9 month pup barking at visitors

Discussion in 'Labrador behaviour' started by Nicola Thomas, Jun 11, 2019.

  1. Nicola Thomas

    Nicola Thomas Registered Users

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    Hi - just wondering if I can pick your experienced brains on the best way to deal with Brodie's newly discovered tendency to bark at visitors who come to the house. She is probably a little less confident than other labs I've met and over the months since she joined us has occasionally barked at the odd thing - children being the most common (which now seems to be improving thanks to my amazing dog walker and his very well behaved kids), but also people or things that are out of place - a runner using a bench to stretch, an unusual looking log or a bin in the middle of the beach, all being examples. Her attention can generally be re-gained through food and we successfully walked calmly past a load of school kids today with a lot of praise, biscuits and not a single bark, despite her interest in them.

    The problem I now have is that in the past fortnight she has started to bark at visitors to the house - not in an excitable jumping up and welcoming way, but pretty consistently, and it seems to becoming more common. The worst occasion has been when my son's girlfriend came round - Brodie started to bark after she came in and then continued throughout the evening whenever she saw her. She could be distracted by a kong or similar but would then go back to barking as soon as she saw the girl again and it seemed to be exasperated by the girlfriend being nervous and hiding behind my son. Brodie would get close enough to sniff her and then continue barking.

    Sending the girlfriend into a different room worked but isn't a long term practical solution if this is something Brodie continues with and expands to more guests. She has also barked at other visitors but they've been more confident with her and she has stopped relatively quickly. In addition to guests, last night she started to bark at a large mask we have on the wall - it's been there since she joined us at 2 months old but last night (and today) it has morphed into something to be feared. I took it down to show it to her and she had a good sniff and lick and I put it back - but she's repeated the barking a couple of times since.

    It tends to be me and Brodie in the house for most of the week as kids are grown up and husband works away, so I realise this could be down to a lack of repetitive socialisation. My problem now is how to best address it - I don't want the fearsome hound to put off the few visitors I do have!! Any advice would be very gratefully received - many thanks!
     
  2. Ski-Patroller

    Ski-Patroller Cooper, Terminally Cute Forum Supporter

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    Cooper is the most visual dog I have every had. The other day she was standing up on the front porch (She is 5' tall on her back legs) barking at the neighbors black plastic trash bag set out by their bins. I let her out and took her across the street so she could see what it was. Once she saw and smelled it up close she was fine.

    She reacts to dog on TV but not real dogs. I think it is because the dogs on TV have no smell so they seem strange to her. She is excited to meet people but calms down after she gets petted and gets to smell them.
     
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  3. J.D

    J.D Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    My fox red lab is quite nervous around people. It’s great when we are out walking as he just passes them by not wanting to be petted so no problems with him jumping up.
    He loves meeting and playing with other dogs but backs away if the owner tries to stroke him. Occasionally he will bark if they are too persistent but it is a “back off” not aggressive bark.
    People coming to the door is more of a problem as his bark is very loud and persistent. I put him behind a stair gate in view of the door and let him out if the visitor is coming in. Usually he has a good sniff then accepts them.
    I was at the point of seeing a behaviourist but unfortunately at 18months old Toby has cancer(see my other post) so our energies are focussed elsewhere.
    I would advise you get some one in to help with positive reinforcement sooner rather than later.
    All the best.
     
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  4. Nicola Thomas

    Nicola Thomas Registered Users

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    Thanks J.D - that sounds familiar, although she's a lot better out and about. I was umming and erring about getting some help but I think you're right - get some help before it gets too entrenched.

    I'm really sorry to hear about Toby - that's really tough. I haven't seen your post but I hope it all goes well.
     
  5. AlphaDog

    AlphaDog Registered Users

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    My lab barks when someone knocks on the door. It's fine IMO. He lets me know someone is here if I don't hear the knocker. Sure he's excited but once they come in and say hello he's fine. You know he's a dog.
     
  6. Jo Laurens

    Jo Laurens Registered Users

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    The 'bad' news is that this is likely going to be a personality trait which she has, and an issue you will need to keep in mind in an ongoing way through her life. The good news is that with a few adjustments, you can ensure life works for both you and her...

    One thing which will help, is not to have strange people come into the house whilst she is already in the house. By that I mean: If you want to have someone over, take the dog out of the house before you expect the person (or ask the person to phone you when they arrive but to remain in their car and then take the dog out). The visitor then walks towards the house, with you following behind - if they can be trusted to follow instructions and not to turn around and greet the dog. (Otherwise the visitor goes into the house whilst the dog is out of it, and sits down somewhere (less scary). Then the dog is brought inside - and preferably given a chance to sniff the visitor's car or sniff around the door and 'realise' there is a visitor before suddenly discovering them. Basically - the dog's experience should not be one where the stranger comes into their 'safe' space. The dog themselves should be the one to go into the space and find the stranger there.

    Often this is enough to reduce reactivity. After that, you can ask the visitor to throw treats with small underarm gestures, but not to tempt the dog to come closer to them with a treat (that puts the dog in a position of conflict because they want the treat but don't want to meet the visitor). Instead, they should throw treats almost behind the dog, so the dog actually goes further away to eat the treat. If the visitor can do this whilst totally ignoring the dog, even better.

    Away from the house, it might be good - if the person is going to be a frequent visitor - to show them how to do some training with the dog, if the dog is 'ok' with them away from the house.

    If you are having tradespeople come to the house, the best thing really is to shut the dog in another room with a loud radio on, and a Kong, and ask people not to go in there.

    Finally, it will help generally if you can set up an Adaptil diffuser in the room where she spends most of her time. There is also some research showing that products containing L-theonine are effective in reducing anxiety - there are now many on the market, Adaptil make a tablet and there is also MaxxiCalm - so if you are expecting someone, you could give her one of these a few hours before.

    Oh and really finally this time: It may suggest that she will also be fearful of things like vet care and anything that 'strangers' need to do to her, so it would be a good idea to invest time and effort in co-operative care training to ensure she is not stressed. Search for Laura Monaco-Torelli on YouTube for some of her excellent videos...
     

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