm her and things she barks at in order to get something, like attention, are dealt with differently.
If the barking is for attention and simply excitement, reinforcing when she resists barking or stops barking is the way to go. They can initiate things she likes when she is already quiet rather than as a result of noise.
When the barking is due to fear or alarm, then reinforcing quiet isn’t appropriate. In these cases, it’s the emotions of fear and alarm that she needs help with, getting to the bottom of why she is being so vocal. Then dealing through desensitising and counter-conditioning with each thing on that list and more.
For starters they can work on simply getting her happy to have a door shut on her for just half a second.
Adding stress-reducing activities.
Dealing with the barking itself and what directly causes it isn’t enough though. At the same time they will add activities that will calm her, particularly things that use her nose and her brain.