Barking at house guests

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Barking at house guests

Postby Ushi » Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:28 am

Ok... I am not sure on what is an acceptable level of barking / growling at visitors to our house.

Both my dogs (9 month old Shar Pei Male 3 year old Shar Pai Female - both neutured) bark and growl at visitors to the house. Now, I usually do not correct them to begin with, as I beleived that this is there house, and provided they ony barked until they 'worked out' the visitor was 'ok' to be in there house. However, I think I have been going about this the wrong way, as rather than getting more trusting of house guests, they are getting more and more 'worked up'

Shar pei dont like being petted on the head by persons they are not familiar with (I dont beleive many dogs do, but shar pei are particulary worried by strangers touching there heads) I always ask any visitors to just let the dogs sniff there hand, not look them in the eye, and then give the dogs a pat on the back once the dogs settle down. usually once they had a sniff and a pat, the dogs would both 'get over' the barking.

Well... not lately. My family are visiting at the moment, rather than have 4 new people rock up in the house for the dogs to deal with at once, I split them up, and introduced two at a time to the dogs. However, the dogs really scared my family, they barked and growled and 'baled up' by mum and sister. I kept talking to the dogs in a 'happy its all ok' voice, and giving them lots of rubs, I even tried "lets go" and asking the dogs to follow me away, but they kept returning back to mum and my sister - standing about 1.5 metres away and barking and growling at them- and not letting them even get close enough to sniff.

Both dogs have never even attempted to bite a person. Niether were ever snappy or nippy even as pups - I can put my hand in there mouth to remove anything they may have picked up and they will stand still and let me "explore" (you have to experience the size of a Shar pei mouth to understand just what an 'expidition' you can have trying to find a little peice of plastic they may have found and started chewing!!) Anyway- my point is- I dont think they are or would ever "attack" visitors (not with me there anyway, tresspassers I cant be sure !) but they are actually scaring our friends and family - the older female eventually gets over it, but the male will start barking everytime a guest moves- if they get up of the couch, he will jump up and bark. The female learnt greetings at obedience school, and she will sit and wait to be greeted anywhere else, but at home its a different story - and I think they feed off each other - which makes it even worse !!


What am I best to do? .. Do I give them a time out? . Ask the visitors to feed them a treat?... or ask the visitors to ignore them ??? I am just not sure????
Ushi
 
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Re: Barking at house guests

Postby emmabeth » Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:44 am

They are not protecting their home, they are defending themselves and this behaviour demonstrates that they are fearful of new people.

Did the older dog do this before the younger one came along?

He is right in a fear stage right now, and so things will appear scary to him that didnt before, and shouldnt in the future - thats just part of a dogs growing up. It can be worsened by having a dog neutered at/before this stage (as people very frequently do!).

I would introduce them ONLY to people you trust to follow your instructions to the letter and only to people you absolutely MUST introduce them too (and when you really think about it, thats not that many people) for the time being.

I would also introduce them to people one at a time, as each dog will be fuelling the others fear/reaction.

Use a harness and leash rather than a collar, if you feel more secure having control of th eneck or head then by all means use a collar or headcollar as well and a double ended leash. Keep the leash slack, and the first goal, is to have each dog, seperately, see and take their attention away from, a strange person. In effect you want them to look and look away and take a treat from you. Nothing more.

The distance you need to achieve that is down to your dogs, so you will need to experiment a little to find that. You may need to have someone let a guest in and you be right the other side of the room, or even away down a corridor or in another room. You may need to go outside and see the guest on the pavement first, rather than in the house, or maybe in the back yard, them at one end, you and the dog at the other.

This is counter conditioning - you pair the sight of someone strange with rewards. Nothing else, dont ask the dog to do anything, dont have the guest speak or look or offer the dog anything.

Once both dogs can do that, in the house, in the yard, on the street, separately, then you can change the criteria slightly. You could move the person nearer, or have them sit down, or attempt two dogs at once - do not change more than ONE aspect of the process at any one time and if you make something quite a bit harder (sometimes bigger leaps are unavoidable), try to make everything else easier again.

Say you can now have both dogs in the back yard with a stranger 40ft away not looking at them. You think you are ready to try having that stranger just 30ft away? Then try it with one dog first.

There is more to this process in building up the counter conditioning until your dog can relax and accept strange guests straight into the home - the main thing is whilst you are working on these starting levels you must NOT overface the dogs at all. From now on, if you dont have time, if the guest wont co operate - put the dogs in another room before you allow the guest in.

It is NOT worth riskign them getting worse, and though you think they wouldnt bite, believe me - if they feel trapped and really scared the chances are they will bite - most dogs will. Unfortunately a large number of humans WILL push their luck with frightened dogs and keep on approaching when the dog is clearly saying 'go away'!
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Re: Barking at house guests

Postby Ushi » Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:30 am

Thanks Emma -
Hmmm... this is going to be hard for the next few days, as my family are staying with us! I have put the dogs in the barn while I am at work, so they are seperated at the moment (the barn is where they usually live when we are out or at work, so they are happy and feel save there) I have instructed my family that they are NOT allowed to go near the barn or the dogs (not much hard to convince them - given that they are a little frieghtend by the dogs) Its going to be hard in the evening however, as the dogs sleep with me, and usually come inside with me as soon as I get home from work, I feel stuck a little between a rock and a hard place... who do I kick out of the house, the dogs, or the family ??

