Living With Reactive Dogs–home improvements

As many of you know, I’ve been fighting an up hill battle in my house of curbing fence fighting/reactive behavior from all three dogs. Shayne and Rio, after lots of hard work, are now easily called off of the undesirable behavior. They still choose to partake in said behavior but it’s not until the Shih Tzu sets them off. Before continuing to REALLY solve the problem–teach them to not fence fight/react in the first place–I need to work with Bandit. I tried really hard last summer with my two dogs and made great headway but Bandit’s behavior is preventing them from making the type of improvements that I would like. I’d rather not have to, but in order to get the behavior changes I want for my dogs, I need to improve Bandit’s behavior.

He’s quite the challenge because he’s not highly motivated by much… a “low level” treat for him is something like hot dogs or string cheese… he’s not play/toy motivated… and he’s not motivated by me much at all. Premack is going to be the way to go with him but it’s going to be a process.

First step on my new plan for working with Bandit is to reduce his ability to be reactive from inside the home. He loves to sit on the back of the couch in front of the windows sunning himself (he has to fight off the cats who also claim these spots as their favorite). The down side is that while he’s sleeping there, if he hears dog tags jingling outside or other telltale sound, he’ll wake up and start barking like a maniac (familiar story right?). Same goes for when he’s sunning himself in front of our storm door. This barking was a reaction–a ritualized behavior–he doesn’t think about it just bursts into the behavior.

So this past weekend I finally broke down and purchased a few home improvement items that I was hoping would help reduce his ritualized barking. I went to a big box home improvement store in search of something I could put on the windows that would prevent the dogs from seeing out. I was specifically looking for non-adhesive window clings/coverings that would mimic etched glass, stained glass, or some other masking material.

After a bit of a search, I ultimately found non-adhesive, cling on vinyl window designs. After looking through the samples (actually found in the flooring department) and seeing what designs appeared to make it most difficult to see what was on the other side and would let in enough light, I decided an etched glass design would be best. I didn’t really like the solid etched glass look so opted for a leaves pattern.

The window clings were crazy easy to install and since they were put up on Friday, there has been zero reactive barking. At one point Bandit heard something outside, raced to the window about to bark, realized he couldn’t see out and he looked horribly confused but never barked. There have been a few moments since then where he gets very huffy and puffy and is clearly on the verge of a melt down but without the visual stimuli, he doesn’t go over the edge. It’s been really fantastic.

This was a $45, 20 minute (for two windows) investment that has reduced the reactive barking to none. We’ll see if this continues to be the case but I’m hopeful that as he fails to completely react by barking like a maniac at the windows that his anxious and intense response to various sounds will continue to diminish as well.

Another modification that we will be making in the very near future is to replace our full-glass (or full screen) storm door with one that has 18+ inches of a solid bottom section. This will be a little bit more of an investment at about $250 total, but it will allow us to have our door open, get a nice breeze, without setting him up to react. If he can’t see out to react, it appears that he just doesn’t react. He needs that visual stimuli to push him over the edge (or so it appears at this point). Hopefully with these in place the reactive behavior will reduce and it’ll be easier to make some headway through training.

These are just two ways that you can do some little home-improvements to help reduce reactivity/barking/etc. to outside stimuli. I had suggested the window coverings before, but never realized just how quick, easy, and effective they are! It’s great!

  1. What a good suggestion! And it looks SO much better than one of my trainer’s suggestions of taping black construction paper over the windows- who wants to feel like they are living in a cave? Unfortunately, Pearl barks at closed windows and doors almost as much, if not more, than at open windows, so window coverings aren’t the great solution I thought they would be for us, but I bet these would work great for many window-barkers.

  2. The feline behaviourist I work with suggests these also for cats who spray inside due to roaming cats outside.

  3. Does the sun still come through for the dog to lie in? I have the same problem. I put this sort of covering on the narrow window by my front door but haven’t been able to bring myself to take the big window sunning spot away from my pup. He loves it so much.

    • Hi Susan, there aren’t as defined sun spots (because the light gets diffused) but there are definitely sun spots that the dogs seem to all ‘fight’ for.

  4. I ended up “frosting” out several dining room windows a few months ago.

    It worked like a charm. It seriously reduces the amount of meltdowns and keeps my dog from sprinting to the window whenever she hears a “suspicious” sound…

    For those who are wondering if it will help, how it will look and are wanting to test it out for cheap, you can scotch tape waxed paper to the window for a similar effect.

  5. As far as Shiva’s reactivity from inside the home goes we have been very lucky. Our front door does not have a window and our living room window is up too high and faces the backyard. We also don’t have a fence for Shiva to fight along.
    However, we will be moving in three months and our new place may or may not be so reactive-dog-proof, though you better believe I am going to look for one that is! If not, I may be needing these suggestions in the future!

  6. I’ve been thinking of using the window clings as well. I have a collie and sheltie that will both bark at the world. My windows are fairly new and double glazed. A note of caution for newer, double-glazed windows; at least on my windows the cling films will void my warranty. I called the window company to verify this.

    The potential issue is overheating of the interstitial gas so much that it over pressures the window and leaks out. To avoid that I’m thinking of trying the clings on the outside of strategic windows. I’ll give it a try one of these days…

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