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Thread: Changes in Behaviour

  1. #1

    Default Changes in Behaviour

    Hello to you all,

    We have a Red Heeler x Staffy x labrador and he has been the greatest thing to happen to our lives, at least mine anyway. He is 2 years old.
    His name is Johnno and I take him to work everyday. He's a real celebrity and has a great nature...customers, in particular, regulars, adore him.
    The problem I have is that just over the last 6 months or so he has started to bark at passersby and seems to pick at random who he barks at. He has never done this before...I have been bringing him to work since he was 8 weeks.
    Sometimes he barks at customers approaching the roller door and even though he is wagging his tail, customers, with due reason can be alarmed. Usually the barking with the wagging tail seems that he is caught between greeting them and not trusting them.

    He is also petrified of the vacuum hose, even if the machine is not on, brooms the garden hose. You don't have to raise the item in a threatening manner, just show it to him and he's off with his tail down. Also he shows timid and untrusting behaviour at anyone who has a bike helmet on or is dressed up i.e in costume. This behaviuor was seen in him since we got him.

    We have never smacked our dog and believe in learning by reward.

    His background is that we adopted him from Lort Smith at 8 weeks, so he has been desexed.

    We have 2 other dogs that don't show this behaviour and on the contrary will lick people to death and have snuck off with people at work if I have been too busy to keep an eye on them! They also have no fear of any item mechanical or otherwise our pug x ****szu attacks the wheels of the mower when I use it!!

    Johnno is definately the "pack leader" amongst our dogs.

    Apart from these issues he is a wonderful boy. he walks freely off the lead, has never growled at anyone, has never growled over his food ( has great manners) and has never growled at kids, he loves them.

    Can anybody suggest where this sort of territorial barking has come from and why he would be afarid of the items listed?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2009


    The things he's afraid of - just have to be a little out of the ordinary.

    I have trouble getting Frosty to let me clean floors. She's not scared of the sweeper, but she likes to hang off it when I try to push it around the floor. Makes things difficult, so I stop moving it and tell her uh uh - takes the fun out it, she lets go, I start sweeping, she grabs the sweeper, repeat. She gets it after a little while. Sometimes I make her stay on her mat or put her outside, but it's a matter of giving her something to do (sit stay?) instead of chewing the sweeper.

    Most heelers I know will attack things like lawn mowers, chain saws, and I knew one who liked to eat electric screw drivers. They also like to chase and bite car tyres, motor bikes, moving treadleys and joggers. It's the same as chasing cattle to them. You have to train them out of it when they're little - ideally by finding all these things and giving dog something else to do.

    At the moment when Oval mower tractor shows up I put Frosty on lead. I usually notice it before she does fortunately. She's not inspired to chase it until it goes screaming past us at 30km / h. Stupid dangerous driver.

    As for the barking at passers by, we had this problem when we stupidly encouraged the behaviour - one time only - and then it was so hard to stop that dog got bannished to the covered ute tray where we couldn't hear him so well. I've seen Victoria Stillwell deal with the problem by blocking all lines of vision for the dog, and gradually allowing a peek - so long as the dog is good, and the minute it starts up again - covering up the view. So I think probably at some point for some reason, the dog has been rewarded for barking at passers by, so now it is fun entertainment or an important job for him.

    It may have been you accidentally, it may have been your co workers who cheered him on and encouraged him, or it may have been the passers by - ie some silly school kid teasing the dog and leaving at high speed when the barking started (reward - getting rid of annoying kid).

    Frosty finds anything out of place a potential threat and barks a lot at it - so all it takes is a funny hat she hasn't seen before, or an umbrella on the beach where there wasn't one before or anything out of place. So I have to "explain" to her, it's all good. I walked up to the umbrella (or bloke in funny hat) and chatted and or made calming signals at the dog, no eye contact, bit of a yawn, lip licking (looking away from bloke don't want to be misunderstood there), looking at the ground a bit and turning back on dog a bit.

    With the vaccuum cleaner hose. Maybe get it out for two seconds every day and look bored and do the calming stuff, yawn, look at the ground away from the dog, and put the hose back.

    Unfortunately heelers are smart but they're cautious in every new situation and you have to explain again that it's ok. Do not look directly at, comfort or pat an anxious barking dog. Put it on lead if you need to, and ignore it.

    As for barking at customers - he probably needs a distraction or a job to do. Throw a bag of bolts near him to distract him and tell him to sit and stay on his mat/in his basket whatever. Or I've used a squirty bottle and "uh uh" to stop Frosty barking at the neighbours when they're in their yard.

    The customers are safe so long as they move slowly and don't make direct eye contact, or they stand still and look away from the dog. If they run, he will go for their ankles. He is a heeler. It will help if you greet them as soon as dog starts barking and ignore his behaviour. Don't reward it by patting him or paying him attention. Wait till he's been quiet for a few seconds.

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