Is there any way I can get the dogs used to these guests while they are here without having to seperate them altogether ? - even if only under my supervision? I dont feel like the older female dog is scared as much as I think she is just being protective of the young boy - senseing he is fearfull. I have read about the fear 'age' thing, and this does seem to be a bit like him. Unfortunately, I had no idea about the neuturing thing... we only neutured him about 6 weeks ago because he had to be anesthatised (sp) to have entropian surgery - I felt it safer to only put him under anesthetic once rather than send him back for another surguery to be neutured later. The vet recommend doing both procedures at the same time, otherwise, I would have waited until after 12 months, as I did with the female, as I prefer let them mature first (to be honest I think this is my 'horse breeding' background coming thru, I was never certain it was the right idea to wait with dogs ?) I f I had of known about the fear issue at the time I would have considered it more carefully- as he has always been a little more 'sensitive' than my older girl.

The older one only ever barked for a few minutes when we had a guest - she was brought up with having guests come and go from the time she was a puppy - and really, was never too bad. But I think because I never saw it as a problem, I didnt 'nip it in the bud' so now she will bark evey time for longer than ever before. She does settle tho, and then 'cosy up' to the guests pretty quickly. I do beleive the boy is scared, which is why I have 'realised' this is more than just being territorial and I want to address it - I would hate for it to escalate to anything more than the barking.

Would me keeping him with me at all times help ? He is very attached to me, and I feel he does look to me for support when he is scared (last night I sat with him in the lounge while the guests were there, I took him with me when I left the room, he only barked if I left him alone with the guests and it was sort of a bark, then he ran to find me) if I was to treat and soothe him while with company and just stay a good distance from everyone while I had him inside, would that be acceptable at least until they go home, and I can start the exercises you have suggested ?
Ushi
 
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Re: Barking at house guests

Postby emmabeth » Sat Jul 10, 2010 12:39 am

It really is very dependant on your guests.

I th ink you would probably get your female dog chilled and relaxed with them quite quickly as her barking does seem to be more habit and egged on by the puppies behaviour/guests fearful behaviour than a really deep seated fear of strangers.

Try introducing her to your visitors, pick one visitor at a time and instruct them not to make eye contact or face the dog square on (have them stood slightly sideways instead) and see if she will calm down (on a leash for safety) and listen to you and take treats from you. if she will, have that guest toss treats to her from a distance (still not making eyecontact or speaking or anything like that), if she will take treats then try going for a short walk with that persona nd then walking into the house together.

Repeat that process for everyone who is staying and hopefully she will make friends with them - it does rely on them not speaking to her or staring at her though, if they cannot follow instructions (and youd be surprised just how many people really cant!) then that means they are at risk of upsetting her so you might want to consider not introducing her.

IF that does go well then attempt the same with the puppy - you might find that the older dog being calm around the visitors means he is, OR you may find that him being reactive sets her off again so tread carefully.

If you do bring the dogs into the house with you whilst the visitors are there, I would urge you not to leave them alone togehter, no matter how well you think it is going - possibly having the pup on a leash (he can probably trail it around if he gets fairly confident) would give you a little more safety, and just making sure that whenever you leave a room... both dogs come with you.

It is hard to handle situations like this, if your guests wont do as you ask them then the best thing is that you leave them to entertain themselves for a while and go play with your dogs out in the barn, or have the guests entertain themselves in one room whilst you are cooking or something in the kitchen, with the dogs in there, and ask them not to come in unless you have put the dogs outside.
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Re: Barking at house guests

Postby Ushi » Tue Jul 13, 2010 1:36 am

Thanks so much for the advice.

Quick upate on how we went...

Female (older) dog was fine as soon as I introduced her to guests alone - she didnt bark again for the rest of there stay and pretty much just went back to her usual routine (eat sleep play). The younger dog was still wary of the guests for a while, but I kept him with me at all times, and he would only the odd bark if somebody startled him (its hard for him as he has poor vision) By the end of the 4 days, he was happy to doze in the living room while the house guests were in the same room watching TV. So he did eventually relax with them, I would still not trust him alone but I feel we have come along way from the first introduction, & I am quite proud of his progress.

Thankfully my house guests did listen and abided by the "rules" of interaction with Zephyr- (no eye contact, no facing him, dont talk or bother him, just allow him to keep his distance and do not pat if he approaches you, just let him be.) I did threaten them with eviction should they disobey... lol Zephyr did eventually warm to a few of the guests, (the only person he really didnt like was my mum, but he was taking food from her this morning, so I think a few more days and he would have been even better) I did take the guests on walks with the dogs (this really helped, outside of the house Zephyr had almost Zero inhibitions and was much more friendly with the guests)


I did not leave them alone together at all (he would not have coped with that!) but I am really happy with how it all went.

Thanks again for your advice, I dont think I would have had such conviction to stick to the "rules" had I have not gotten the advice on the best way to intergrate the humans with my fur babies :-)
Ushi
 
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Re: Barking at house guests

Postby emmabeth » Tue Jul 13, 2010 9:46 am

Glad to have helped and thanks for the update - its always good to hear how things work out!
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