Jack is on the left, Ozzy on the right.
There is only one problem with the two adorable miniature poodles – too much barking.
Jack in particular goes into a barking frenzy when he hears or sees anything outside the house.
Rarely in the course of my job with owners who have problems with their dogs do I visit dogs that are quite so well-trained and good. They are friendly, bright and happy little dogs. They are wonderfully trained with all sorts of tricks and antics, they are super obedient before their food goes down. When asked, they will go to their mat and stay there (see below) and much more.
They walk nicely and they are quite good around other dogs despite over-boisterous bigger dogs having hurt them and dogs having snapped at them a couple of times.
Barking is the problem
On the barking front, the days don’t start well. The dogs come up to the bedroom first thing in the morning and straight away Jack, on the left, is on watch out of the window from the bed, waiting for things to bark at.
Then, when the lady gets up, he is running around downstairs, from window to window, barking at things as she tries to get washed and dressed. Already she is becoming anxious and exasperated.
Then, when Ozzy is let out into the garden he rushes out barking and running the boundary. He just stops barking briefly to do his business.
Naturally the two dogs hate anything coming through the letterbox and will bark madly if there is a ring on the doorbell.
To ‘try’ or to ‘do’?
I’m sure this sounds familiar to a lot of dog owners! They believe they have tried everything but nothing works. One common mistake is to ‘try’ things and not carry on for long enough. Another is to deal with the barking as though barking itself is the problem, rather than the symptom of over-excitement, fear, protection duty. Arousal causes the barking.
The humans need to take control of protection duty. This doesn’t mean that the dogs are expected to stop barking altogether. It means that they can alert the humans and then leave the worrying up to them.
How people react is the key. Any form of scolding is merely joining in. Any form punishment can only make them more fearful and reactive. The whole family needs to be consistent in reacting in the right way every time the dogs bark – and immediately. The ‘right’ may not be the same in every case, so we work out the best strategy for helping these dogs out.
Not a part-time job
For best success it’s vital to be on the case constantly. We can’t only deal with it just when we have time and inclination and at other times leave them to sort it out themselves. Therefore, when the people are unavailable or tied up doing something else, they should shut the dogs in a ‘bark-free’ environment or a room with no view (in this case in their crates), with something to do.
How can they respond every time their dogs bark when it is so frequent, without going mad? The more the little dogs bark, the better they get at it.
Key to success and sanity is cutting down as much barking opportunity as possible. They can do this by blocking the view out of windows with static plastic window film or moving furniture, drawing curtains and so on. An outside mail box solves the problem of post invading their home through the front door.
Taking Ozzy out into the garden on lead for a few days will break the ritual of rushing out barking.
Two vicious circles
There are two vicious circles going on here. The more the dogs bark the more aroused they get – so the more they will bark. The more the dogs bark, the more anxious and stressed the humans become and the dogs, picking up on this, will bark even more.