Dr. Melissa Meehan takes on the case of little Zoe, whose incessant barking at visitors and aggression towards the vacuum cleaner is causing daily exasperation for her human family.
You need lots of patience to be a modern day dog because most households today are very, very noisy places. Little Zoe doesn’t like one noise in particular. Every time the doorbell rings Zoe goes crazy and so does owner Annie trying to keep her quiet.
“Hi how are you?”
“What a noisy reception”
“I’ll just pick her up so you can come in, here you go. Come on in in, this is Zoe”
“Hello, is this the noisemaker, how are you going? Wow you’ve got a loud bark for such a little dog. So that’s what she usually does?”
“Yes, all the time and very, very noisy.”
“Does she stop when you ask her to?
“Not usually no, she keeps going and going.”
“So she’s a good guard dog?”
“Very much so, the neighbours can’t do anything with her around”
“Alright I think we can fix it. So Annie, that barking that we saw, how long has it been happening for now?”
“Years and years, ever since we had her.”
“And she’s 6 years old?”
“Yes, she is. ”
“And how frustrating do you find it that she wont listen to you?”
“Really, really frustrating, just so noisy you just can’t hear yourself sometimes, she just goes on and on.”
“You wouldn’t be able to have a conversation at the front door?”
“No she will bark over you.”
One other thing sets this little girl off; she also has a phobia about the vacuum cleaner. Annie’s daughter Lorinda gives us a demo. It’s a good thing the nozzle is tough or it would be battered and bruised. Zoe is like a little hunter, stalking and then pouncing.
“Okay Annie problem number one, the barking. She obviously doesn’t take any notice of you when you say for her to be quiet. So what we need to do is to get her attention with something. We are going to use a shaker can. We are going to shake this when she barks and say ‘quiet’. Soon as she looks at you and you’ve got her attention, call her to you, ask her to sit and give her a food reward. “
“Now we’ve got the vacuum chasing problem. So clearly she doesn’t worry about to when it’s off so we’ve got to do our training when it’s on and in motion. So we will need two people for this. So while Lorinda is doing the vacuuming we are going to do some training which is just distracting.”
“Get her to sit, lots of praise. “
“Because she is not worried at all by the vacuum you can take a few steps closer to it and do the activity progressively closer. The minute she shows she’s scared or she’s going to go for it, we come back. The important thing is to ignore the aggression towards the vacuum and praise her when she’s not worrying about it. She’s more worried about you and the food then she is about the vacuum right now.”
Zoe is clearly a very special member of this family. I think with lots of patience they will soon have both her behavioural problems well and truly cleaned up.
- Always follow with a reward
- Start with a distraction
- Use plenty of praise
- Keep movements slow and gradual
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