Hello Lab lovers! Our 5-month-old Lab has started barking in public. Sometimes he will bark at other dogs or people, usually at a distance, not when he's actually meeting dogs or people up close. He now barks when we walk out the front door together. We took him to an outdoor cafe the other day and he barked as we were entering the patio area (only a few people seated), barked when another dog showed up, and barked as we were walking out. While we were there we were generally able to keep him calm with lots of treats. Just two weeks prior, we were able to dine at outdoor cafes without any problems, he was always very well-behaved and quiet.
We have had him since 10 weeks of age and have done lots of socialization - different types of people, situations, safe dog meetings with friend's dogs off-leash and with strangers on-leash. He has always been calm in public, just normal puppy energy. He has played very well with other dogs of all sizes. When he barks, his hackles are usually up. The behavior seems to have coincided with the onset of humping (toys). His bark also got deeper around the same time. This may sound crazy, but sometimes it seems that he's barking just to use his voice (meaning, it doesn't always seem to be fear-based). This is our 5th dog but our first puppy, so I don't know if this is considered normal behavior that is part of adolescence and hormonal changes. He doesn't really bark in the house or in his crate.
He gets about an hour of exercise a day - 30-minute walk, 30-minutes of fetch and/or play with our adult dog. Should I increase the exercise? I am also going to increase his obedience training and enroll him in a beginner or puppy class. I have started counter-conditioning techniques with him that I have used with our reactive dog.
Our vet wants us to wait up to a year before neutering. I'm wondering if neutering would help? Does behavior like this get "locked in" if it isn't resolved before neutering? Should I decrease his public input for a week or so - does he need a break from socialization? Having had a reactive shelter dog, I know how hard it is to undo this type of behavior, so this is a source of concern. I've been reading about the fear phase that happens around this time, does this sound like the same thing?
Thanking all of you in advance for any suggestions.
don't neuter now and do not neuter thinking it will "solve" any behavioural or training issue. He is likely going thru a fear phase - even a well socialized happy puppy will go thru a few of these (or can go thru a few of these). Work on training "no bark". Or maybe it's a "I think I'm a big boy now hear me be a big boy".
Neutering does not solve any behaviour or training issues.
You have a great vet! most vets recommend early spay/neuter but it is indeed better for the dogs to fully mature before fixing them.
Charlie (foster) and Rocky
Thank you so much for your reply! Since I wrote the initial note, we've started taking him to an athletic field for off-leash exercise and at the same time working on recall. I figure it might be good to change his routine as we see numerous dogs on his normal walk. At the athletic field, he barked at some of the soccer players but I was able to guide and distract him away using treats. Then he saw a dog on a blanket and started barking at him, hackles up. He also barked pretty ferociously at a soccer ball left on the field (not moving), but later on, he checked it out on his own and started playing with the ball. We then played fetch with him on the field for 45-minutes with a 20-foot lead (Attached until I know his recall is solid. We wouldn't hold it, he would drag it and run). During that time, he met three dogs, one of which was the dog he initially barked at. He barked a few woofs when the dogs approached but then quickly engaged them in very positive and energetic play.
The barking seems to be based more in fear and not aggression. He's never shown aggression to any dog even though several have shown their teeth/growled at him. I have found people to be totally unreliable when asked if their dog is friendly. Luckily, he has never been in a fight and I always steer him away quickly when I see any negative response from another dog.
I have also inquired about beginner obedience classes but they won't take un-neutered males over 6 months and the new classes won't start until he's that age. I have been through extensive training with my other dog, so I may have to train on my own for now.
The change was so sudden. Just two weeks ago I was sitting with him in the vet's waiting room full of dogs and he sat there quietly not making a sound. His behavior at that time was interested, not fearful, not hiding behind my legs. Today, it's hard for me to imagine him in that same room without going into a barking frenzy. Hoping it's just a fear phase.
Again, thanks so much for your response.
Last edited by RJohnson; 08-05-2013 at 06:23 PM.
I forgot to mention that I have been working on "quiet/no bark" with him. This morning he ran outside, barked at nothing, then ran back inside really quick and sat in front of me as if requesting a treat. It's like I've taught him to bark. What I've been doing is when he's in the midst of barking, I call his name (to get his attention), then quickly say "quiet" along with using his "sit" hand signal. Then I quickly give him treats. Am I doing this wrong?