Boundary and Noise *Guarding*
This Includes fence, window, door and *funny noise* guarding and barking
This is something that has been massively on the increase as a problem in my telephone one to ones, and in my ‘inbox’ lately since Lockdown. Its usually been building up long before, but several factors have increased it lately in many many dogs.
- The good weather. The Lockdown. The fact that so many people are out and about on foot and bikes etc at the moment that would usually be passing in cars.
- The good weather meaning that many many back doors, conservatory doors etc are open, meaning that this habit CAN start, where as for months and months previously it was rain rain rain and doors were shut and bolted.
- The silence. Its so damn quiet nearly everywhere compared to normal, your dogs can literally hear a pin drop. ESPECIALLY an *unusual* pin as its a sound they wouldn’t usually hear masked in the hurly burly of the noise of life.
- The lack of actual visitors to your house.I’ll explain this one in the text.
- The hugely unusual amount of time that you are home, meaning that the dog gets a lot more practice at it than he usually would as hes not crated or confined hes all over the house and garden more than half the day, possibly longer – Therefore hes getting STACKS of opportunities to perfect his new hobby!
So lets start by explaining a bit that may not be easily understood by humans.
There are two MAIN plus points to your dog in barking and yelling and responding to every little noise, especially if it involves running at fences and windows and doors.
FIRSTLY there is a massive adrenaline kick to this. The nought to sixty moment as they scream down the garden, especially if more than one dog is involved, or the *throw themselves into an instant shit fit in the house* moment. Adrenaline junkie moments.
SECONDLY (and this is the main point) ….. Dogs think differently to humans.
Lets set a senario…a typical one….:
Dog is indoors, and *hears something that puts its flags up* , or worse still, maybe the binmen coming, or the postman….
Maybe someone walking past your house…. Maybe someone walking past your garden fence as its a footpath or a right of way of some sort…..
So the dog barks…. or runs and barks…. He will hit whatever barrier is there, be that a window, a door, or maybe your garden fence and stand and yell at that point.
And what happens? ….. The binmen go away. The postman goes away. The unusual noise stops. The people continue walking past your house and miraculously vanish!…… Why? BECAUSE THEY WERE GOING TO ANYWAY. But what does your DOG think? ….. His noise made them go. HE drove them along. He made whatever was making that noise in the night leave yoour household alone.
He thinks hes brilliant! He practically has a cape and his underpants outside his trousers he thinks hes such a protectional superhero!!
AND unfortunately, regardless of you, thinking hes a noisey barking, possibly embarassing, little knob, HE has a double win. He had a massive feed for his inner adrenaline junkie, AND he saw the bad guy/walker/wheely bin evil noise off!
Now the problem is, and obviously this is completely OBVIOUS to us humans…. WE know that he did nothing of the sort. The Bin men were going anyway. The Postman was going anyway. The passers by were just…..passing by…….
Do you see? So when you add the plus’s to the dog in doing it, AND the first factors of why it is massively on the increase *at the moment*, you see why you stamping to the dog, maybe pulling it away, yelling to shut up!….Or however you respond, is almost certainly worth the *other plus’s* the behaviour brings. Infact, its my solid belief that because our timing is so predictable…. dog starts to run at the fence…. or window or whatever…. barking…. we start yelling…. and I do believe a lot of dogs believe we are backing them up…. ALSO shouting at that *noise/walker/postman*.
So when you put all this together, you see why the dog does it?
So how do you improve/stop it?
Well the problem is, our current situation makes things difficult. We can only cover the silence if we put a bit of sound on in the house.
We NEED to break the habit FIRST. And I can absolutely promise you there is no magic word that will do that.
Yes you can punish it. Maybe take a bottle of stones, and instantly throw them hard at the dog as he is at the window/door etc. Thats one way certainly. But there are other things you can do…..
