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Please Help!! Cosmo will NOT stop barking ...

I am just about at my wits end.  Every single little noise in the house ... a cat hopping off a counter, a child opening his door to go to the bathroom, the same child returning to his bedroom, a newspaper plopping onto the driveway, a distant car door slamming ... you name it, if it occurs out of sight of Cosmo he leaps up and barks loudly and emphatically.  He leaps up and does this all night long ... my nerves are getting more and more frayed.  I have to keep him in my room at night or he'll destroy property right and left, plus be lonely.  His crate is not big enough for him to be in all night long, plus he'd be lonely.  I think those "bark collars" are cruel.  I just don't know what to do ....

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Hi Gigi

Don't despair... and please don't go for aversive training aids as these will neither help your dog nor yourself. It is not possible to assess via internet why Cosmo is actually barking but I would assume it is more likely related to insecurity rather than him trying to play truant or gain your attention. Unfortunately any reaction you give in these situations (like telling him off, trying to calm him by speaking to him or petting him) will only make things worse. You will probably need someone to help you to teach Cosmo that he can feel more secure and less stressed by noises. Much can be aggravated by our own inappropriate behaviour. Best is to remain demonstratively calm yourself.
In the UK there are excellent beahviour counselors who do not go down the lane of punishment - I know there will be the same in the US but do not have any links.
Have a look here http://www.apbc.org.uk/articles/barkingmad
Thanks for the suggestions ... I will follow up with them. It is hard to "not react" as I am going from sound asleep to adrenaline pumping wide awake in a very short instant and over and over again in the night ... as is he, I'm afraid. I get the sense that whether I react or not is a bit beside the point ... he erupts first and looks to even see if I am on the premises after the fact ... I am just exhausted ...
Hi Gigi
I'm sorry! I know how awful it is to be exhausted for lack of sleep... I went through months of it with my old girl who really did go senile.
For the coming night (and during the day for that matter) you could try to reward Cosmo for being calm and relaxed (if you work with a clicker this becomes alot easier). At the same time you must completely ignore the barking. By ignoring I mean: no reaction from you whatsoever, no looking, no speaking, do not get up at night, try earplugs;-))
I must warn you though: ignoring unwanted behaviour will first cause an aggrevation of the behaviour before you can expect any improvement. This is typical when aiming at extinction of unwanted behaviour.
It is like you wanting to draw cash from a cash machine: So far typing the code always worked. One day the cash machine does not spit your money out. What do you do? You calmly type in your code again... and again, and again... and press the buttons slow and hard... maybe you start hammering at the digits... until the moment comes that you walk off muttering words under your breath...;-)
The same will happen to Cosmo. He will bark, expect your reaction, get none, try again, insist, feel frustrated... and finally lie down in a huff.
Having said that, I fear you will not achieve a total control of his barking just simply by ignoring it. It sounds as though Cosmo must learn to become calmer and more at ease generally. This is where I feel you need a professional trainer to help you out of this vicious circle.
Good luck!
I really do think you are right about his needing something to calm his nerves to the point that any little sound doesn't immediately freak him out. He did it again while I was reading your posting ... he went flying out of the room with his hackles up and barking like crazy. He wouldn't know whether I reacted or not ... For tonight, it is earplugs for us and a background noise machine (the sound of ocean surf) to help mask outside noises. Anyone know of a good herbal remedy with the strength of valium??? I'm not sure if I'm asking in order to give it to Cosmo or myself!! Maybe both ...
For your relaxation I suggest you drink a pint of bitter;-))

"He wouldn't know whether I reacted or not" - Sorry, that is not true, Gigi. If you have ever reacted on previous occasions he will assume you will do so again.
The reason behind his behaviour may partly be that he is freaked about something, but the learning part of you unknowingly re-inforcing it by any of your own reactions probably also plays a role. Similarly puppies that are reassured by fussing when they show fear of thunderstorms can unknowingly be encouraged to be afraid...

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying you need any kind of calming medication for your dog. What I meant is that you need to be shown ways to train him to feel more secure. This is a training issue (and lots of hard work) not a case of 'give a pill and all will be well'.
I'm unsure of Cosmo's age but would assume it should be possiblefor him to overcome this issue.
Gigi my heart goes out to you. Our past Irish Setter Dublin was a barker. I remember my first post here was about his barking non stop in the car. I was out of my mind from it. My nerves were rattled daily and I know I lost hearing in my right ear. Like your dog he barked at every person, sound, motorcycles and just about anything really. He was insane if anyone came near the car as well. Including other cars which meant non stop barking everyday we went for our runs in the woods.
I wish I knew an answer to it. Cash will bark if he hears a noise at night but only if we have windows open. I use super loud fans to drowned out my husbands snoring. My son does also. So our house if like a white noise zone at night and Cash sleeps so soundly and hears nothing. When the fans turn on he goes right to bed. Maybe rather than the sound machine of the ocean which isn't loud enough. The hum of a clanky old fan will keep all other noises out of the room. Walmart sells some cheaper loud ones. I know that the trend is quiet fans, but I go after the loud annoying kind. Actually I can't sleep without it now after so many years. I don't even hear thunderstorms unless it is jar you out of the bed loud.
As far as daytime, we found that Dublin would bark at anyone who walked by with a dog or not. So we kept the blinds down so he couldn't see outside which other trainers have recommended on the tv shows. Why let them look out if they will only bark? Makes sense to me. These are ideas until you get it sorted out with behavioralist or something. You seem to need a quick fix for some much deserved rest! I also was told to try a loud can filled with coins. Shake it whenever the dog barks and for some they hate the sound so they stop. Not sure if that is okay to try but I read that when I was looking for help. Spray bottle of water maybe? I am sure the trainers here would have more advice on what will help not hurt the situation. I nice hot bath and some wine might help for an hour! I have to admit my dog gets his exercise late afternoons and is so darn tired out he doesn't even get up to greet my husband when he comes home. Is Cosmo getting enough exhaustion? They then get too tired to bother with all the outside distractions. Cash barks quite a bit lately at the dog park when playing and it gets a bit much, but because he is rather quiet at home, I can live with it.
I agree it seems like you need some proper help, but also try and noise cd, these are used at my puppy training class and has noises like cars, bikes, kids playing, thunder etc etc, just put it on and play it so he gets so bored of hearing these noises that he ends up having no reaction to them. Might not work but it sounds like anything is worth a try untill you can get some proper help.

