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Barking at the backdoor and in the garden in the evenings

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by kahvi, Jan 10, 2021.


  1. kahvi

    kahvi PetForums Junior

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    Nuka (4 month old cocker spaniel) has recently started barking a lot more in the evenings. She barks at the back door and when we're in the garden she just barks in all directions. She starts by rushing out of the door and throwing her head back and barking, and then she just keeps barking. I'm worried about how much she works herself up when she gets like this and I really don't want it to become a habit.

    I can't tell what's triggering the barking because I can't hear anything. When the neighbours are in the garden or there's music or other dogs barking etc I give her a treat every time she lifts her head or pricks her ears and doesn't bark, to try to reinforce that idea that we can acknowledge these sounds without reacting to them.

    In the evening though, as far as I know, it's all quiet. Her recall still works in these situations so I often try to recall her to me when this is happening, so that when she hears whatever is triggering her she can come to me instead, but she gets set off again so quickly and will just return to stand in front of the back door and bark.

    Unfortunately, because our house is small, we don't have any rooms that don't face the back garden. I can put her in the lounge so that she's not in the same room as the back door, but I'm worried about moving her in there early in the evenings. The lounge shares a wall with the neighbours' kitchen and it's not very sound proof, so she often pricks her ears or lifts her head when they're in there. Also, we're currently all sleeping in the lounge (until we get the carpets redone upstairs, then she'll be sleeping upstairs with us) and I'm worried that if we spend our evenings in the lounge it'll stop being a 'calm room', which it currently seems to be. Should we just hang out in the lounge in the evenings because she's more calm in there or will I risk that room losing its magic effect if we start hanging out in there while she's like this?

    She's not like this during the daytime even when there are sounds outside, so I'm really struggling to get to the bottom of what's causing it. When she's like this she doesn't rest or settle down so I feel like she also just gets overtired, which doesn't help. The only thing that breaks her out of her routine is if one of us takes her to bed and lies on the mattress next to her. Yesterday and today this meant I went to bed with her at 7pm, which is fine, just I don't know if it's the answer to stopping her barking at the door and at the night.

    If anybody has any tips or advice I'd really appreciate it! I'm trying not to get stressed out when she gets like this but I'm running out of ideas. Classic FM and Kongs work as long as the Kongs are full but when she finishes with them she goes straight back into bark mode. I've ordered some nice chews so hoping they might help keep her occupied and settled but we'll see.

    Sorry for the long post! Just feeling a bit stuck with this :(
     
    #1 kahvi, Jan 10, 2021
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2021
  2. Torin.

    Torin. PetForums VIP

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    So I would suspect that a big part of the problem is that you're actually not helping with this reward pattern. Although you are rewarding her only when she doesn't bark, by giving a food reward you're telling her 'please let me know when there is a sound, doing this pays in food', so essentially saying 'yes, be hypervigilant, this is what I want'. It's a very tricky line to balance to say 'be hypervigilant, alert me to these noises without making a noise yourself'.

    It's far far more efficient and effective to instead train for 'the outside world isn't important, please relax and ignore outside stuff whatever'.

    For teaching relaxing and ignoring stuff going on (whether sounds or smells, since you're not sure with your human senses, I wouldn't assume either way), I like Dr Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol. You're teaching the dog to ignore other stuff going on, and that they're paid for being calm and settled whatever's going on in the environment. Over time this translates to ignoring the stuff happening.
    This is a good explanation of it: https://journeydogtraining.com/karen-overalls-relaxation-protocol/
    And this is the step-by-step (also linked on the above): https://journeydogtraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/ProtocolforRelaxation.pdf

    Then, at other times, randomly reward her when she's relaxed and quiet NOT tied to the hypervigilance. Use your body language and voice to calmly distract/ redirect her when she barks, or becomes alert. Using Kongs and chews and such can really work and in a relaxed dog many will have a snooze after finishing them. But at present she knows she can get more food if she's alert to whatever's setting her off ;)

    (edited to fix typo)
     
    #2 Torin., Jan 12, 2021
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2021
    kahvi, Sarah H, Nicola234 and 3 others like this.
  3. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

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    Take her outside on the lead so you have more control.

    If she barks, tell her “that’s enough” and ask for a different action - a few steps of “heel” or “sit” or something to redirect her and create a positive behaviour that you can reward instead. It doesn’t have to be a treat ... a neck rub or chest scratch is just as good.
     
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  4. Torin.

    Torin. PetForums VIP

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    Oh yes. To clarify when I say "reward" I don't mean "food". I mean "anything your dog finds rewarding" - what this is will depend on the individual dog. Although I would caution against the reward being something very active and creating adrenaline in this situation, as that is also the opposite for the nice calm dog you're wanting and will make it much harder for her!
     
    kahvi likes this.
  5. Blitz

    Blitz PetForums VIP

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    If she is ok in the day is she just barking for the fun of it just as most puppies have zoomies and a very active period in the evening. How about playing with her to let her use that excess energy quietely
     
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  6. kahvi

    kahvi PetForums Junior

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    Thanks for your advice! I think my idea with rewarding her for not barking came from a thing I read about 'clicking the trigger', but because I can't hear the trigger I'd reward her when she indicated that she'd heard it. I think I was a bit misguided trying to apply that to this situation - I see what you mean about it being a fine line to balance and I think I was definitely asking her do something too tricky and specific that didn't help her remain calm.

    Thanks for linking the Protocol for Relaxtion - I'll start working on that tomorrow :)

    I do reward her throughout the day for calm behaviour, but I think perhaps I've been failing to do this enough throughout the evening because I often take it as a time to relax and read a book or watch telly.

    I'm also trying to pay more attention to my own body language (I've recently started reading Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas) and I've ordered some nice chews that I'm hoping will be rewarding in a different way than food!


    I hadn't thought about taking her out into the garden on a lead but I'll definitely try this! She's often much more focused on me when she's on a lead so this sounds like a great idea (don't know why it didn't occur to me)


    I tried this last night actually and she did much better! Every time her attention was drawn to the door I was able to bring her back to our games. I also took her on her evening walk earlier this evening and now we're chilling and playing with toys - she hasn't shown any concern for the door tonight at all :D (touch wood)
     
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