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How to gently break an obsession, help please!

(7 Posts)
rogersmellyonthetelly Fri 12-Oct-12 10:00:38

My dog is obsessed with the front door. When allowed, she sits at the top of the stairs which face the front door, watching intently, and growling and barking at any sign of movement. She growls and mutters almost constantly, and at least once every half an hour she erupts into violent barking and runs downstairs to the door, hackles up. She also sits in her basket in the sitting room which she moves until she can see the front door, and then stares at it intently. If I close the sitting room door so she can't see the front door she relaxes and goes to sleep.
I'm worried that she is becoming obsessed with the door and windows at either side. When someone actually does knock, she bolts downstairs and barks manically until I answer the door, and if I don't restrain her she dashes through the door and starts jumping up and licking. She is very very friendly, has never shown any aggression towards people at all, strangers or otherwise, just desperately friendly to anyone and everyone at the door.
How can I stop her obsession with the front door, it's mainly the constant watching I'm finding worrying, and the annoying little chuffs and growls that are a constant. I don't mind her barking at someone at the door, but barking at absolutely nothing is getting ridiculous and happens all the time. She is so loud I can't actually hear if anyone is knocking or not, so I have to come down stairs to check, which will be a real pita when new baby arrives in a few months. Also can do without baby being woken constantly by unecessary barking.

Rhinestone Fri 12-Oct-12 12:10:51

Need a bit more info

What breed is she?
How old is she?
When did this start?
Did something happen to kick it off?
Do you always enter / leave your house by the front door?

rogersmellyonthetelly Fri 12-Oct-12 13:12:14

She is a staffy, 21 months old, she has always barked at the door, but the obsessive watching has only been happening for a couple of months. We do always use the front door, there is a gate to the side door which leads into the kitchen but we only use that to get into the garden.
Funnily enough when we are out, she doesn't bark when we come back in.
It's frustrating and annoying and I can't seem to distract her from the behaviour.

Rhinestone Fri 12-Oct-12 13:40:17

You see I'm wondering if the obsessive watching has anything to do with your pregnancy. My dog was VERY protective of me and started growling at strange dogs where previously she'd completely ignored them.

The front door is how strange people enter the house so requires constant vigilance now, not just a bark when there's someone there. Do you live on a busy street with lots of people walking past?

I'd try a combination of managing the situation by closing the sitting room door more often, and dealing with the problem by getting her to see the front door as a safe place. Could you sit with her next to the door and pet her, give her treats, play etc a couple of times a day. Always have a treat in your hand when you come through the door and leave a little bag of treats outside for visitors to do likewise. I know you said that she's friendly to people at the door but associating all visitors with treats might help subdue that initial reaction which sounds like nervousness.

Also how long do you leave her alone? I wonder if she's wary because that's the way you leave her. Maybe shut the sitting room door before you leave the house or start going out of the other door.

Always worth introducing crate training too, NOT EVER as a punishment but as a safe den she can retreat to if she wants. As she gets used to it you can ask her to go in her crate when visitors arrive which might be useful if any of your friends or family are a bit nervous of her jumping up. But please read up on crate training, it's vital to do it in a reward based way otherwise the safe den becomes a prison cell.

These are just thoughts off the top of my head so worth consulting a proper behaviourist too.

rogersmellyonthetelly Fri 12-Oct-12 14:15:51

We always leave her in the kitchen when we go out with the door shut as less opportunity for mischief in there. She is crate trained but that's upstairs in our bedroom as she sleeps in there. We don't shut the door at all in the day time, only overnight as she would set the burglar alarm off otherwise. She does go in there to lie down, but only once she has been told off for trying to get on the bed, so no other more attractive option available. We have found that if she is shut in her crate when people are in the house she goes mental and shreds her bed in a matter of minutes. When visitors arrive she is completely unmanageable for the first 5 minutes and then calms down. We have tried shutting her in the kitchen for a bit to let her calm down first before greeting, but this makes it worse, she goes mad in there and starts chewing, and even if we wait until she is quiet before letting her out, she is still nuts for the first 5 minutes.
The house is at the end of a long drive so no passers by, no cars, we have postman, occasional leaflet drops, etc and occasionally, kids calling to play with ours and family visiting.
When the door is open she doesn't display any anxiety at all, she just launches herself at whoever at chest height and starts licking and frantic tail wagging, regardless of whether it's family who she knows and loves or the asda delivery man!
The jumping up is getting to be a serious problem, the only way we can control her is on a harness and lead, and pulling her back firmly with a no, gently please, but the second you give her any slack she launches again. It's so very frustrating. She does understand the gently thing, it's a command we use when we have little kids to play sometimes, and she does tone down the bouncing, just it all goes out of the window at the door.

rogersmellyonthetelly Fri 12-Oct-12 14:19:38

Btw we don't leave her for long, maybe half an hour morning and afternoon for the school run, dh and I both work from home, me all the time and dh part of the time so it's not like she is left for hours. If we are out for the day she stays with a friend.
I would say the obsessing has got worse since I got pregnant, but I think it's more of a progression than the pregnancy being a trigger as she behaves in the same way with dh and kids if I'm not there. She barks and goes mad at the door when she sees me coming in from the car.

Gymbob Fri 12-Oct-12 22:53:08

Can you leave the front door open and see what happens. If she will run away maybe install a safety gate, or put her on her lead and attach it to something in the hallway. Maybe bordeom would set in as there would be no anticipation to excite her??

Be interesting to know if she will still do it if she can actually see what is outside the door....can't be much more help sorry....

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