For many dogs the Postman is a great success story; the Postman comes to the house, the dog barks, the Postman goes away again – result! Anything the Postman leaves behind is likely to be dispatched as well (they don’t understand that you actually want your mail!) and once again the dog has succeeded in keeping his pack safe!
14000 years ago, when man and wolf first began to live along side one another, the wolf’s superior hearing and sense of smell would have enabled him to alert man to the approach of danger. Not much has changed today and for many people one of the many benefits of living with dogs, is the security that they provide.
However, alerting the leaders to a perceived danger and then stopping because you’ve done your job is one thing; barking yourself into a frenzy, winding up all the other local dogs and upsetting the neighbours is another, and sadly – for many dogs and their owners – the latter is often the case.
Well meaning owners who begin quite calmly by asking their dogs to stop barking – “that’s enough, be quiet, shut up!” – end up shouting and becoming agitated when their dogs appear to take no notice what so ever and in fact seem to bark even more! Everyone’s nerves – including the dogs – become frayed and the situation becomes a vicious circle of stress!
I was asked to visit a rather stressed lady called Helen, and Harley her rather stressed dog. Harley, a 4 yr old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, would get very upset when visitors arrived at the house; chasing his tail, barking ferociously and jumping up at those people brave enough to come into the house. As a result of this Helen would get very upset with Harley, as she tried to stop him from behaving in this unacceptable manner and he completely ignored her!
I showed Helen how to calmly acknowledge Harley, in a warm and positive tone of voice, letting him know that he had fulfilled his vital role within the pack, when he barked to let her know that there could be a threat (visitor). By reassuring Harley – through her calm behaviour – that all was well and by not giving him attention for any unwanted behaviour, she allowed him to settle down and relax.
Harley calmed down considerably during the consultation and over the following weeks, as Helen continued to show Harley that she was the decision-maker and that he could trust her with responsibility for pack safety, their household became a calmer, quieter and more peaceful place to live.