At my wits end - barking

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Gem
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At my wits end - barking

Post by Gem » 06 May 2011, 13:42

Today has just finally cracked me. I don't know why but I feel really worn down today over Zooey's barking. We are booked in to have a behaviourist come out to us to try and help but I just feel so down about it all. I live in darkness because I can't open the curtains or Zooey will bark at everything she see's, even if a car parks out the front she will bark for half an hour once the car has been left parked. I can't leave the back doors open in the nice weather because she will hear a sound, anything, the wind blowing in the trees sometimes and bark. I feel like a prisoner in my own home! The only time she is quiet is when she is sleeping, subsequently walks aren't fun anymore they are just a means to get her tired so she will sleep more!

We are also still having problems with her diet and allergies. She wont eat a purely dry food and she keeps being sick because she doesn't eat enough and gets acid reflux so we have to add a hypo-allergenic wet food to keep her eating but she doesn't like them so doesn't eat. We are only meant to be using her hypo allergenic food for training but again she won't eat them so training is going backwards, she is becoming a real pest, ignoring all commands and just generally acting like she owns the place. I don't want to give in on her strict allergy diet so we can get some blood work done, as she is suffering, with inflamed eyes, ears and nose, and incredibly itchy feet so I have to get to the bottom of this, but I don't know how much longer I can deal with a puppy that won't participate in training or listen to me!

It's a cliche but I love my girl but I don't like her very much right now. :cry:
Gemma and Zooey
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Liz!
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Re: At my wits end - barking

Post by Liz! » 06 May 2011, 14:20

Gem, how terrible for you, I really feel for you this as barking drives me mad too.

What is in the hypo-allergenic food? Could you give her real food instead for treats? ie if the food is chicken could you give her plain roast chicken bits as treats, or little bits of salmon, or white fish etc? Lola will do ANYTHING for real, plain chicken, which I'd have thought was quite boring.

Who is over-seeing the food issue? Can you phone them up, explain the problems with the barking and the treat issue and say how upset you are and ask if there is anything else at all you can treat her with?

The barking does not seem normal. i know she isn't scared in any way like the dogs on the other thread, but have you had her eyesight checked?

I really hope you can get some real help soon. ((((((((((((Gem))))))))))))
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Liz!
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Re: At my wits end - barking

Post by Liz! » 06 May 2011, 14:27

Oh.. forgot to say, can you treat her with attention? ie with a squeaky ball game? And use a clicker so she is getting the praise at exactly the right time? Or would that, too, make her bark?

I have found with the alert work, that quite often I am doing the right thing, but not completely or intensively or enough or at exactly the right time or in exactly the best way. When I've spoken with my own trainer or the charity trainer I find that they give advice which if taken DOES improve things even tho I didn't think it would.

One thing I've had to do over the last two days and have to do for 4 weeks is a diary of exactly what lola does to alert and how often she alerts. I was thinking it was twice a day, but yesterday she alerted 5 times, and even now I can't recall those 5 times without looking at the diary.

I think it would be a very good idea for you to make a diary of every time Zooey barks, have it on your person with a pen at all times and note all the variables, it will save a lot of time when your trainer gets there in working out just what the problem is.
Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read ~ Groucho Marx

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Gem
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Re: At my wits end - barking

Post by Gem » 06 May 2011, 14:58

Hi Liz,

Thank you for your reply, it's amazing the feeling of relief that you get when someone reaches out to try and help you.

I am indeed keeping a Zooey diary, I've kept one for quite a while, trying to work out what has triggered her barking, being sick, and her breathing problems. At the moment the barking issues and the allergy issues are being treated as two separate things but the vet did suggest that they may be tied somehow.

Her diet is being monitored by our vets, she is on a completely hydrolysed protein allergy diet, as we are trying to eliminate anything that may trigger a reaction, this means that we can't give her any real meat at all even tiny pieces. Zooey suffers breathing problems, symptoms similar to kennel cough when she reacts badly, she struggles to get her breath and is very wheezy so its important we stick to a strict diet to get to the bottom of it.

As for other forms of rewards. She loves her squeaky ball and squash ball but it is difficult to train with them as once she has them she isn't very good at giving them back and that in itself becomes a game to get the ball back from her and then training is lost. We do try most evenings to do some basic obedience such as sit and wait before she is allowed to pounce on her ball, we keep them away so she doesn't have free access to them all day.

