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Ask a vet online-’ 9 month old labradoodle tends to bark a lot’ – what can I do?

Question from Sarah Brookes: I have a 9 month old labradoodle. He tends to bark a lot attention barking I have ignored him but he still barks what else can u do. Also when we leave him he shakes and barks but settles eventually I have an DAP plugged in but seems to make no difference HELP Answer by Shanika Winters: Hi Sarah and thank you for your question regarding your dog’s behaviour when he is left.    What you are describing sounds like a combination of separation anxiety and attention seeking.  Separation anxiety is when animals feel worried when left alone and this can lead to destructive behaviour, toileting in the wrong place and also vocalisation such as the barking you described.  Attention seeking is when your pet behaves in a way that you cannot ignore often in similar ways to those already listed. Why does my dog have separation anxiety/attention seeking behaviour? It is really important that any medical conditions are first ruled out before starting to treat a behavioural condition.  Dogs can show changes to their behaviour when in pain (e.g. arthritis), suffering from epilepsy (having seizures) and when suffering from liver or kidney disease (due to build up of toxic chemicals in their blood). A detailed history of what is going on with your pet, followed by a thorough clinical examination and diagnostic tests as required are the best way for you and your vet to rule out the presence of any underlying medical conditions. In the process of taking the details of what is happening with your pet, your vet will get a picture of what is happening in your dog’s world, i.e. changes to the family, pets, daily routine and moving home to mention a few possible triggers of a behavioural change.  It is also important to note that some breeds of dog, especially working breeds (e.g. border collies, German shepherds and Labradors) need a lot more mental and physical stimulation than other breeds of dog.  It is important to take this into consideration when choosing a dog to try and match its characteristics to your family and lifestyle. How will my dog’s behaviour be assessed? Your vet may assess your dog’s behaviour themselves or may refer your dog to a behavioural specialist (someone specifically trained in animal behaviour).  As described above the first thing that they will need to ensure is that your pet is physically well, the second thing they will do it take a detailed history of how your pet behaves. The third part of the process is observation, your dog will be observed in the consultation room but this does not always give as much information as seeing how your dog behaves in the home environment and how he/she interacts with other members of the household both human and animal.  Such observation may be via video recordings which can then be watched and analysed. How can I help my dog to feel less anxious? In order to help your dog stop feeling the need to bark changes need to be made to help him/her feel more secure and less in need of getting attention through barking.  The use of chemicals can sometimes help when trying to change a dog’s behaviour.  You have mentioned that you tried DAP plug in, this is a pheromone dispenser that releases dog appeasing pheromone, this is thought to help dogs to feel calm.  Chemicals alone cannot always help to change an unwanted behaviour such as barking.  Ideally chemicals should be used in conjunction with a behavioural treatment plan.  Anther chemical that may be advised by your vet is an antidepressant. When we leave our house we usually have a set routine of getting our bag, coat, shoes and key then leaving.  Also we think that saying good bye to our dog will let them know what is happening and make them feel better about us leaving.  What we are actually doing is setting off a chain of events which build up to trigger their anxious behaviour.  It can help to make a quiet exit and put the emphasis on your return home. What is in the behavioural plan? Regular exercise of an amount suitable for the breed and age of dog you have, a small elderly dog will still need to be taken out for exercise but this will be for much shorter length of time than a young adult working breed of dog.  It is important to give your pet regular exercise, if you are not able to do this yourself then remember there are dog walkers available in most areas. Attention of a positive nature from members of the household is important to reassure your dog of his place in the pecking order.  It is easy to just get on with what needs to be done when you come home after a long day at work and forget that your dog is waiting to greet you and be reassured that you are happy with him/her.  If the majority of attention your pet receives is being told off for bad behaviour then this negative attention can further unwanted behaviours. Provide adequate mental stimulation for your dog, this can be in the form of games such as fetch, training such as obedience, agility and fly ball.  It can be helpful to make up a timetable of activities to carry out with your dog, this can help to keep things interesting for both owner a dog. Company whether in the form of another pet or human can help to relieve the anxiety felt by some dog’s but this is not always practical as many people work long hours and have many family commitments.  There are pet sitting services which can provide someone to visit your dog and break up the length of time that he/she spends alone. Background noise such as a television or radio can make some dogs feel as though they are not alone. I hope that I have managed to answer your question and that your dog starts to feel calmer when left alone.  Making behavioural changes involves both dog and owner and can be a slow process but it is worth the effort. Shanika Winters MRCVS (Online vet)
