Thursday, 26 April 2012

But surely, people like to hear me bark?

This is so humiliating.

Gail has told me I have to hand over my blog to her today, 'cos she wants to consult my readers on a 'behavioural question'. At first I thought fine, as she does exhibit several behaviours that could be considered questionable. But then it turns out that it is my behaviour that is at issue, and that treats will be withheld unless I comply with her 'request'....

Thank you Bertie!

Readers, I know that many of you are more experienced dog owners than I am, and I'm wondering if you have any helpful suggestions to deal with a specific, irritating trait of Bertie's that I have so far had no success in modifying.

Although wire-haired fox terriers are known as enthusiastic barkers, in most circumstances - in the house, at night, out on walks, in the car - Bertie is a relatively quiet dog. There is one notable exception to this. Whenever Bertie runs out unsupervised into my back garden, he barks his little head off. Often the barking is triggered by hearing another neighbourhood dog, but sometimes it seems he is trying to initiate the conversation. Once started, he will not stop unless I intervene. I have tried (for as long as I can stand) leaving him to wear himself out. I have tried telling him "NO BARKING" in my most severe voice. I have tried bringing him inside and 'sin binning' him in my downstairs toilet for quarter of an hour as soon as he starts up (a tactic which worked a treat with other annoying puppyish behaviours like persistent ankle chewing...) I have tried rushing out with a reward on the rare occasions when he goes into the garden and remains silent for a few minutes. But he will not learn.

I have a 'dog flap' in my back door. When my old Westie, Hamish, lived here, I would allow him access to the garden through the flap as and when he wished, which was especially useful if I was out for long periods. With all the barking, I don't feel I can use this system for Bertie, if I want to remain on good terms with my neighbours. 

For the past two years, since Bertie arrived on the scene, I have been working mostly at home, but next week I start a new office-based job, initially two days a week, then, from August onwards, four days a week. Fortunately the main office is only a ten minute walk from home (or a five minute bike ride), so I shall often be able to nip back at lunchtime, and when this isn't possible I can arrange for Bertie to be taken out. But, obviously, it would be handy for me, and better for Bertie, if he could run in and out of the garden as he pleases while I am away at work. 

One more perhaps relevant detail. My inner city garden is enclosed by 4ft granite wall, which Bertie cannot see over. 

Anyway, I'd be delighted to hear any ideas on how I might persuade Bertie to break this barking habit and use the garden quietly. Bertie has never, to date, shown signs of separation anxieties, and overall seems a happy, confident wee chap, so I am optimistic that he will generally cope OK with not seeing quite so much of me. 



  1. When you get all those answers we may need some for my big mouth Lily
    Benny & Lily

  2. Well....JAzzi is also pretty quiet inside as far as barking goes. She did growl alot when her and Addy were playing. We have a fenced in area to the side of our house and also have a door for her to go in and out of. She will get out there and run around crazy barking!! I thinks she likes to hear herself bark!! I too cant let it go on because it will drive the neighbors bonkers. I usually have to bring her in and scold her. But sometimes she will go outside and you will never hear a peep out of her, go figure!! So I would like to know how to stop the barking also. :-)


  3. Sashy is an outside barker as well. I am sorry I can't help, but I will be coming back to read suggestions from other doggy bloggers. Good luck.

    Anne and Sasha

  4. Good luck. There must be a solution . We just haven't found it .

  5. We can't help. We charge out and bark, but that's just a warning that we're on the job. Then we bark when animals or people are around. But we do stop when we're told to.

    Good luck with Bertie. There has to be a way that doesn't involve shock collars and stuff.

    XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

  6. Just a thought... Is he any different if you take him into the garden on his lead and them let him off after a few minutes? It sounds a bit like a territory thing, I wonder if there is anyway of stopping him seeing the garden as exclusively his? Deccy's Mum x

  7. Hi Gail,

    Firstly...I understand! 'King Toffee' is Bertie's clone.

    I have a few suggestions, but they are by no means 'professional'. Terriers seem to be general barkers and may need advise from 'Terrier' people.

    Here in SA, we all have high walls and barking is even worse with neighbourhood dogs who are left home all day. Some dogs bark because they can't see outside their yard, whilst others bark continuously at passers-by (Particularly the small, terrier dogs).

    Here are my suggestions (although I am not certain about their effectiveness, but they have helped marginally in King Toffee's case):

    1. You may perhaps have to try and give Bertie the experience of 'going outside' WITH YOU (not simply by himself). This must be done FREQUENTLY to outweigh his own experience. Put him on a lead and walk him around the garden for a while BEFORE letting him off lead. Let him off ONLY once he has settled. Reward him for not barking.

