March 31, 2022

How to help reactive barking in 4 easy steps

How to help reactive barking in 4 easy steps
Dr. Chris Brown

Reactivity might be the biggest buzz word (sorry Buzzy 🐶) in dogs. But quite simply it’s when the furry family ‘overreact’ to situations by barking and being unsettled. But there are some easy ways to manage it…
Here’s how…

So while a lack of socialisation or a frightening experience can be behind it, fear is the most common cause of this reactivity. But here’s the part that should help them breathe easy. Normally that fear isn’t based on fact. You guessed it, they’re just ‘over reacting’ to what’s actually harmless around them…

The hardest part of reactive barking is that it’s all too easily reinforced. If your self appointed Head of Security is responding to the sight (or sound) of a bus, the mail delivery or a specific dog walking past…guess what? They do disappear. Sure they were always going to but it’s easy for your dog to think their barking did it…and saved the day!

But there are plenty of ways to help.

So here we go…
To start with, help them with their headspace. And it turns out, they’re not that different to us. The pace, the intensity and the sound of modern day life can be difficult enough to deal with. And that’s before we confine them to backyards with little to do apart from over react. But by giving them L-theanine (a natural amino acid found in green tea) in my Calm + Collected treats at least an hour before you need the effect, it’s proven to help your dog be less irritable and responsive to annoying sounds.

Calm + Collected
Calm + Collected

Now they’re all prepped, it’s onto the next tip. It’s Doggy Diplomacy time. Get them out to Meet the Supposed Threat. On a lead, take them outside of the gate at the time when the object of their frustration is going past and let them see or even sniff it. They’ll be constantly turning to you to check it’s ok. But if you stay calm, make them sit and reward them with a treat the moment they turn to you and BEFORE the barking starts, then you’ll teach them that their fear of that ‘thing’ is unfounded and being calm around that object is a much bigger win for them.

The third tip is taking that Turn and Respond technique into the home. Put some small chopped up treats (small pieces of School Snacks work well here) into a small container and each time they start to seem distressed or annoyed at a sound, shake the container. This encourages them to turn to you and distracts them from something worrying to a sound they learn to love. Because it means treats. And best of all they get a treat (quickly) IF they stay calm.

The final tip is all about reducing the chance of those annoyances even registering in the first place. Exercise will help lower their baseline anxiety level while background sound (or white noise) from relaxing music, TV, cooling fans or even white noise generators work brilliantly to just block out the outside world’s not so wonderful sounds. Remember, their hearing is good. Especially in those high frequencies we struggle to even register…

Hang in there, follow these tips and you can achieve the dream of swapping reactive for relaxed.

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