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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Loud and clear

Please can anyone help?

I have two dogs who, while not being the most well trained dogs on the block, will come back when called and are fine around other dogs.

However I have recently gained a second hand Ray - too male to be a Rose - who was 18 months when I got him. He had never been allowed off a lead and had never been socialised with any other dog or many humans either. The excuse I was given was that his previous owners had taken him to a puppy socialisation class but he had been attacked by another dog so they never went back, and their answer was to not let him near other dogs, so now he thinks that all other dogs are frightening creatures that he must bark at to make them go away.

When I said I would be prepared to take him on I stressed it was subject to him getting on with my original two, and I agreed to meet on neutral territory and walk them all together to make sure they got on. However when the dog turned up - who has now been renamed Buddy - I was informed that this was the first time he had been in a car, this was all his stuff, good luck on the walk and they had to go.

It took us about three days before he stopped barking at the other two dogs indoors. Thank heavens for understanding neighbours. I called in a behaviourist who got us to join her class by at first walking him round the outside of the field that she was holding her training classes in and gradually moving him nearer until we were able to join the group, and he did calm down considerably but then she lost her training ground and gradually all Buddy’s old habits started creeping in.

After about three months I contacted another behaviourist who came out and walked Buddy with me and gave his recommendations, which were to take him to a park and let him 'bark it out' until he stops of his own accord and looks back at me and then to praise him. This trainer thought he would be bored of barking within two weeks. Unfortunately he never gets bored. I even enrolled him in a six week growl class which really doesn't seem to have done him much good back in the real world.

I now even have to take him out on his lead to go into the back garden as he barks out there. I still cannot walk him with my other two dogs and am at my wits end as to what I can do now with him.

Can anyone offer any help/suggestions?

Rebecca and Buddy, by email


  1. It sounds like you need to get in touch with a *qualified* behaviourist, who can give you specific exercises to work on, rather than saying "he'll bark it out" (ha!), or similar.

    I would suggest you contact one (or more) of the APBC members in your area for help

  2. Poor Buddy, to be so nervous that he has to try to keep other dogs at bay by barking.

    It may be worth trying to teach your dog to stop barking on command. The use of a clicker could be really helpful here. First of all do this at home when he barks. Wait until the barking stops and quickly click and treat. Really smelly yummy treats, such as pieces of hotdog or homemade livercake, or chicken. Once he realises that by stopping barking the click follows with a treat, then you can begin to add your cue word, such as 'quiet'. Continue to do this exercise then try taking it outside the house. Perhaps enlist the help of a friend with a quiet dog, but keep the other dog at a distance to start with and see how your dog copes with the click and treat method. If this does work, then the stooge dog can be brought a little closer and repeat the above methods. If this does work then drive to a quiet park or field and again enlisting the help of a friend and dog, repeat the click and treat method. Hopefully you will find that this will work, and by not flooding buddy with lots of other dog's that he can't cope with, you may eventually be able to introduce him or allow him to follow another dog.

    Another method that may work, is to teach Buddy to 'watch' you. Again use the click and treat method. Hold a treat in your hand and raise it up so that he looks at it, and click and treat. When he does this automatically, then add 'watch me' as the cue word. Take this outside into the garden and repeat, until he will happily watch on command. Then as before outside the house etc. If another unknown dog appears, turn your dog away from the other dog, by either walking away with your dog, or taking a few steps backwards, and ask him to watch you and reward if he does. Most dog's will stop barking when they are turned away and can't see the other dog. Try again by walking back the way you have just come, and if he barks repeat, and keep repeating until barking stops.

    You could also try Bach Flower Remedies, which can work on how your dog feels and support a recovery. Find a flower remedy practitioner for this. It may be worth the money for both of you. also look at what food you are feeding. Many complete foods with a lot of cereals can cause behaviour problems, so turning to a more natural method of feeding may help as well.


  3. What a shame the first behaviourist could not continue, it sounds like she was on the right track. Also a shame that the second behaviourist is quite legally allowed to give such bad advice. Do please find a qualified behaviourist such as APBC or COAPE. The key to improving Buddy's behaviour is positive reinforcement techniques. Buddy associates the presence of other dogs with a fear, and this can be a deep rooted behaviour which changes brain chemistry. A quallified behaviourist will look at his whole lifestyle and help you come up with a solution.