The vets initial thought about Zooey's barking is her relationship with me or Stoff, her pack basically. She said she was no behaviourist expert but as Zooey was doing her best barking at our last appointment yesterday we talked about her behaviour. Zooey doesn't show fear as such when she is barking, and it isn't related to her "home", but it seems to be associated with protection of her pack, i.e. me most of the time, as I'm the one at home with her. So I think the behaviourist is going to have to modify both Zooey's behaviour and mine equally as I'm aware that I may well be making the problem worse - I'm preparing myself to hear it already.

Stoff and I are just at a lose end, neither of us have experience of anything close to this level of barking and nervousness of new people before. It has made us realise that all our previous dogs within our families have been very well balanced and Zooey is just that bit more high maintenance. Another thing that we have considered is that we didn't pick her up till she was about 12 weeks as we were away on holiday and maybe we missed some vital early socialisation, although we did lots with her as soon as we got her. She doesn't display nervous behaviour at new situations, in fact she can deal with pretty much anything, thunder storms, a helicopter ambulance landing in the field we were in and taking off again - no fear, shaking or barking at all. But is incredibly nervous of new people.

I've rambled lots now, just thinking out loud/typing. I really hope the behaviourist can help us as it's so hard not to get frustrated with her and it's tiring me out not letting her see me frustrated. I don't want her to pick up on my moods as Im sure it will make it worse. Often when Stoff gets home from work he has to take her out for a walk alone so I can have some space and often cry, just to get it out my system. The last thing I ever want is for Zooey to not feel settled or loved - I'm probably just far too soft!!
Gemma and Zooey
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michala

Re: At my wits end - barking

Post by michala » 06 May 2011, 15:04

i know this may be a little controversial and i think Zooey may be past this stage now but one of mine (Petal) was driving me potty with her barking at minor noises etc whilst in the garden so for two weeks i kept a small cup of water by the door and when she barked i threw it over her, every single time. sometimes i barely had time to refil the cup. She is so much better only barking occasionally at unusual things. Also on the beach my other dog (Pixie) barked at everyone going i used a water pistol for her sometimes just pretending and making the noise of it squirting - eventually i only had to reach for it and she would quieten.

Keep your chin up - you will get there owners need a dogged reserve sometimes lol
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xxLouxx
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Re: At my wits end - barking

Post by xxLouxx » 06 May 2011, 15:09

As a totally inexperienced, not yet puppy owner, I am unable to give any advice however I'm sure that many of the experienced doodle owners will be along to offer some form of support and help... Sending you lots of strong hugs tho...(((((())))))))
Lou x

Nimitor
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Re: At my wits end - barking

Post by Nimitor » 06 May 2011, 15:16

Do you have a cage/crate for Zooey? Wes sleeps in one at night, I cover it with a blanket and he stays quiet all night.During the day he wanders in and out of it quite happily.Perhaps if you had a cage for her you could cover it so that she is in the dark.It must be depressing for you sitting in the dark, at least if she went in her cage you could have a few breaks during the day.I hope you can get proper help soon, she is such a gorgeous girl and you obviously love her very much..
Good luck xx
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Leah
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Re: At my wits end - barking

Post by Leah » 06 May 2011, 15:33

I live in a very busy street in the city and there are loads of noises so I have been very strict with barking from the start. I allow Monty to bark if someone comes to the door etc but I always go to him, put my hand over his muzzle (just gently) and say "OK", he'll stop and just wag his tail. I think it's natural for a dog to alert his pack to approaching people or unusual noises and I find if I let him know he I've heard him and act calmly and firmly he stops.

He also went through a phase of standing on the sofa in the window and barking at any passing dogs, noisy groups of people or anything interesting. I was very strict with him and would stand between him and the window and walk into him so he had to back away, saying "OK" firmly while giving him"the look"! Maybe Zoe needs to know that YOU are in charge of the window and door and it isn't her "job" to protect anyone.

Friends have a very vocal spaniel and solved the barking problem by teaching it to "speak", encouraging it to bark on command, then teaching "enough" as a command to stop. I seem to remember it took a couple of weeks but she is much better now.

Good luck, and try not to despair - hopefully it's just a phase and the trainer will be of help

Leah

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Liz!
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Re: At my wits end - barking

Post by Liz! » 06 May 2011, 15:42

Gosh. It seems to me you are doing your very best.