Good luck, and I hope you get some sleep soon. xx
Buy a bigger crate , make it comfortable with bedding, put it somewhere in the house well removed from areas where people move around. Get him used to having a treat or a bone when he goes into a crate. Make sure he has been outside for a pee before putting him in for thenight. And leave him there all night. You could try giving him a herbal stress reducer late at night until he accepts the routine

Keep a loaded water pistol with you and squirt right in the dog's face as soon as he barks
I have tried a bark collar, the dog ate it . Tried another one, the dog didnt seem to notice and I suspect it wasnt working

As well as kennels, I have a dog room at the end of a passage at the back of the house. Four young dogs sleep in there , each in their own crate. Never hear a sound from 10.30 pm to 7.30 am

I have a couple of dogs who bark if they hear the gate opening, and know somebody is approaching the house. Thats fine with me, as this is an isolated house. And some of mine will stand at the door and bark if they need to go out. Thats fine too. Better than a puddle in the hall :))
I also have two bitches who sometimes bark incessantly when left out in the dog run. They get brought inside, spoken to severely (read shouted at) , put back out, if they start barking again, they get a whack on the backend and put in a crate in the dog room, with the door closed.
Some people will find this heavy handed but I find incessant barking very stressful, and I'm afraid I just dont tolerate it
The longer you tolerate incessant barking, the harder it is to break the habit
And once you have one incessant barker in the house or kennels , it encourages other younger dogs to do the same
Good morning, everyone.

First of all, THANK YOU all. I so appreciate your input ... so many good ideas and comments. It is obviously a complicated problem that will require lots of different but coordinated efforts. Last night, we put on "the ocean" at a rather high volume and it DID help ... first bark came at 4:18 (to be precise!), which was a dramatic improvement. To answer the question, is this new? Well, yes and no. He has always barked when startled by an unknown noise ... so I agree that he needs more exposure to these noises so it will no longer be a big issue for him. As Sue & Cash once said, if they don't like something, just do it more often!!! And yes, I am sure that I have reacted in the past thus setting up a bad feedback loop ... whether I am currently reacting (from Cosmo's perspective) is probably no longer relevant to him. The habit was formed early. Why has it suddenly gotten worse? Well, my husband and I reflected on that too ... now that it is fall, we no longer have fans running all night and so, yes, it is quieter in the house and more sounds are audible. It has also been fairly rainy the last week, so Cosmo has gotten much less exercise. All these factors converged ...

My strategy going forward is to desensitize him to loud noises by exposing him to more of them all the time, using the noise machine at night in lieu of the fans, getting him more exercise during the day and right before bedtime, trying the spray bottle in the face "feedback" and looking into possibly getting a larger crate. I have not ruled out trying an electronic collar at some point but it would not be my first choice and IF I were to try it, I would still be doing the other things all the more because he needs to be trained, calmed, and desensitized either way.

After a reasonably good nights sleep (finally), I am more hopeful. So thank you again for your many helpful suggestions. And not to worry, my question about a pill or herbal remedy was just a joke ... I don't believe in using medication to solve behavioral problems, as a general thing. Although the glass of wine is a different matter entirely!! :)
Gigi, glad you are feeling more hopeful today.

You might look at the DAP diffuser to help Cosmo feel more secure. It plugs into a socket and produces a smell that is very comforting and reassuring to dogs... something to do with pheromones produced by lactating b*tches. We used it to help Luna through bonfire night when we lived in a town ... the fireworks started two weeks before and carried on for a week after, and she was PETRIFIED. It really helped.
See: http://www.dap-direct.co.uk/
Not sure where you are, but it seems to be internationally available.

I'm not convinced that negative punishment (spraying water, training discs) would be a good route with Cosmo since he may be feeling anxious and insecure. I would be more inclined to distract his behaviour with play, or by calling him to you, asking for a sit and giving him a treat. But quite difficult to make sure you aren't rewarding the barking.
Thanks for this suggestion ... I just ordered one today. I also ordered a noise desensitizer CD.

So I want you all to picture me sitting with a glass of wine with an ocean machine going while playing a noise desensitizer CD to my dog who is parked in front of a dap diffuser and whose every bad reaction is being completely ignored by me!!! :) Well, okay, maybe not all of those all at once, but you can see that I am quite serious about this project. I also have a vet appointment to actually discuss this issue with a professional, although I doubt she will have better advice than what I get here!!

I assume that Cosmo will bark like crazy when each of my ordered items are delivered by the Fedex truck. Another opportunity to spray him in the face and/or ignore him before shoving him in a crate. ARGH!!!




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