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A barking dog - there's never a simple quick fix

Posted in Client Service @ Mar 27th 2014 - By Gillian Shippen, Nurse Manager & Director of Pets Need a Life Too
Barking Dogs Never Simple Or Quick To Fix

Helping out pet owners over the phone is always a challenge for those in veterinary practices - especially if the problem involves a barking dog problem!

I took a frustrating call today about dog behaviour; both the caller and I got frustrated. The reason for this was a complaint about BARKING!

Dog barking is the number one reason for complaints to councils about dogs and also high up there in reasons for neighbour disputes.   It is frustrating for all involved. As vets (and dog trainers alike) we often get phone calls about this problem behaviour. I am not sure about trainers but vets can get calls from both sides of the fence, with frustrated neighbours wanting advice on how to approach the matter with the dog owner.

The caller that rang today was distressed because their neighbour had made numerous complaints and was threatening to contact both the police and the council.  The caller  ended up in tears at the thought of perhaps having to give up the dog to the local pound.

Now barking issues are never a simple, clear cut case and they require investigation.  So in an attempt to find out more information I had to ask a number of questions. It soon became clear that the owner found this annoying and frustrating – she just wanted a quick fix solution, NOW!

My suggestion was to allow the dog access to inside the house as apparently this had worked at night when the partner was home but during the day the caller didn’t have much to do with the dog as it belonged to her partner. She already had two dogs and two cats inside the house and felt the house was too small for the outside dog and (I am guessing this bit) most likely the outside dog was not compatible with the inside animals.

At this stage my warning bells started to ring as I could see this was about to become an impossible situation as I really only had two suggestions:

1)  Allow the dog inside, or

2)  Re-home the dog.

Unfortunately I ended up with a distressed caller screaming down the phone at me, saying she wanted a quick fix now, a collar or something.

From my questioning I had established that the breed of dog was prone to anxiety and preferred to be with people and from what I could gather from the description of the barking (which was difficult as the client just kept describing it as ‘annoying’!) I felt the barking was anxiety based, but I could have been wrong. I was treading in deep water as I really needed much more information which was clearly not forthcoming.  The caller couldn’t describe the barking and kept asking “Can’t you just give me a collar or something?” I then had to warn against certain products if the owner was looking at going down that track.

I was able to mail some information about the complexities of barking problems as well as the contact details of an excellent dog behavioural consultant. Unfortunately I do believe in this case, it is more than just a simple barking issue.

This call was a good example as to why it really is too hard to give quick simple explanations or general recommendations for barking problems partly because there are many reasons for barking:

  • Aggression/offensive,
  • Alarm or alert barking,
  • Defensive or fear barking,
  • Attention seeking, anxiety barking,
  • Even pain.

Dogs have different pitches of barks for each reason and owners really need the help of certified person or veterinarian to get to the bottom of the problem. Barking can be motivated by so many things that there is no one effective preventative programme and it certainly can’t be solved over the telephone or via the internet in any form.

Unfortunately many pets owners don't understand these complexities and so this is another area we can help to educate our community and hopefully  reduce the number of neighbourhood complaints about barking dogs!

Gillian Shippen is not only a Nurse Manager, but has also written a book: 'Pets Need a Life Too - A Guide to Enriching the Life of Your Pet - Series One: Dogs' AND she runs her online website 'Pets Need a Life Too' where she sells a range of enrichment toys for pets.

Gillian is also currently studying 'Veterinary Behaviour Medicine' at CVE Sydney with Dr Kersti Seksel.

Click here to visit the 'Pets Need A Life Too' Page in the Vetanswers Business Directory

    

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