5 Bad Habits #4 - Barking Mad

· 691 words · about 3 minutes


I once met a couple whose dog would patrol the front porch of an evening, very much like on sentry duty. If he saw anyone pass the house, he would start to bark furiously, sometimes for half an hour, long after the perceived threat had gone from in front of the property. Thirty minutes is quite an achievement, and I initially asked if the thing it was barking at may have been still there, but they said no. It was only after a little more probing that I got the answer. The dog would stop barking after the wife lost her voice.


We have all heard this; a dog barks, followed quickly by “Shut Up!” being screamed at the dog. The owner wants the dog to stop, in most cases, so it does not be known as a noise polluter. It can be irritating at the least and highly stressful at the most. I have been in homes with owners on tenterhooks, just waiting for the next barking episode. There is no peace, even in the peace.

The dog’s view of the world is far different from ours, insofar as it does not understand our world at all. Anything man-made is alien to the dog, and as such a dog can see even the most harmless item as a potential problem. Only today during a radio interview, somebody rang in to talk about their dog that would bark at men with beards. Maybe it once got a bad coffee form a hipster…

Put this feeling of being out of one’s depth together with a dog’s belief that it is responsible for the safety of the family, and you have the perfect recipe for a lot of noise and very little relaxation for anyone. Take a moment to look around you right now, and in the next thirty seconds count the number of things you notice that are created by Man rather than Nature… Go on, it’s OK. I’ll wait…


Surprising, isn’t it? Any one of the items you spotted could be seen as a problem. One of my dogs barked at me once when I put a hat on. Actually, she was right – hats don’t suit me… I went to see a dog once in France which would go crazy at the sound of the BBC’s political editor on the radio. I have never met the man, but he doesn’t seem to pose any major threat. However, this dog did not know that...

In this film, a dog reacts to seeing itself on TV, reacting to the TV. Mind-bending stuff...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-sBAj1HXbg

If we start shouting at the dog, the message we give is that this is a problem, that we are upset about it, and that we will JOIN IN defending the family. Rather than stopping a dog from barking, it actually encourages it further.

Some people have even been tricked into buying electric shock collars to stop this problem. The main flaw in this is that the pain caused by the collar may stop the dog from physically barking, but the dog still feels responsible for defending the family, only now it can’t do that properly. Result: more stress for the dog. I have even heard first-hand by owners who have been attacked by the dog when they try to press the activation button, and one owner found his dog writhing in agony in the garden because the collar had short-circuited.

Incidentally, I stopped the 30-minuter in seconds flat with one word, without causing any pain or suffering to anyone (including earache). The dog came back into the living room, looked at me quizzically for a moment and laid down. It was quiet enough to hear the thud-thud as the owners’ jaws hit the ground…

N.B. If you already have my eBook, “Think Like a Dog”, you know what that word is ;)

In the last of this series of 5 Bad habits, we will discuss the Queen of England (I am sure she has no bad habits at all - well you never know who’s reading this and I hear the Tower of London is a bit uncomfortable…)