Are You The Cause Of Your Dog’s Bark­ing Prob­lem?

What to do if you find you are at the root of your dog’s alarm bark­ing

Modern Dog - - NEWS - BY TEOTI AN­DER­SON

What to do if you sus­pect you are at the root of your pup’s alarm bark­ing.

Q: My Minia­ture Poo­dle Daisy barks when any­one—in­clud­ing my hus­band—en­ters our home, but only when I'm at home. Ev­ery­one can come and go without four-alarm bark­ing from Daisy so long as I'm out. What gives and how do I fix this?

A: By all ac­counts from your fam­ily and friends, your dog is an an­gel. She lets the clean­ing lady in the house without a peep. The de­liv­ery guy drops pack­ages at your door and never hears a sound of protest. The yard main­te­nance team mows the lawn and hacks away at your shrub­bery while your dog mon­i­tors the progress in stal­wart si­lence. Un­til you come home. Then your silent hound turns ex­tremely vo­cal. Ev­ery ar­rival is met with a deaf­en­ing round of bark­ing. Your hus­band can’t even walk in the door without your dog sig­nalling alarm.

Why does your dog bark only when you’re around? Are you caus­ing the prob­lem? Prob­a­bly.

Ouch. If your dog is only ex­hibit­ing a be­hav­iour when you’re present then you need to look in the mir­ror to find the cause. Rec­og­niz­ing you’re the prob­lem isn’t al­ways a fun re­al­iza­tion but without fac­ing the root cause—in this case, you—you won’t be able to find a so­lu­tion.

Dogs who alarm bark only when the owner is present can be ter­ri­to­rial and pro­tec­tive of those own­ers. Some dogs go fur­ther than bark­ing. They will growl, snap or even bite. Your sweet fluff­ball snug­gling next to you in bed turns into a growl­ing men­ace when your spouse or sig­nif­i­cant other tries to join you. Your dog is next to you on the couch, and snaps at your friend who tries to give you a hello hug. What gives? Your dog is telling the other per­son to back off.

Deep down in­side, if you re­ally take a hard look at your­self, don’t you find this rather flat­ter­ing? It’s hard to ad­mit but most peo­ple get a lit­tle kick when their dog “de­fends” them in this man­ner. Even when it’s a tiny Mal­tese, you get a chuckle at her fierce de­vo­tion to you— there’s so much love that she would ap­point her­self your per­sonal guard. This is part of the prob­lem. You like it. And your dog knows this. Dogs are ex­tremely per­cep­tive. And if you’re pleased, you’re re­ward­ing the be­hav­iour. Your dog can sense that you are happy with her ac­tions.

So, one of the first things you need to do is stop

act­ing so flat­tered when it hap­pens. Let your dog know that it does not make you happy. If your dog is on the couch and snaps at some­one who comes near you, make her get off the couch im­me­di­ately. If she’s on the bed and growls, she loses bed priv­i­leges.

This typ­i­cally isn’t enough to fix the prob­lem. You’ll need to add some counter con­di­tion­ing, teach­ing your dog that when peo­ple come near you, it’s a good thing rather than some­thing to be wor­ried and up­set about.

Set up some train­ing sce­nar­ios. Ev­ery time your honey hugs you, give your dog a treat. Ev­ery time your friend hugs you, give your dog a treat. Ev­ery time the de­liv­ery ser­vice brings your food to the door, give your dog a treat. She’s go­ing to start as­so­ci­at­ing peo­ple com­ing near you as op­por­tu­ni­ties for de­li­cious treats, rather than cause for alarm.

When you can’t pre­dict some­one is com­ing over and a guest’s ar­rival causes your dog to erupt in a frenzy of bark­ing, you can still be as pre­pared as pos­si­ble. Keep treats near the door. Be­fore let­ting the per­son in, put your dog on leash if she is also likely to bark and lunge at them. Tether your dog to a sturdy piece of fur­ni­ture, or if your house lay­out al­lows it, put her be­hind a baby gate. Take your time and set your dog up for suc­cess—your guest can wait an ex­tra minute. When your dog looks at the guest, toss her a treat. With time and prac­tice, your dog will learn to an­tic­i­pate that guests mean treats, and the bark­ing will lessen. For times when you sim­ply can’t use a guest’s ar­rival as an op­por­tu­nity to train your dog, then just put her out of sight. You can put her in a bed­room or crate with a stuffed food toy. This is man­ag­ing the is­sue, not fix­ing it, but it’s bet­ter than let­ting her prac­tice bad be­hav­iour.

Keep in mind, the longer your dog has been prac­tic­ing bark­ing at oth­ers who ap­proach you, the longer it may take to fix it. If it’s a new prob­lem, you want to work on fix­ing it right away be­fore it gets worse. Often what hap­pens is that the dog prac­tices the be­hav­iour for a long time, and fi­nally some­thing hap­pens to make you re­al­ize you re­ally need to fix this. She may fi­nally bite some­one. Or, you may have been sin­gle and are now with a re­ally spe­cial per­son, and you re­al­ize your dog needs to learn to share.

It can be hard to re­al­ize we’re the root of our dog’s prob­lem, but there’s a cer­tain amount of em­pow­er­ment in that as well. If the prob­lem is you, you can work to fix it! Let your dog be a lov­ing com­pan­ion, not an alarm wait­ing to launch. Ev­ery­one in your life will ap­pre­ci­ate shar­ing you.

Teoti An­der­son, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, is a pro­fes­sional dog trainer and au­thor of The Dog Be­hav­ior Prob­lem Solver, Ul­ti­mate Guide to Dog

Train­ing, Puppy Care and Train­ing, and more. She hosts the Get Pawsi­tive Re­sults ra­dio show on Pet Life Ra­dio and ed­u­cates pet par­ents and other train­ers on ca­nine be­hav­iour through pop­u­lar we­bi­nars and work­shops.

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