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Tess asks...

This question is about: Other

My puppy is very timid when it comes to people. He runs and hides in many locations around the house whenever anyone but myself is near him. We've never spoken in harsh tone around him or treated him poorly, What should I do to get him to stop hiding all the time?

G’day Tess,
We see this type of behavior from time to time and generally speaking, the humans frequently do not understand why their dog is acting this way. People often assume that the behavior is the result of abuse or maltreatment by humans at some stage in the dog’s development. While that may or may not be what happened, it is important to remember that there is nothing we can do to change history other than try to prevent a reoccurrence of whatever may have created the issue for the dog. In some cases, the dog may simply have been born with a timid temperament.

The challenge in working with a timid dog is the desire on the part of the humans to try to force the dog into accepting or overcoming fears the dog may not be prepared to experience. The harder the humans push, the more stress it creates for the dog.  A better approach may be lots of encouragement and praise when he shows interest in a guest and perhaps some tasty treats as a way to create a new association with visitors to help Mickey adjust to these new or uncomfortable experiences. Having your visitors or family members show no interest in him will allow him more time to become acclimated and feel less “threatened.”

A key component of our training focuses on the relationship between the dog and their humans. A balance of mutual trust and respect, as well as consistent and predictable behaviors from both parties, is required to help guide the dog into acceptable behaviors. Focusing on the emotions the dog is experiencing is less productive than focusing on the behavior. Giving the dog a safe place to be or to go when he becomes worried or stressed is more productive than trying to force him to face his fears immediately. As he becomes more comfortable with the experiences, you may be able to help him recognize that the experience need not be stressful but one he can enjoy.

Your local Bark Busters trainer is equipped with the skills to recognize various temperaments and provide the type of guidance to help your dog adjust to his surroundings.

Sandra in Florida asks...

This question is about: Recall or not coming when called

Sandra from Florida writes about Moola, her female 1.5-year-old toy poodle: "Moola loves both people and other dogs but when a person leans down to pet her she backs away after initiating the interaction. She doesn't find too much incentive in food. My problem...she does not come when called. I took her to a training class with other small puppies. She did very well, however she does not repeat the action once the leash is off and we are at home. I have tried enticing her with favorable treats but she comes within arm's length and stops. What do I do? We have had her since she was a small puppy and no one has ever hurt her so I don't understand her apprehension to come. What do I do?"

G’day Sandra,

Moola sounds like a sweet little girl who doesn’t quite yet understand what it is you are trying to teach her or that the people that want to pet her are her friends.

There could be a variety of reasons that Moola reacts the way she does. Let’s look at a couple. Because she is a rather small breed of dog, she may feel intimidated by the size difference between her and the people attempting to pet her. It also appears that she has an unpleasant association with coming when called, which could stem from her being picked up or grabbed as she came within arm’s length at some time in the past.

Enlist the help of some friends to visit, asking them to crouch down as low as they can when she initiates the interaction. Ask them to pet her gently under the chin, as this is seen as less “threatening” and more likely to be accepted as positive.

Until we are able to change her negative association with coming when called, continue using the leash to ensure she comes all the way to you, crouching and backing away to entice her in. Resist the temptation to reach out and grab her as she approaches, and tickle her under the chin when she comes in all the way, giving her lots of praise.

Good luck! If you need further assistance, please contact your local Bark Busters dog behavioral therapist.

Kaita in Ohio asks...

This question is about: Recall or not coming when called

This week's question comes to us from Kaita S. in Ohio. She has a 6-month-old German Shepherd named Zaycie. Kaita says: "Zaycie pretty much lived tied up on a tree and lonely for her first 6 months before I got her. My problem is that every time I walk up to her, it can be slowly or normal, she runs off. How do I get her to come to me when I call her or if I walk up to pet her she doesn't run away. Looking forward to your response thanks!"