    2. What I do with my dogs (when I go out - particularly if I feel they are unsettled) is to give them a chewy treat which will keep them occupied for a few hours. Not only does this keep them occupied, but if a dog is chewing, they can't bark.

    3. Find a 'deviation' of behaviour. (I find a syringe with water is a good one) Then, you need to find a hiding place where Bertie CAN'T work out that it's you or see you. When he starts barking, squirt the water in his direction (not at him). His 'terrier' curiosity will get the better of him and he will go and 'investigate' as opposed to barking at other things.

    4. Does he have a shelter outside? A bed outside? Something of 'yours' outside? Perhaps what he needs is an 'outside' safe place too...?

    Those are the only things I can think of at the moment. (UNDER NO circumstances use any of those horrid contraptions on the market which 'shock' the dog!!! It will simply create fear and escalate the problem. But I am sure you know this anyway)

    As for 'King Toffee', he's a "neighbour's-dog- type barker". I have struggled with him for 14 years. He simply LOVES going to 'have a chat' with the dog behind the wall. The only way I can stop him is to go to the wall myself and to take over his space, but it doesn't really help. Now that he's older, he's deaf and the behaviour has diminished. (His barking too is NOT seperation based. It's just a Terrier thing).

    That's all I can think of Gail. I am not certain it will help. Perhaps a consultation with a reputable behaviourist may help - Bertie is young and it may be worth the investment. That way, he/she can see your environment and make specific recommendations.
    Good luck, I look forward to reading other comments.

    Sending lotsaluv

    1. Thanks Caryl for some great suggestions there, 2 and 3 especially. As for 1, when I accompany Bertie into the garden, as I often do of course, he is quiet. But I haven't tried the lead thing, which Declan has also suggested. Re 4, he does have a shelter, but never uses it, despite me putting treats in there etc.
      Anyway, thanks again, I really appreciate you taking the time to give such a thoughtful answer.
      PS I would never consider using a shock collar.

  8. hi guys, deccy mum and maxmom are right about walking your dog out into the garden on there lead and waiting for them to calm down in the garden for a minute or so. storm was a right little bugger with launching out into the garden barking his head off. he even made a big hole in the grass from where he would use it as a launch pad as he shot out the door. so we started taking him out on his lead and just calmly circling the garden to show him nothing was out there to be barking at and after a few weeks of this he really did calm down alot. hes pretty good now and only does it occasionally and only lets out a few woofs and it is normally because there was a cat in the garden just seconds before :) also not sure if this might help but i also built a temporary barrier out of stuff i had lying around in the garden just outside my back door on the edge of the patio, just to jolt him out of his lauch and that was quite good too, ive taken it down now and he still goes the way he use to when the barrier was up. hope that helps xxx

    1. Thanks, that's helpful too. The barrier idea might just be worth a try. Gail.

  9. Hi Gail, our two bark at people going by and sometimes strange noises etc but otherwise are mostly good. We do give them chewy bones etc sometimes outside especially if we are going out and that definitely keeps them quiet.

    As for the shelter/dog house outside, we had read that if the dog house wasn't near the door into the house, dogs wouldn't like to use it as they like to see who is coming and going. We put our dog house right in front of our back door and both dogs were happy to go in and sleep etc. Now they are used to it we have been able to move it under the carport for more shelter during winter and they are still using it.

    Also I saw a show with a barking dog who had a high enclosed fence and they made a high stand/seat thingy for the dog to climb up on so he could see over the fence and sit and look around. It worked a treat.

    Hope you find a solution.

    No worries, and love, Carol

    1. Bertie's shelter is right next to the back door! But the high stand idea is interesting, as I do think that frustration that he hears something but can't see over the wall may play a part in the barking.
      Thanks, Gail.

  10. Hi Gail,

    Perhaps there is an echo with your granite wall and Bertie is trying to find the other dog!

    Riley whines and wimpers quietly sometimes (the neighbours say they don't hear him), but Enzo is a barker. I've found when I go out (I alternate which dog I leave inside and outside or they play fight constantly!) if I take Enzo outside, show him what is in my hand and then throw a handful of kibble from his daily rations, plus broken up liver treats and little bits of dog biscuits over a very large area of the lawn he races off to search for food. Sometimes I will also leave a filled Kong there too. Enzo gets so preoccupied looking for each piece of food hidden in the grass (and seaking it out with his Golden Retriever nose) that he doesn’t think of barking, and then he goes and lies down on the deck. I do this when I am home sometimes (with the back door closed) and when I go out, so my putting him out doesn’t seem to be such an issue. Soemtimes I have even tossed his entire breakfast all over the back lawn. The neighbours say he is quiet this way – though Enzo, at 15 months old, still does have other times when he is barking mad!

