As a reminder, the problem was when the dog was fenced in the yard, the owner says she really barks at people or dogs passing by. The barking is a problem because she sounds really loud and aggressive and her owners are afraid she might become aggressive if this continues and there are neighbors who don’t like the barking.
In the second blog, trainers weighed in and a few of their responses included: planting shrubs for a visual screen, use helpers posing as passers-by to teach her not to bark, and take her outside on a leash.
Here are some of my thoughts:
Citizen Canine readers did this as an exercise in thinking of the possible causes and solutions. In a real behavioral consulting case, the consultant would have to see the behavior in real life, or at minimum on video.
If the barking really is a few (3-4) good RUFF, RUFF, RUFFS, and then she stops, my best guess is she is barking for attention, as in “hey, look over here.” With what I know without seeing the behavior, it doesn’t sound like territorial aggression, because in that case the dog would run the whole fence line barking the whole time. There’s a different body language with aggression and that is why seeing the behavior is so important. If she is simply barking to get attention as the people pass by, I would tell the worried owner that this behavior is unlikely to turn into aggression.
After the second blog, the owner wrote in to give us more (very useful) information. It turns out that the Poodle has access to a dog door so she can go in/out as she wants.
Considering this, I would start by locking the dog door and scheduling her trips outside. I would go with her and as some of the evaluators suggested, after she takes her bathroom break, play with her, do a training session, and provide organized exercise (chase the ball, etc).
Another thing that keeps coming back to my mind is the fact that she barked only a “few” times and then stopped. Is part of the problem with the dog door allowing the Poodle to go outside at any time, these few loud barks can occur at 5am, or are there only “a few” good barks that happen often? If I were working with the owner, I would ask her to do a baseline — record for me on this form when she barks and how often. If a dog only barked a few times a day and we could take the word “few” literally, could it be that the neighbor is unreasonable and a visit to the neighbor to talk about this is in order?
Ideally, my preference is to fix a behavior problem, so training would be a big part of the answer. For the first step in handling the immediate problem, I would close off the dog door and schedule outside trips. We’ll try to see if getting a short video of the behavior in action is possible and the owner would be interested in having a local Canine Good Citizen trainer come to see the dog.