G’day Kaita,

A dog not coming when called and not running away are two separate issues and can be the result of several root causes. The good news is that working on one can help remedy the other. When dogs run away from us as we approach, they are signaling that they are not comfortable with our approach. There can be several reasons why the dog is not comfortable with us approaching. Perhaps there has been a previous trauma when the dog was tied up, or she was never comfortable with humans approaching, or she was simply born fearful and distrusting. In any case, we need to help her overcome her fear and begin to build trust that you will not hurt her. It is preferable to allow a dog to approach us instead of us approaching the dog. Start with working on coming when called before taking on the task of overcoming her fear of people or yourself approaching her.

When asking a dog to come, we need to communicate in an inviting manner by using body language and voice tones that the dog does not perceive as threatening. Body language should be low (crouch down) and slightly side-on (less threatening) with little movement. Voice tone should be higher pitched and inviting. As humans, we often make this problem worse by attempting to catch our dogs or cornering them to get control and putting on a collar and/or attaching a leash. When we engage in activities like this, we often destroy trust and the result is a dog more determined to evade capture next time. The ensuing frustration creates more distrust and makes it more difficult to catch the dog the next time. Building trust in the relationship takes time; however, it can be destroyed very quickly, so it is important to be patient with your dog.  One strategy could be to introduce a high-value reward or food treat for coming by tossing small bits toward the dog to encourage her to move toward you. It is very important to allow Zaycie to come to you and not attempt to reach out and grab her prematurely. She needs to change her mindset to a positive association with coming to you. Once she begins coming for a high-value reward, the reward should be faded (diminished in quantity and frequency) and replaced by praise and affection.

If you need further assistance, please contact your local Bark Buster.

Julie asks...

This question is about: Toileting

Why is my dog peeing ( or marking his territory) in the house all of a sudden?

G’day Julie,
We sometimes need to put on our detective caps when dealing with a behavior that appears out of the blue—such as an adult dog suddenly starting to toilet in the house. 
Typically when your dog is exhibiting such a change in behavior, it means something has changed for him. It could be something in his environment: Is there construction going on in your home or nearby? Have you moved or changed where he eats, sleeps or plays? Do you have a new pet or family member, or has someone been unwell lately? Is the weather a factor? Has Brutus had any health concerns that would make him incapable of holding on to toilet outside? Has his exercise regimen changed? Have his eating habits changed?
Sometimes it is an obvious answer and easy to pinpoint what has changed for Brutus, but other times it can be something very subtle.
Once you have had him checked out medically by your veterinarian, look at what could be triggering this change. If you are unable to pinpoint any changes that could be a reason, it may be due to his lack of respect for the leadership in the house.
Your local Bark Busters trainer could help you figure out what has changed for Brutus and how to remedy the situation.

Wendy asks...

This question is about: Aggression to a dog or other animal or where the dog is aggressive to the owner or a stranger Barking at people, dogs, animals, birds or where the dog barks for attention or at the slightest noise

How can I stop my dog from barking profusely at certain dogs with an angry growl and how can I stop my dog from wanting to fight with certain dogs? Thanks

G’day Wendy,

Dogs, like us, operate in two modes when confronted with a situation in which they feel they are in danger: fight or flight. When your dog growls at other dogs, she is warning them to keep away. When this escalates to wanting to fight with them, it is because she feels she has no other option and she is operating out of fear. We need to change her mindset and let her know that not every encounter she has with certain dogs is a matter of life and death.

To do this, I would recommend that you first teach her to trust in you and your leadership; let her know that you won’t allow any harm to come her way. The most effective way to do this is to train her.

Once she has that level of respect and trust in you and your leadership, you can then work on exposing her to other dogs in a controlled environment. One of the simplest ways to do this is to start by walking her past other dogs that are in the dog park, separated from her by a fence. It is best to do this when it is quiet and perhaps there are only one or two dogs present. As she becomes accustomed to walking past the other dogs and realizes that they are not a threat and can’t do her any harm, you can gradually bring her closer to the fence so she can greet the other dogs—in a safe and controlled environment.

Please contact your local Bark Busters trainer for more information and to assist with your training.

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