When people are in our house, our Aussie constantly barks at them when they move (herding?). It sounds frightening, although we know she is not aggressive. We have tried the pennies in the jar to distract; the “sit” and “quiet” sometimes works. Any other suggestions? What are we doing wrong?
Thanks — ruff ruff,
Mimi and Hans
Dear Mimi and Hans,
My guess, based on what you wrote, is that Sandy’s herding instincts have mingled with her territoriality instincts, with a dash of fear thrown in. The first thing I’d suggest is to try to make visitations a positive thing to her.
When and if feasible, meet your guests outside the house, off the property. Sandy is likely to have less need to “guard,” to be less territorial, when people are not crossing the threshold onto her property or into her den (house). The meeting is happy, with the visitors telling Sandy to sit, and rewarding her with treats. All walk back to the house together, with guests entering first, in front of you. Once in, redirect, offer “special toys,” toys she only gets when non–pack members are visiting. Remove when they leave. Hollow marrow bones with meat or peanut butter wedged in the middle usually work. If your friends are amenable, have them use Sandy’s name when they toss treats near her as they move about.
If outdoor meetings don’t work for you, Sandy needs to be taught a door routine, a regimen where she is thanked for alerting you that someone’s at the door, and then steps away from the door and sits and waits until the guests are in. When you’re ready, you tell her to say hello, politely. (Not an easy routine to teach.)
If you need to go to the negative, if redirection doesn’t work, try water, not sound. In this case, sound is more likely to exacerbate the problem. A spray bottle that sprays a stream, not a mist (we’re not looking to administer a facial here), is picked up when she barks as you say “Quiet!” A split-second later, the stream hits her in the face. After a couple of shots, she’ll probably shut up when you reach for the bottle. Don’t forget, lots of praise and a couple of treats when people move about and she’s OK with it.
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