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Old 12-05-2012, 11:43 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Help with a post 3am Barking poodle

some background.
In march my lady-friend adopted a female mini poodle from a local shop. her name is Inky. Inky is 5 years old and was owned by a disabled woman who held her in her arms most of the time. As you might imagine this has resulted in Inky having some behavioral issues which are causing my friend a great deal of trouble.

The biggest problem we are having is with Inky's barking at night. Every night around 3 AM while my friend is sleeping Inky will wake up and stare into a corner of the room and start barking without stopping. My friend has pleaded with Inky to stop, but she simply will not stop. The only solution that has been found thus far is to place her fingers inside of inky's collar and hold her until she stops temporarily. Inky does sleep in the bed with her and my friend has tried putting her into her crate or closing the door and putting her outside the door, but when this is done Inky will start crying, barking and scratching and jumping around anytime she hears my friend move in the bedroom. As you can imagine this has wrought havoc in my friends sleep life and we are hoping that there might be a solution for this.

Another problem we are having is with Inky demonstrating extreme separation anxiety. As an example, when my friend and I leave on weekend nights we put inky onto my front porch. As soon as we leave we can hear her from my back yard howling and crying and jumping and barking. I was curious so one night I set up a camera and recorded what was happening, for the full 3 hours we were gone Inky was howling and crying, standing and running back and forth to the door. Even though we take her potty before we leave she will often pee or poop on the floor even if we leave for a short time. this all also happens when I leave her inside of my house where she has a her own bed that she is familiar with.

Another problem is an extreme aggressiveness towards people on bicycles. Inky will make a mad dash to them and bark like the world is ending. At certain points she has very nearly been hit by said bicycles.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
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Old 12-05-2012, 12:06 PM   #2 (permalink)
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For the barking, I highly recommend Turid Rugaas' booklet "Barking: the Sound of a Language". It rather sounds as if there is something that is happening in that corner to trigger fear/alert barking - perhaps a heating pipe making a noise, or something electrical, or even a mouse? I would work on teaching her a Settle Down cue at other times - reward her every time she is lying down relaxed, and gradually introduce the cue words when she stays lying down after you have praised/treated her. That will give you a cue to use to ask her to relax and stop barking. Putting yourself, or even just a hand, between her and whatever she is barking at can also be very effective - it tells her that you are on the job, have heard her warning, and will protect her from the scary thing in the corner.

Separation anxiety is a very difficult thing - there is another useful little book by Patricia McConnell called "I'll be home soon" which may help. There have been studies done of the stress levels of dogs suffering from full-blown separation anxiety and they are almost incredibly high.

I've had good results using the ideas in BAT - Behavior Adjustment Training - with a reactive dog. More information here: Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) | Official site for BAT: dog-friendly training for reactivity (aggression, fear, frustration) by Grisha Stewart, MA

Inky sounds like a very fearful little dog, lacking in confidence - not surprising, given her early life. It might be a good idea to find a qualified behaviourist (rather than simply a trainer) who can see her behaviour in the home and out and about, and work with you both to manage and improve it. Even a simple, reward-based obedience or general training class, or agility or another sport, would help to build Inky's relationship with your friend and improve her confidence. Good luck - rescue dogs do sometimes come with baggage, but can improve enormously in the right environment.
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Old 12-07-2012, 05:55 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I agree with fjm. Inky's early life is probably the source of many of these issues. Having a behaviorist work with you so that issues in and out of the home are probably the best way to address and solve many of those problems. I would think that taking a dog that is as anxious as she sounds to a training class probably wouldn't be helpful. In addition to "I'll be home soon," Patria Mc Connell (who is a behaviorist) has other books that you may find helpful. Some of them deal with handling specific problems and others are more generally about our lives with dogs. I have enjoyed every book of hers that I have read and have gained tremendous insight from each of them as well.

I hope you have success. Keep us informed of how things go. We are rooting for you all.
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Old 12-13-2012, 12:25 AM   #4 (permalink)
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This sounds very much like the dog I fostered and then adopted so please don't take what I write for granted. If I could do it all over again, I wish I could have known to take the advice I'm telling you. And I very much appreciate you recognizing these behaviors as fearful in nature, by the way.

This dog sounds VERY neurotic and in need of some expert help. I wouldn't even waste time hoping to get lucky with a trainer or self help advice on this one. I would try to find a CAAB (Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist), ACAAB (Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist), or a Veterinary Behaviorist.

You may or may not get lucky with a Behavioral Consultant. I wasn't. Many seem to be against medication that isn't alternative (homeopathic, etc.) for some reason.

CAAB, ACAAB, or VB are top tier and it's my opinion from this alarming behavior that this is who you should consult with. This sounds like some serious anxiety and fear going on. Extreme separation anxiety is serious stuff. The waking up in the middle of the night and barking at a corner could be neurological, or psychiatric, like PTSD or even just signify hyper alertness. If so, can you imagine what the constant state of over arousal and raised cortisol is doing to her body? They can advise you guys if medication or other veterinary intervention is needed. Medication, when needed and used correctly along WITH behavior modification, is NOT a bad thing. Both enable the other to work better.

CAAB/ACAAB Directory of Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists — Animal Behavior Society: Applied Animal Behavior

Veterinary Behaviorist Find a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist ACVB

It may be expensive but it will save money in the long run (especially from floor repair from the house soiling and vet bills from a bike run over) and your sanity.

Please do NOT settle for any other kind of "behaviorist" because there are people going around granting themselves this title without any education to back it up. A mailman who hasn't met a dog until yesterday can walk in off the street and hang a shingle and call himself a behaviorist with no behavior sciences degree to back it up. Many would tell you that you need to be a stronger pack leader or other such nonsense that will waste your time and money.

And I agree. Keep this dog home in her element, or as much in her element as possible. Her home is probably the safest place right now, as scary as even that is. Until a behaviorist advises you otherwise.

I would try to get on this soon. And not as a replacement for seeing a behaviorist, but in the meantime, Fearfuldogs.com is a good resource for, you guessed it, fearful dogs. I wouldn't do BAT with this dog (respectfully fjm). If at rest, she's a 7, putting her at a 10 near the bike and bringing her back to a 7 away from the bike won't enable her to calm down and learn anything from it. It sounds like she's way too stressed for such an aggressive protocol. I'm not a fan of BAT for when dogs are fear reactive anyways. BAT involves unnecessary flooding for a dog, especially if they're as neurotic as this dog, it doesn't sound like she can handle it.

Think about it, if you're slightly scared of spiders, getting near them is flooding you but you're not so freaked out that you can deal and learn from the experience and desensitize yourself to being near them. You can think because the instinctual fight or flight isn't in overdrive.

But if you're deathly afraid of them, and overall neurotic to boot, getting near them is just going to freak you out in a horrible way and you're not going to be able to have any rational thought save, GET AWAY FROM SPIDERS NOW. Rational thought and learning won't be able to function over fight or flight mode.
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