I was just out in the garden and lola was beside me and I was ticking her tum, and the cat came out. I'm pretty sure I didn't stiffen but Lola leapt up (cat was way, away) and raced after her. She must have felt the cat through me as the cat was lying down, and when I touched her inside, where she fled, hot, so she must have been there for some time before I noticed.

I wondered then whether your distress at her barking, which must get through to her as they are very aware of us, levels of stress - hormone levels changing, breathing patterns, changes in your voice, way we are standing, muscle tone etc. Zooey HAS to be picking up on this, and may, now, be picking up your please stop barking vibes, even silently held, as she starts barking, and mistake them for worry over what she is 'protecting' you from.

It also seems similar to the OCd behaviour shown on Victoria Stillwell. Did you see that? A dog became fixated on patterns of light and the windows, and if it noticed them, it repetitively licked the light patches and follwed them, almost in a trance, and left smears all over the windows s it just couldn't get out of the cycle of licking.

VS dealt with this by following the dog, instigating the behaviour and then distracting the dog out of its licking with a sharp, high noise to get its attention, even banging a saucepan lid. Banging a lid might scare her and make her bark more, I wonder if you could introduce something like a whistle, which you whistle, softly before she is given her food? ie give it a good, or as good as possible (given she hates her food!!) association, and then whistle when she starts barking to distract her, and give her the toy or whatever she would like then?

The Guide dog association picks up their dogs fairly early and they are taken round in carriers to expose them to as many different people as possible and that's what we did with lola. We bought a small carrier, but you COULD try buying a large one and putting her in it, so she is close to you and safe, and taking her round to meet as many different people as possible in safety. In an ideal world she'd have lovely treats to be given when meeting them, but when you know what she's allergic to, you could try this...

just read the above as tried to post and remember reading about this and agree that it is possible that she thinks she is pack leader, and so must protect you, and therefore you would have to go to huge lengths to check you go thru doors first, eat first, not allow her on your lap, never, ever let her as for anything and get it, wait a bit and then give it to her unless it's going to the loo... dogs who are in the role of top dog can become madly worried and barky
so that could fit!!
Anyway, wishing you loads of luck, she is so gorgeous and I'm willing to bet you get it sorted.
Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read ~ Groucho Marx

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groover
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Re: At my wits end - barking

Post by groover » 06 May 2011, 16:11

So sorry to hear your having these problems with your girl.

It must be very distressing.
I think your wise to seek the advice of a behaviourist. Aversion techniques are fine so long as they are introduced by a behaviourist following contact and assessment of your girl. Although some of these techniques work wonders on some dogs, they can make some much worse if the behaviour is based on anxiety or fear. That's why assessment is essential before any drastic action is taken.
Also want to say I think your doing great trying to cope with this very stressful problem. Its not easy when things get to this extreme. She's a lucky girl to have such a great mum.
big ((((((hug))))))) and hope you get some answers very soon

xxx
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Bid
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Re: At my wits end - barking

Post by Bid » 06 May 2011, 16:30

Poor Zooey, and poor you. I agree that a behaviourist is the best way forward as she will have the best ideas about sorting out the reason for the barking.

Regardless of the cause, it can help to teach the "quiet" command. Most dogs have a set sequence to their barks, and eventually they tail off before the next thing fires them up. If it is possible to anticipate when the pause is going to be, you can sometimes get in a "quiet" command and reinforce it with a game of tug or similar.

If you had a ball on a rope and tied it to a long line or a tug toy attached to a line you might be able to start playing the games with Zooey again, and still have some control over the toy - that way she can't turn it into a game of chse, which is what they would all like best, but which is usually bad news from our point of view, as we can never win!

Zooey sounds like she has a touch of the Daisy's about her - clever, willful, and very special! (Daisy is a sweetheart 99% of the time now, but boy was she a challenge in her youth!)
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Gem
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Re: At my wits end - barking

Post by Gem » 06 May 2011, 16:37

Thank you all so much for your kind words of support, it is a real boost that I so desperately needed.

I do love her to bits, but it has really got to the point where I can't take anymore. I do think it may all be tied in with her trying to assert her dominance over the "pack". Her behaviour has gone steadily down hill as the barking has increased and the food problems mixed in, meaning lack of desirable treats and so less efficient training has definitely contributed to the situation we now find ourselves in.

We have tried various suggestions that have been made, and all great ideas - but we have not been willing to try some of the more extreme measures without further guidance, I really feel we now need to find out what is causing the behaviour before going any further - the last thing I want to do is make it worse.

