Why barking at night can be a good thing

I’m going to be barking about barking again today. It seems that a number of dogs are keeping their bipeds awake at night, so I’m going to answer the Frequently Barked Question: How can I stop my Pyrenean Mountain Dog (or Great Pyrenees) from barking at night?

I will explain how I came to an agreement with my bipeds about the things that need barking at in the night. I live indoors as a member of the family, things are different for a dog working and sleeping outside.

When I was a puppy I didn’t bark at all until I started to mature and I discovered my protective instincts. I have explained this in “The calm before the barking storm“.

My bipeds worked with me on controlling barking in the daytime first. I have explained how we did that in “To bark, or not to bark, that is the question“.

During this time I slept in the kitchen where I couldn’t see or hear very much of what was going on outside. The kitchen was at the back of the house and the curtains were drawn at night.

They also made sure that I was tired and ready to sleep when I went to bed. They achieved this with plenty of exercise and mentally stimulating activities.

They also continued to socialise me and give me new experiences.

Sometimes they would sit outside quietly with me after dark so that I could listen to what was going on outside. I also got some late strolls in our village. This way I learnt some of the normal sounds that happen after it’s dark.

When I responded well to being told to stop barking in the daytime, they said that I could choose where to sleep. I had been asking to sleep in the hall where I could keep an eye on the whole household easily, so I was thrilled to be allowed to at last!

For a few nights I noticed different things to bark at. When I barked one of my bipeds would get up and check what I was barking about and ask me to be quiet, just as they had in the daytime. It didn’t take many nights for me to learn that my bipeds weren’t interested in hearing that one of our neighbours had come home late or that there was a hedgehog outside.

My bipeds did lose some sleep at first, but now they can sleep soundly knowing that I will alert them on the rare occasion when there really is something to worry about. They know that I don’t wake them unless it is necessary for them to check what it going on.

Clowie, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, sleeping

Do not disturb!

It amazes my bipeds that I can sleep through all kinds of usual sounds, but suddenly be alert and on my paws at the slightest unusual sound. It doesn’t amaze me, this is a skill that my ancestors have been honing for centuries in order to protect what is important to us!

See you next Wednesday!

What is socialisation?

I am answering a Frequently Barked Question today.

FBQ: What does socialising a puppy mean?

This is a very good question. It is a huge topic, but here is an excellent overview on the Kennel Club site. All animals, including little bipeds, need to learn the skills that they will use to interact with others and their environment. Animals generally learn what is normal in their surroundings at a fairly young age and then become fearful of unusual objects. Animals that live with humans need to accept being handled and learn to cope with all sorts of strange things.

The Kennel Club and Dogs Trust recommend the Puppy Socialisation Plan. There is a lot of information on the website, both for breeders and new owners. I found the section on the science of brain development fascinating – it explains all the key stages in development. I think the practical, weekly plans for your puppy’s socialisation will be invaluable regardless of your level of experience – you can sign up to see these online or go to the resources section and download them to print out.

Puppies playing and learning

Puppies playing and learning

Attribution: By Eva holderegger walser (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The plan covers all the important things that a puppy should become accustomed to. I would just like to say that you and the puppy should have fun doing this. Each positive experience builds your puppy’s confidence. It also increases your puppy’s trust in you, which consolidates your positive relationship with the puppy.

When you’re out and about with your puppy a little stress, or excitement, is a good thing – it’s part of the learning process. You should keep a close eye on your puppy and be prepared to cut your outing short if you see signs of the puppy becoming too stressed, or tired – it’s better to avoid problems by nipping them in the bud and try again another day.

Every time you take out a well-behaved and relaxed adult dog you reap the benefits of the time spent socialising your puppy.

See you next Wednesday!

The disappearing cube

I am answering a Frequently Barked Question today.

FBQ: What are your least favourite toys?

I’m going to tell you about a couple of toys that weren’t a success. My bipeds say they’ve seen lots of dogs having fun with them, but these toys just weren’t right for me.

They showed me a ball and I watched while they put treats in it. It was obvious I needed to roll the ball around to make the treats fall out of the holes. I dashed around with it, bashing into the furniture. Each time the bipeds stood a chair back up, they told me to slow down! It only took me a couple of minutes to empty it out. They tried to encourage me to eat the treats that were on the floor, but after I’d eaten a couple I wasn’t interested in eating any more.

Mulberry, the cat, was having a lot more fun than I was. He was pretending to play ice hockey, using the treats as pucks. He dived about and he very soon had all the treats under the furniture. The bipeds took the ball away, I don’t know why they looked so disheartened. Then they moved the furniture and cleaned up the treats.

The next day they took the toy outside. I flicked it around until I’d emptied it – it was even quicker to do this outdoors as there was no furniture getting in the way and slowing me down. They kept pointing out the treats that were on the grass and that reminded me that I enjoy digging. They groaned and asked me to stop. That was really boring, so I asked them to play football with me.

A week or so later, the female biped showed me a cube. She rattled it and told me it was interesting. She knelt on the floor and showed me how to tip it over with my paw and that treats came out. It didn’t seem any more interesting than the ball had been. She sat back and encouraged me to do it for myself. I thought it would be more fun to flick it over than to knock it gently. I lifted my paw and brought it down hard on one corner of the cube. The cube flicked up like a tiddlywink. Now I was having fun!

