This week I have been struggling more with Daisy’s barking. She has been barking more than usual and it really started getting me down. At first I was thinking I will just ignore it and she will stop. That didn’t seem to work. She mostly barks when on the arm of the sofa, so I thought that if I get her off the arms and don’t let her up, she won’t have the opportunity to bark. So I did that, and she simply ran to the chair and proceeded. So it was back and forth between the chair and the sofa. I live in a flat so I was beginning to get worried about what the neighbours would think.
As I was getting more frustrated, I took a step back and said to myself that Daisy isn’t barking to be naughty or to annoy me. There is a reason that she is barking. I reminded myself that she has beagle in her, and that could account for a lot. I started to look at what was around and what was outside the window that would make her want to bark. What was she telling me?
There have been builders working on a car park on the opposite side of the road, making noises and wearing high vis jackets, talking loudly and so on. Daisy was barking at this I thought. It is a change in circumstance, they are strangers, and she could perceive them as a threat, letting me know that they are there. Also, she barks when other dogs walk past, which has been a problem for a while with reactivity, which I am working on. So if there are workmen and dogs, no wonder that it is over-stimulating Daisy and it is causing her to bark more.
So what can I do about it? Well I think the important thing for me to do it to stay calm and redirect Daisy’s attention, get her focussed on something else such as a treat or a toy. I find that engaging her in short training games gives us both a break. The more that she barks at things outside, the more it will become a habit because it is physically rewarding to bark, especially if the threat goes away. Raising my voice or shouting certainly doesn’t work because she then will think that I am joining in. I have to be realistic and remember that Daisy has an genetic tendency to bark/howl and that I need to embrace it rather than try to stop it all the time. I am hoping that the more I can redirect her focus, the less she will feel the need to bark. I can’t remove the perceived threat or trigger, but I can help her to get a reward from something other than barking.