We tried completely ignoring her, unfortunately living in a built up area this technique was given the least amount of time to see if it worked out of respect for our neighbours.

We have tried a stern no, each time she barks.

We have tried distraction techniques - calling her away from it, telling her to sit and fussing her.

We have tried going over to her, acknowledging the bark, saying OK, and then walking away.

We have tried blocking her view of whatever she has fixated on but she will push past and wriggle like mad if you hold her trying to see it again!

It is definitely time for professional help - I just need to try and keep my spirits up until we can get this sorted and not let it detract from all the good times and wonderful moments we share. Who ever said puppies make you broody - they were wrong, if trying to raise children is half as stressful as trying to train a puppy then it's still too much - I've been put off for life!

Oh Bid - she most definitely has the Daisys about her, such a sweetie, so loving, far too clever and so sure of her own mind - an absolute rotter sometimes!!
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Re: At my wits end - barking

Post by Bid » 06 May 2011, 16:45

Gem wrote:
Oh Bid - she most definitely has the Daisys about her, such a sweetie, so loving, far too clever and so sure of her own mind - an absolute rotter sometimes!!
Yep - that's it - exactly! :lol:
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Beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity, and all the virtues of man without his vices - Byron

JacquiandTeddy
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Re: At my wits end - barking

Post by JacquiandTeddy » 06 May 2011, 17:00

You poor thing, that sounds so frustrating for you, no wonder you're at your wits end. You have clearly tried lots of sensible things so I think going to a behaviourist is the best way forward now.

Teddy is also a highly reactive dog but thankfully not as bad as he was. However, barking is still an issue - especially now when the windows are open and he hears and barks at every sound outside. What I was advised to do was to measure out his food for the day (now, I know that might be difficult for you with the food allergies) and make Teddy work for it throughout the day. This keeps his focus on me and less on what is going on elsewhere. If he is lying quietly I drop a piece of kibble somewhere so he has to get up to get it. If he starts demanding it (or of course barking at anything) or walking round me etc no more rewards come, but if he lies down again a reward comes - so that he gets the idea that I want him to lie down and relax, and also so his focus is much more on me than on the noises all around. For a while I was doing this consistently and it really made a difference (although it was hard work it was worth it) but then I let it all slip and now he's barking like mad again - so I have to go back to basics with him again and try to stick with it. Having said that, he is definitely not anything like as bad as he was before, so he has learnt to relax a bit.

Your behaviourist may suggest something like this regime, depending on what they think is causing such highly reactive behaviour. Do keep going though - it will get better once you get going with whatever plan of action they suggest.
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poodledoodleted
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Re: At my wits end - barking

Post by poodledoodleted » 06 May 2011, 17:11

Hi Gem, Don't get too disheartened I swear they all turn into devils at one point or another - Ted is in his devil stage and we are working with a trainer and he is getting better - thankfully he doesn't bark though as I did teach him to speak on command and this does work - so possibly something you could try before the trainer arrives.

When she is in mad barky phase just say "speak" in your normal voice and then in a happy voice - Zoooey yes blah blah - and do this a few times. Then when there is a lull in the bark say "Quiet" in a stern voice (give an arm signal as well as it helps if they can't hear you over their barking) and praise madly when she does :D

Also, I'd just say don't get too hung up on not giving any juicy treats. Ted became really annoying at one point and would not do anything for me unless I had the best treats on offer - so I put all his treats away - liver cake THE LOT - and told him he was never having another one. :lol: So I set about training again (with a clicker though) and only used my voice to praise - and now when I sometimes get the treats out his brilliant but will still work without them. Don't let Zooey tell you when she will work for you - you are the boss and as long as you think you are the rest should fall in to place. If in your mind you think Zooey wont "sit" without a treat - then she probably wont as she will sense it.

Also... It might be worth a look at the ingredients of the food the vet has put zooey on - most dogs have allergys to grains and some speacial allergy diets still have these in :? Our older dog suffers terribly with allergies in the form of biting her legs, scratching her eyes and crying in pain - the Vet prescribed a Hills diet (Z/D I think) and it did nothing as it turns out MAIZE was the main ingredient - and she is intolerant to it :twisted: Among other things. However, your vet will know best - but always something to discuss with them.

Hope you feel better soon - lots of hugs! ((((())))))

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