I was still a puppy, so I didn’t take much notice of the funny noise that was coming from the biped. I wasn’t even curious about why she’d covered her face with her hands, or why her eyes seemed to be leaking. I was having a great time flicking the cube and seeing how high I could make it go! It wasn’t many minutes before it landed in the middle of the table. I was thinking about putting my front paws up on the table to get it when my biped removed the cube. I followed her and she put it in the cupboard. I don’t think I’ve seen that cube since!

Ahoy there mateys! from Wikipedia

Ahoy there mateys!
from Wikipedia

A few days later my bipeds were chatting and the female said, “It’s really embarrassing having a black eye. Everyone wants to know how it happened, but they don’t look as though they believe the answer!”

The male replied, “You could always wear an eye patch!”

“But I’d look like a pirate!”

He chuckled and said, “I’d rather have had a black eye than the bruises I had when we tried to teach her a high-five!”

They both laughed then, but I think they’re really pleased that I play gently now!

See you next Wednesday!

The point of distraction

I’m going to answer a Frequently Barked Question today.

FBQ: How do I stop my Great Pyrenees, or Pyrenean Mountain Dog, from jumping up?

It’s a fairly common cause of concern amongst people who live with dogs. We dogs tend to be more enthusiastic with our greetings than bipeds are. You only have to watch young dogs at the park greeting each other to realise that dogs don’t mean to be rude when they jump up. Of course, if your dog is as large as I am then convincing the dog that it isn’t very polite can be quite urgent!

My bipeds have used the command ‘sit’ to stop me from doing all sorts of things. They always say that there isn’t much mischief a dog can get into while sitting nicely! They taught me it’s a nice way to greet visitors.

Large dog jumping up

Too enthusiastic?

Attribution: By Rytis Mikelskas (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The first thing to do is to convince your dog that a ‘sit’ always brings good things. Little and often is the way to do this. Ask for a ‘sit’ at odd times and give a treat – this can be something tasty, or it can be praise or perhaps a game. You can also ask your dog to ‘sit’ before you give him his food. When ‘sit’ gets a quick reaction, encourage your dog to stay in that position for a little longer before he is rewarded. Then try asking for a ‘sit’ when there is some sort of distraction, but keep the sit brief at first so that the dog is successful.

When you have a fairly reliable sit, you can move onto the next stage with some help from family members and friends. Ask someone to go out and come back in, but ask the dog to sit before the person comes in. At this stage it’s helpful to stay by your dog’s side so that you can encourage him to remain sitting and reward him for doing so. The person who came in should make a fuss of him if he is sitting.

If you keep doing this it won’t take long for your dog to know that sitting to greet people brings rewards and it will become the natural behaviour. I always use a ‘sit’ when I want to ask for something, as I know how much my bipeds like and reward a ‘sit’.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and it is also Hannukah, so I’d like to wish everyone who is celebrating a lovely time!

See you next Wednesday!

The calm before the barking storm

I’m going to answer a Frequently Barked Question (FBQ) this week. A few people have asked me the same question: Why doesn’t my Pyrenean Mountain Dog (or Great Pyrenees) bark?

The subject of barking often comes up in connection with Pyrenean Mountain Dogs. At first I was a little surprised to be asked why they are not barking, I’m more often asked how to stop a Great Pyrenees from barking!

In each case, the dog I was asked about is still an adolescent. We are not considered mature until we are about two, or even three, years of age. We don’t generally bark very much, if at all, until we are approaching maturity. This is because our main reason for barking is when we perceive danger – something that doesn’t worry us at all until we start to feel protective of our families.

Once we do start barking, many of us are quite enthusiastic about it – some would say too enthusiastic! We discover that we like the sound of our voices and barking can be fun. I was more than a year old when I began to bark regularly, but other Pyrs may start earlier or later than I did.

Before I tell you about ways to prepare for the barking phase, I’d like you to watch this educational video. It contains a message for bipeds and for dogs. There may be a test later!

Bipeds, I’m sure you noticed that the dogs did have a very good reason for barking, even though the humans with them didn’t understand what it was.

Doggies, where do I begin? Many of you will already know that humans tend to think we’re just making a noise, but this may surprise you younger dogs. Barking louder and longer really doesn’t get our message across to them!

All is not lost, we need to learn to listen to each other better. This brings me to my advice to adolescent Pyrs and their bipeds, but these things could be useful for other dogs.

When we are barking it can be difficult to get our attention, so training with us to get and hold our attention will be helpful. This can be done by attracting our attention with a click of the fingers or a word such as “look” and giving us a treat, or use a clicker if you train together that way. When we are used to the idea of getting the treat for giving our attention, gradually make us wait a moment. This can be very useful to take our focus from whatever we’re barking at.

A Pyr who is barking at full volume may not hear you – we can be quite loud! My bipeds found it useful to get my attention by touching me, but I was already relaxed about them touching me when I wasn’t expecting it. This is fun to train, keep some treats handy and at odd times just touch the dog and then give a treat.

Socialisation is extremely important. The more experiences that a Pyr has had, the less things there will be that worry him, or her. Although he’ll probably bark at everything when he discovers his bark, with patience and consistency the barking can be reduced and this is a lot easier if the dog is confident and well socialised.

Training together and positive experiences through socialisation build a strong bond between dog and biped, which means we will trust you when you tell us there’s nothing to worry about.

I wrote about some techniques for when the barking begins in “To bark, or not to bark, that is the question“.

I have also written about reducing barking at night – “Why barking at night can be a good thing

See you next Wednesday!