Dog will not obey when barking

Posted by Christine-Kerry
Jul 12, 2010
I am new to the site and would like to ask advice of others on site - I have a Westie who is 6 years old - I am re-training him as he is very agressive with other dogs, hearing people next door, children in street, bins, window cleaners - you get the idea! - I try all the methods to distract him but he will not listen to me when he is barking its as if he is in some other world - he goes to bite if I go near him - I have purchased halti head collar and lead - he seems to be able to get the head collar off so am trying to get him to accept it. Any suggestions please?
Posted by KOPCaroline
Jul 13, 2010
Hi there, Ms Kerry!

Unnecessary barking is a common problem with dogs. They do it for many reasons, including boredom, aggression, territorial behaviour/protective behaviour, alerting, and attention seeking. I’d say your Westie is barking for aggressive/territorial reasons. It sounds like you’ve gotten a good idea of how to handle the situation, with distracting the dog and getting a halti. I would keep with these ideas.

For the halti, is it actually the right size? You should be able to fit one or two fingers under it, but it should not be loose around your dogs nose or head. You could try downsizing and see how that goes. If its not working, you can try a basic muzzle, which fits around the head a little different, and might work better. Train him to accept by being calm and speaking in happy tones when putting it on, and put it on him even when you’re not going anywhere.

When distracting your dog while barking, are you startling him? This is the best tactic to get a dogs attention on something else. When he barks make a loud noise, like drop something or kick something that rattles. Once he’s distracted, give him a command he knows to keep his attention elsewhere, and once he’s performed it, reward him with a toy or treat.

Any time he’s barking give him a stern “no” command, and always praise him when he’s quiet. You can try blocking his view of the front (to avoid seeing other people and dogs walk by) or restrict his access in the house so that he can’t be alone in front of windows or near doors. I’d say it’s a good idea to not leave him unsupervised for long periods if possible, that way you can always be there to correct his behaviour and remove him from the situation.

There are other training devices you can try. Citronella collars are a nicer alternative to shock collars, and work by spraying a citrus splash around your dogs nose when they bark. Dogs are more sensitive and generally dislike citrus, and this works as a deference to barking. There are also in home pheromone releasing plug-ins, called DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) that you can usually get at your local vet. These work to generally calm the dog by continually releasing natural pheromones.

Is your dog castrated? If not, I would highly recommend it. Castration removes the drive that is behind many unwanted behaviours, and usually makes a dog easier to work with and less aggressive.

As far as you getting into aggression situations with your Westie, it’s a problem you’re going to have to tackle slowly. Use deference, such as distraction again, and counter condition him by rewarding good behaviour and cessation of aggression. Don’t baby talk him to try and calm him down, and don’t physically punish or corner him, all these will only reinforce his unwanted behaviour.

If you’ve got a kennel in the house that is his bed, try putting him in it any time he exhibits unwanted behaviour (when he barks, when he’s aggressive, when he gets out of his halti at home). Again, give a “no” command, and then put him in bed. Don’t take him out until he is calm again.

I would say once he accepts the halti or is less aggressive try enrolling in an obedience course, just to get him exposed to new training, new people, new dogs, and a fun, rewarding environment.

As I said, I think you’ve definitely got the gist of what you should be doing, and this situation is just going to take time and a lot of patience. Re-training an older dog can be really frustrating, but if you stick with it I think you’ll be happy with the outcome. Good luck!
Posted by kjd
Aug 1, 2010
Hi, Christine.

How is your Westie coming with his barking? KOPCaroline's point about startling him when he is barking is important. Think of a hysterical person. They are zoned out and don't really notice YOU until they are startled out of their hysteria. Your Westie sounds as if he zones out when he barks. You have to break his concentration before he will be able to hear you.

What is your Westie's history? Is it possible he is just very afraid? He is barking at so many different things -- noises, people, animals, things. If this is the case, spending time massaging him may be helpful; it might calm him down and give him more confidence. When he is very calm, you could introduce him to the bins.

Of course, it is also possible he has issues with his eyes and/or ears. If you've had him for some years and he just started this, I'd have a vet check him out for any physical problems. If he is new to you, then I'd mostly work on building his confidence.

Good luck.