    Good luck with Bertie.

    Riley’s mum

    1. I think that liver treats strewn over the back lawn would be a big hit with Bertie.
      Thanks! Gail.

  11. Ernie and I BOTH go out and BARK.... butt ERNIE REALLY loves doing it. I think he likes to CALL to Everythingy that IS or MIGHT be near by and let them know that HE is out there and ON DUTY.
    He REALLY barks when he sees the neighbor's Horses. AND he won't quit until mom makes him come inside.
    I know this didn't help you any... butt at least you know that OTHERS of Us like to MOUTH OFF... A L O T !!

  12. Well Gail, I have been very interested in the suggestions in response to your post. Bailey is like Bertie, at times barking her head off.
    She is particularly bad at night and we do have a visiting fox which isn't helping.
    When I am at work they are both in the house - it would be good to let them have access to the garden but I think my neighbours would not be happy. They are both fine in the house and appear to happily sleep - as soon as I get in they know they are off for a walk and appear fine with this arrangement.
    Good luck with the job, perhaps in time Bertie will be able to go to work with you!

  13. Oh Bewtie,
    It will be all awe a vewy bwave and wesouwceful little chap and I know that youw bawking will not be excessive..Mommi just wan into a neighbow hewe who is tewwified of doggies and said she was scawedevewytime I I don't bawk all that much, but ouw fwont doow is opposite the elevatow and I do have to pwotect my house and pawents, so I do bawk if thewe awe people going by that I don't know, sheeesh, we'we tewwiews and have voices..hoomans just have to get used to it and undewtstand. when mommi said she would twy to teach me to be quietew, the lady said, no it's ackshooly good to have a watch doggie hewe..soo confoosing

    good luck sweet fwiend and just howl to me if you get lonely
    smoochie kisses

  14. We think you need a brother or sister to play with. That won't stop your barking, but you'll have a lot more fun barking in stereo. And you might spend more time playing and less time in recreational barking. Having a nice tower with a ramp that you can climb to survey the neighborhood might help, as long as you can't use it to launch yourself over the garden wall. How about a bark-activated recording of Gail's voice that chimes out every time you bark, "Bertie, be QUIET." Bet after a few days of listening to that recording, the neighbors would be happy to just hear you bark. Jed is the barker of us two, and he only barks with purpose: people or other dogs walking by, birds flying, squirrels scampering, leaves blowing on the trees.

    Has Gail tried a controlled experiment leaving you home alone with unfettered access to the doggie door? Is she confident you won't dig your way out of the garden if you're home alone? Has she made scientific observations [via recordings or asking a neighbor to report] on just how much time you actually spend outside barking versus meditating in comfort in the middle of her bed while she's gone? We like to run in and out about 8700 times a day, but even on a nice sunny day, we spend more than half our time meditating in the house. In bad weather [which is to be relied upon in Scotland, is it not?], we spend 95% of our time in the house by choice.

    And mazel tov to Gail on the new job. It must be a great opportunity, to make her willing to go back to an office and give up spending her days with you.

    Jed & Abby

    1. Thanks Jed and Abby for this stimulating contribution to the discussion! I am confident that Bertie can't dig his way out, but past experience (i.e. friendly words from my next door neighbour) has taught me that he can bark for a long time if out in the garden alone, even in bad weather. I love the tower with ramp idea, and am wondering how I can cheaply rig one up!

  15. Hi Gail:
    Here's a link to a bunch of articles about barking. Not sure if any are relevant as my sense is that terriers have their own special need to alert the world to anything exciting.

    Good luck - and say 'hi' to Bertie for us!

    -Bart and Ruby

  16. Aren't dog bloggers great with all the advice. I hope you sort something out that keeps everyone happy including the neighbours.

    Good luck to Gail in her new job.

    I'm not much of a barker - but I do like running out into the garden and giving one loud single bark when I know the poodles at a neighbouring house are outside and then they go mad and I just walk away smiling to myself.

    Love and licks, Winnie

  17. Hi Gail - I've only just seen this post - Rubie and Bertie are obviously both "terriers" and they were partially bred to act as "alarm or watch" dogs (as well as farm ratters). Rubie unfortunately can see "far and wide" from our yard and therefore sees all that much more to bark at. She also barks at barking dogs in the distance, I call it "helping". We have tried quite a few suggestions and found very little makes a difference. But I wanted to say to you, be wary of the ramp and shelf idea - it might just give him MORE to bark at! :-(

    I feel for you - we are lucky because we are home and if she is having a huge bark..... we go out and get her and lure her back inside.

    Sorry I can't be more positive for you. But best of luck. You may have to convert your new job site to be "dog friendly" and take him to work with you !!

    Rubie's mum xx