Sunday, July 17, 2016

Nighttime Alarm Barking

I am reminded of a poem by Spike Milligan from his Silly Verses for Kids given to me by loving and inspired parents, that has stayed with me over these fifty years:

"Things that go 'bump' in the night
Should not really give one a fright.
It's the hole in each ear
That lets in the fear,
That, and the absence of light!"

I digress, but Sherlock is so aptly named: such finely tuned powers of observation in sound, scent and sight, the intensity of input makes you slightly neurotic. Couple this highly sensitive individual with (probably) being chained up outside day and night, with no way to go and investigate what all those noises are, and a family that walks on by or uses fear-based training sessions to obliterate you into submission...
So what can be done to help a dog that alarm barks frequently and vociferously at all hours of the night and lately day? And of course their tormented family...
Thinking Holmes and violin, I am trying music (not fond of white noise) during the day, finding that sadly some of my high paced Latin dance music can make him a little hyper, while the softer rumba and ballads stuff is okay. I need to go for Mozart or Vivaldi, I guess...or doggie music? 
My other technique during the day which I have used so far successfully with Claire, is going along together to investigate what is causing the noise, followed by a thank you for guarding the house and it's okay to relax now, we've checked and it's nothing threatening. If Claire continues to bark outside I say enough and bring her in the house.  That's easy of course, I'm awake...
My third technique at night is to whisper to the dog, "shush, enough, please don't bark now, it's bedtime" while I grab Sherlock as he goes sailing by on the warpath and bring him to a down next to me on the futon. Needless to say this doesn't really work because he is still fearful of and alert to the continued bumps in the night, but it's about all I feel up to in my drowsy state.
The most helpful of the internet research I've done on reducing night barking is from a Carolina Great Pyrenees Rescue site in an article by Rose Stremlau. She says we have to acknowledge the Pyrenee breed is a night-time guard dog. Not that a setter is a barking guard dog, on the contrary they are ninja stealth snipers operating secret missions during daytime to ace the bird...all the more reason to hope!
...but obviously Sherlock has had a bad start in life. I don't think it's brain disease or bee stings or pain, although it could be a habitual response to dull the itchiness of being left to be eaten alive by mosquitos in summer (he is recovering from incipient heartworm) and delicate skin. The most important point that I learned from this article by Rose is, see your dog, accept what you've got, work with it:
"We can’t change hundreds of years of canine evolutionary adaptation. Instead, we changed our response, and it worked over time to reduce this unwanted behavior."
She suggests fixed bedtime protocols as with a child: a bedtime peewees, a biscuit, leading the dog to bed (far from noise), singing a lullaby, a goodnight kiss.  If and when the dog wakes, going with him to investigate the noise, gently asking what is up, telling him it's okay, thanking him for guarding, and going back to bed together.
Beautiful. So encouraging and exactly the kind of gentle approach I like. I just need to wake up enough to implement this...
Another site that I found helpful is reading the late Dr. Sophia Yin's blog entry on excessive barking - angels do watch over us. Again, it's the tone as much as the substance that I find encouraging. 
"it was clear she needed primarily to learn to pay better attention to Ashley. This required Ashley to ... teach the dog that she had to earn everything of value by politely, and automatically sitting as a way of saying “please.” First, we taught Kaya in the house to sit automatically for treats, and once she understood, we then also required she sit automatically and remain seated for other things she wanted—to go out the door, to get her leash on, to get petted. She had to sit and focus on Ashley’s face prior to receiving treats, meals and attention and to be let out into her yard. It seems so simple but the training is important. These Learn to Earn exercises teach dogs self-control and to look to their owners for guidance.
In other words, more of what I've been doing...counting my blessings, I have hardly any barking as I prepare for meals, and the walkies barking is coming under just a matter of time and perseverance for night-time barking too. It's the hole in the heart along with the ear that lets in the fear...
Chiaro di Luna beams me some loving, healing moonlight energy from the rainbow bridge, go on, she says, you love the little blighter in my stead, just like I'm telling you. All will be well.

No comments:

Post a Comment