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Barking issues - any experienced dog owners around please - which behaviourist is right?

(11 Posts)
Sequentialchoring Mon 08-Aug-16 13:15:31

We adopted our dog a couple of years ago. He has just turned five. He had had a very neglected puppy-hood. He is generally a lovely gentle dog and after some feeding and skin issues and eye issues, an operation to improve his dental probs and following the odd nipping incident (always when he was stressed), he settled in well with us relatively quickly (given his upbringing) and we have helped him adjust (gently) to walking outside, driving in the car, family life etc.

Despite having a temperament that seems to be a bit "on alert", he seems happy enough and content, and has bonded very strongly to dh, but he is a breed known for a tendency to bark.

Anyway, when he came to us, he didn't bark that much except when people came to the door. He really seemed quite calm!

Now he has started barking much more regularly, at the slightest noise, and he has started to become louder and louder and more persistent when visitors come to the house.

I usually have a fair number of people come to the door (couriers for work/lovely dog-loving cleaner/friends/work men etc) and he seems to be getting more and more reactive. And we do have quite a lot of visitors coming in and out at weekends. He has even started barking at other noises outside and inside the house.

I am at a bit of a loss as to what to do.

One behaviourist has said we need to walk him lots to tire him out (which we used to do) and distract him when this happens and treat and command him to "do something" such as take a toy to his bed when the doorbell rings (ie train what you want him to do/not what you don't want him to do). And I've had relative success with this but as he is not really food or toy motivated it is an uphill struggle.

Another behaviourist implied that increased barking was an overall indicator of his stress levels and that we should walk him less, make sure he has better quality sleep and tire him out with games that occupy his mind and try and be much calmer around him (we trying this atm but barking seems to have accelerated if anything).

He also has a tendency to "hump" visitors by grabbing them on the leg or jumping up (he is an uncastrated lh daschund). The latter behavourist said that this was a stress reliever because he was upset by her presence.

A friend who has lots of dogs says that he has settled in and has become territorial and has started to guard us - his family - and that is why he is barking more!

Does anyone have any experience of this please because we are at a bit of a loss and don't know which advice is right?

I guess I am also a bit upset because he is obviously in a better position than when we got him (he was underweight with all sorts of health issues and hadn't been properly socialised) but I feel we are failing him now if barking and humping is a sign of stress?

And I would have thought that now he is living in better conditions with good food, the right weight, not in pain, comfortable bed, regular exercise etc that he would be less barky not more?

Btw, although we had lots of dogs in my childhood, this is the first time I have been responsible for a dog as an adult. Our childhood dogs never behaved like this (were very obedient/highly trained working dogs: mainly pointers who didn't bark much at all).

Sequentialchoring Mon 08-Aug-16 13:16:23

Btw - we couldn't continue with the first behaviourist because she moved to a different country. It wasn't because we disagreed or fell out with her or anything!

SandpitDreams Mon 08-Aug-16 16:57:09

What is the dogs body language like when the barkinghappens - frightened or aggressive?
Ears forwards / back
Tail up or tucked away?
Head down or held up?
Body slinked down cowering or lunging forwards?

Sequentialchoring Tue 09-Aug-16 09:07:41

Thanks for your reply Sandpit (and for reading v long op!)

That's a good question!

I am confused because the barking seems quite aggressive but usually (I think!) furry one is wagging his tail at the same time. I need to study it in more detail tbh the next time it happens. I know it sounds a bit mad that I don't know but I am usually rushing to answer the door when it happens!

Sequentialchoring Wed 10-Aug-16 08:52:10

Sandpit I have been studying the barking a bit more and I don't think it is aggressive as he is wagging his tail (his tail is up) his body seems quite waggly and relaxed ears are forward and head is definitely up! He runs in and out of the room and then jumps up at the person entering, whilst wagging his tail!

EasyToEatTiger Wed 10-Aug-16 10:02:05

We have a rescue dog who, when he arrived was oddly silent. We think he had had the bark kicked out of him. Since his arrival here a couple of years ago he has become really quite vocal. At first we were delighted that ddog had found his voice again. These days he shouts quite a lot, about pretty much anything he can think of. I have found it less straightforward training a very damaged dog. I have found that as their confidence improves all sorts of bits from their past surface. Is there anyone in the house or do you have a friend who could help you? If you do, your friend could be at the door and you could spend a bit of time settling your dog before going to the door. With practice, he will understand that it is much safer to stay in his basket or wherever his safe place is, than bounce around all over the place. It is also difficult with damaged dogs who have not been brought up with treats or toys. It may be that he simply isn't interested in any toy at all. Or he may like ones which squeak or chewy ones, or tuggy toys.

I think your friend may have a point and it is entirely possible that now your dog feels safe he wants to protect it. Dogs are fantastic and do our bidding. It could be a simple shift in your attitude that you are his protector and he doesn't need to do the protection himself.

Sequentialchoring Wed 10-Aug-16 10:48:57

Thanks Easytoeattiger

You are so right about adopted dogs and issues cropping up from their past as they gain confidence (just like children I suppose). It is not at all straightforward!

The good thing about all of this though is that I am beginning to look at his movements/posture and the signals he is giving out much more intently and beginning to realise that he is more fearful than we had previously thought. So we must go more gently than we had been doing.

I think we will try and do a bit of "door" training with the help of friends. We are also trying to interest him in toys and treats (we have had a bit of success with a long furry fox but it takes a lot of "dogsplaining"!!)

One book suggested placing ourselves between the dog and the visitor when the barking happens so that he gets the message that we are taking care of things and that he need not worry. We are also trying a non-threatening hand gesture to try and calm him down.

One positive is that he doesn't bark for no reason. He is always reacting to a sound (well, so far anyway - don't want this to escalate!). But because we live in the city, there are lots of sounds to react to, especially in summer with the windows open!

We can only be patient I suppose ... and keep trying (gently) to teach him to calm down a bit.

SandpitDreams Thu 11-Aug-16 07:06:47

Ours barks with both ecxitement and fear depending on the sitimulus. Excitement has been easier to train. If on the lead meeting someone I shush her and stop her approach every time she barks. Only if she is quiet is she allowed to walk towards them.

SandpitDreams Thu 11-Aug-16 07:11:29

With fear I put myself in front of her (but this doesn't seem to work) so I am now tring giving her a 'job' to do - one of her tricks - spin, sit, touch.

I am also currently tring to teach a 'quiet' command.

Sequentialchoring Thu 11-Aug-16 19:04:08

Thanks Sandpit, will continue to try the "job" approach I think, am finding quiet command difficult! Timing has to be spot on and even with clicker I end up rewarding the barking by mistake!!

Sequentialchoring Thu 11-Aug-16 19:05:18

Not all the time btw, just occasionally but still...

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