They say ‘word of mouth’ is everything. And it’s never been more true than in the furry family. Just one strange sound sets off a chorus of gossip mongers keen to react and discuss it’s seemingly fascinating origin in the form of a barking ensemble…
Just know you’re not alone. You see, with spring upon us and those territorial and hormonal urges (yes, even in desexed dogs) at their peak, it’s the barkiest season of all.
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…
The first tip is all about reducing the chance of those annoyances even registering in the first place. Exercise will help lower their 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.
Even just leaving the radio on can help. Provided it’s not talk-back. There’s already enough of that going on here. Just remember, their hearing is good. Especially in those high frequencies we struggle to even register. So car brakes, birds and even possums are big triggers worth blocking out.
Age has a big effect! This is often underestimated. Any dog or cat past the age of 8 can experience age-related hearing loss. The result is that their hearing becomes even more selective. They miss the high frequency sounds but often seem more sensitive in the low-medium pitch sounds they can hear. Meaning car door slams or door-bells can be big triggers.
Next, 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. You can take this ‘Look at Meeeee’ (thanks Kath and Kim) technique inside as well. It’s a great way of getting them out of their own head.
Finally, let science give you a helping hand. And in all the research into reactivity, one supplement turns up time and time again as being beneficial. It’s L-theanine. This amino acid, found naturally in some green teas, has been proven to promote calmer brain wave activity and actually make them less irritable and most importantly, less reactive. This research is why I made it the key ingredient in my Calm + Collected treats. Just give a couple of treats an hour before you need their full effect. You’re welcome!