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Ask a vet online – ‘My 3 year old yorkie gets very destressed when left on his own howling and barking, neighbours are complaining’

Question from Sue Michele Whitehouse My 3 year old yorkie gets very destressed when left on his own howling and barking, neighbours complain so I try and take him wherever possible with me, but sometimes this isn't possible and he can sense I am going out and starts getting upset before I even leave him.........thanks Hi Sue, and thank you for your question about your Yorkshire terrier. What you have described your dog as suffering from sounds very much like a condition known as Separation Anxiety. I will try to explain what separation anxiety is, how it affects dogs and some ways to try and combat it. Answer from Shanika Winters MRCVS (online vet) So what is Separation Anxiety? Separation Anxiety (SA) as the name suggests is when your pet becomes worried and or distressed when alone. There are many ways in which dogs can show their distress including vocalising (barking and howling), chewing at furniture or themselves (often chew or lick at paws), toileting in the wrong place, pacing around, hiding, drooling and generally being miserable. Why do some dogs suffer from Separation Anxiety (SA)? As with most behaviour related problems there is not a definite explanation as to why a particular dog develops a condition such as SA but it may well be related to poor socialisation as a puppy or changes in the household. The peak socialisation period for a puppy is around 1-2 months of age, during this time it is really important that your puppy is exposed to lots of different people, animals, places and situations. Household changes can include: moving house, new family members, new pets and changes to family members daily routine such as starting a new job. How to try and avoid Separation Anxiety? It is really important to check that your dog is in good health and that you are not assuming a problem to be behavioural when an underlying medical condition exists. If you are in any doubt then take your dog to your vet for a full health examination and also to discuss treatment options. All dogs benefit from a good diet, fresh water, regular exercise and mental stimulation appropriate for its life stage. We assume that once dogs have grown up from being puppies that they are not as interested in playing, if you give your dog to opportunity to play you will realise how much they still love it. It can be helpful to make a weekly chart of games to play with your dog to remind you to keep things varied. Try and choose activities that you and your dog enjoy such as: fetching a ball, finding hidden treats, heel work, agility work, grooming, bathing and massage. It is also worth making sure your dog is slowly introduced to having time apart from you so that they can adjust gradually to longer periods of separation. Always make sure that your dog has had chance to toilet and has a safe comfortable place to rest. It is also worth trying to reduce the triggers for your dog’s SA by leaving the house in a quiet and subtle way. By having your shoes, bag, coat and keys all ready and close to the exit it will be less obvious that you are leaving and hopefully less stressful for your dog. A lot of owners think that by making a fuss over their pet and explaining that they will be home soon they are helping SA but unfortunately this just acts another trigger for your dog to become stressed. It is more important to positively reinforce your dog’s good behaviour on your return home and never punish it for its distressed behaviour. I strongly believe that negative reinforcement does not help owner or dog. Some pets also benefit from background noise such as having the television or radio on so the house is not so quiet and they feel less alone. What can I get to help reduce the symptoms of Separation Anxiety? Pheromones such as the DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) can help reduce anxiety in some dogs. Pheromones are chemicals that are specific to a particular species of animal, the DAP products (plug in diffuser, spray and collars) contains an artificial version of a pheromone that helps to relieve stress in dogs. Correct use of pheromones along with a change to how you approach leaving the house can help reduce SA. Behaviour modifying drugs, these include Valium related chemicals and antidepressants can also help to reduce SA but must be used under the direction of your vet. What do I tell the Neighbours? It is worth talking to your neighbours and explaining that you are aware that your dog barking is really annoying for them and that you are working with your vet to try and reduce the problem. Most people will appreciate you acknowledging the problem and that you are working towards stopping it but that it will take time. I hope that this answer has been helpful and that your dog manages to overcome his Separation Anxiety. Shanika Winters VetMB MRCVS (online vet) If you are worried that your dog is behaving strangely please see your vet or use our online symptom checker for guidance