You need to stop allowing the dog access to the place he guards. Now ideally if hes a fence barker or a garden noise barker, he needs to be outside only to be functional for a while. The problem with human is we want answers but we generally, don’t want to change anything. We’d rather throw a bottle of stones at the dog rather than reduce or eliminate the opportunity.
Crating the dog at the time of day the binmen come (even though you are home which is a foreign idea to many). Being outside WITH the dog to have a leg stretch, and then either taking him back inside and shutting the door, or putting him on a lead to sit with you so you can control his actions. Never allowing him ‘peak postman’ time access to the front door, or the lounge window, helps SO much.
The defensive noise starts, if you are with the dog you can get him in a controlled way on the move, pushing him round slowly in circles, and it will stop. Praise him calmly. Yelling too will only increase his adrenaline (and as before, risk him thinking you are shouting ‘Go away Postie you bastard!’ too…..
Taking control of situations and being ABLE to by way of the dog being attached to you (even a longline) can help th running and barking adrenaline enormously. You can nip it immediately in the first three seconds in the bud.
Forcing yourself not to yell is hard. But it is generally a useful tool in this.
Changing bad habits like, in *normal times* allowing the dog to come to the door with you when visitors arrive is a massive bonus – He is always put in another room so he doesn’t get the ‘jump all over visitors adrenaline kick’…….
One of the big problems during this home/lockdown period is that we are getting SO few visitors who DO actually come in. REMEMBER the dog believes he drives people/noises etc AWAY by this behaviour. Therefore for the last month hes done it to EVERYONE as far as he can tell because noone has made it into your house/front door/garden. Hes been an absolute legend to HIM!!!
Another great way is to introduce a POSITIVE noise to the dog either as you see he is about to start OR has started…. And I like to use a little sqeaker, just a squeaker from the inside of a plastic dog toy, or you can buy a small easy to squeak actual dog toy…. Anything that makes a high pitched noise.
THEN you need to take a few (very nice!) days as far as the dogs concerned, *programming* the power into the squeak. So randomly at various points of the day, around the house, be ready with a good few nice bits of food (and I MEAN BE READY timing is important here!) and call the dog and squeak like mad (you can utilise children here!) and the second the dog gets to you, treat treat treat….. Then put the squeaker away, and do it again a bit later.
Make that noise absolutely fantastic for the dog…. Be it at dinner time you call him up for his food with it (and your voice in addition but you won’t need your voice for long….trust me on this!!)……. or just throough the day, eight ten times, dog is moouching about doing very little, you get food FIRST, then call and squeak, even if you hide, or go into another room etc etc, you don’t always need to be in sight…..
Then you can test it out. Have a household member do something outside, maybe shift the bins about, or walk past the window or knock at the door, or whatever the problem is….. (I appreciate using stoodge people is never as good as the real thing but its just a TEST) and when the dog would usually go to respond, or preferably, JUST BEFORE, squeak and call, even if theyve started barking…. and give that food food food.
Its useful to have multiple squeakers laying around garden and inside (where the dog can’t get them of course, this isn’t a toy and it is meant to be SMALL not a great big thing…..). Its useful for a while to have food in your pocket at all times incase you need to halt a frenzy.
This will not suit everyone, nor will it be able to cure it if your dog can easily get to your boundaries and you are miles away at the house. But if you allow that set up to continue you will NEVER crack this and yoou will have a habit for life.
So, firstly think about how to prevent this even if its inconvenient, which it probably will be if the weather goes back to being so nice…. Prevention is far far better than cure, but for times you can’t prevent, consider programming something so easy as a multiple loud squeak, to break through the adrenaline kick, to play on your average dogs greed.
Last thing. I hate to explain this to you but your dog is defending *IT and its territory* not YOU, your new baby, your mother in Law or its best little mate ‘Jimmy’… Don’t flatter yourself sadly, so if that gives you a reason to not feel secretly flattered, and get on and fix it constructively, then GOOD!
Diana Stevens April 2020