Hi I have been lurking for a while on here but received some very helpful advice in the past.
I have four little rescue dogs (foxie crosses) who are generally well behaved - they hardly ever bark when I am home and are obedient around 70% of the time.
However - I have had complaints about them barking and decided to set up a video camera. Two of the dogs hardly bark all day and just sleep (Kratos and Pandora). There is a strange dynamic going on between the other two (Brutus and Belle).
Brutus clearly is anxious - he runs around the area barking and howling and attacking the door on and off. He is generally a very reactive dog and gets over excited when somebody comes or goes, when the postman goes past and sometimes when a car passes on walks. His 'excited' behaviour involves fixating on the source of excitement (to the point where I can break his concentration with a treat sometimes), with his ears and tail up twitching, and finally barking. I am trying to work on his excitable behaviour in situations when I'm around by making him sit/ stay and focus on me holding a treat. This does seem to be helping. He is also generally very pushy and will try and push through doors excetera so I have to be very firm with him all the time.
Belle is Brutus' older sister. She did have many of the same traits Brutus has but has improved a lot with training whereas he hasn't. She also barks alot in the day however she doesn't really cry or show the same nervous pacing. I noticed that she barks at Brutus when he's going crazy - she does the same thing with over excited puppies in the dog park. It's like she tries to tell them off. She also seems to bark because she is bored.
I have done alot to try and solve this problem including providing food and treats - these work well for all dogs except Brutus doesn't touch them because of his anxiety.
Separating the dogs in different rooms - this makes them bark and cry to get to each other.
Going outside and tapping the wall when they bark - this helped with Belle's barking only - presumably because she is an excessive barker rather than anxious.
Crating Brutus - he couldn't run around pacing and start Belle off - but he sat there huffing and puffing in there (which progressed to barking and crying) so he was still very unhappy. I am worried about leaving him as it could be even more traumatic confined.
DAP - no difference.
Clomicalm - maybe reduced the barking a bit but it wasn't worth it as it also caused nausea
Valerian and rescue remedy - seems to be reducing Brutus' nervousness a bit with my departure rituals - no real change in when I am actually absent - maybe a little less door jumping and barking.
Behavioural modification - I have trained the dogs to sit and stay in their beds - they can lie in a separate room quite happily for up to an hour or so. However when I shut the door to that room they run to the door and stand there/ sniff under it. It helped a bit when I tied them up so they knew they couldn't physically run to the door, but I can't do that when I go out. I am also giving them general obedience training throughout the day.
Anxiety Wrap/ T touch - has helped Brutus a bit
I have come to a few conclusions.
If I just had Kratos and Pandora, I wouldn't have to do anything.
Belle and Brutus act up for different reasons - Brutus because he is anxious and Belle because she is bored/ attention seeking.
Mental stimulation (food) and punishment (noise) work well to control Belle's behaviour.
Brutus needs continued training to control his excitable behaviour when I am around. Anxiety wraps, Rescue Remedy and Valerian take the edge off a bit. Crating prevents some of his behavioural problems but not the anxiety. Reached a block with desensitisation training when shutting the door.
The issue is the difficulty of putting the dogs together - not because they squabble and fight but because they need different things. Kratos and Pandora are fine.
Belle barks but I can give her food, and I am considering a citronella collar so she can get corrected without causing anxiety to Brutus.
When I put out food, this is different to the calm desensitation routine with training. If I put food out they all get up and start running around to get it. So it's counter to what I want to achieve really, but:
If I leave without putting down food (brisket bones), they all get up anyway and Belle barks more. If I put out food this decreases Belle's barking - and after around 2 hours or so I notice them all sleeping off and on.
Brutus (and Kratos) won't eat if I'm not there (unless it's a bone for Kratos). Kratos is a little anxious but he doesn't bark and cry that I've noticed. I have started feeding both dogs Kongs at dinner to encourage them to interact. They do to an extent, but won't do it when I'm out.
The heart of Brutus' problem is anxiety and reducing it. I have ordered an anxiety wrap (the original) given that wraps with bandages help a bit. I have also seen many good reports for this so I have high hopes. I will continue with his training and work on getting that door closed. I'll keep up the rescue remedy and valerian for a couple of months to see if I get anywhere with this too. As much as I would like to get him a citronella collar I don't know that it would be good for his anxiety.
BTW they are shut inside with air conditioning to minimise disruption to others. It's a large open plan room about 100sqm or so. I go out 2-3 days a week for around 8 hours and sometimes at night.
So - I guess I am asking if you have a different way you would go about handling Brutus and Belle or whether you agree.
Thank you for listening.