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I have two English Pointer girls, a 1 y/o and a 3 y/o. We've had the 1 y/o since 8 weeks but took in the 3 y/o only 3 months ago. Things are mostly going great. The 3 y/o has always been a little on the shy end but usually warms up to new people within a half an hour, if we are not at home. We hardly ever have people over and at first she would bark at them for a few seconds. Then she started barking every time the door bell wrang or someone knocked. As time has gone on, she has started to be more worried and barking more. I've tried leaving her about the house when I answer the door and when someone comes in, as well as tried putting her in her crate in the back room, but either way she barks her head off the whole time. Now my bubbly, human loving 1 y/o is becoming more cautious around people and barking at people.

I know I need to start doing some desensitization and counter conditioning to strangers and probably start out on the street and so forth but we have a few times coming up when I will need to have someone come into my home to do some work around the house, where I need to be there to give instruction. I'm not really sure how to manage the situation. She doesn't like to be anywhere I am not (we are working on that as well) so I can't just stick her outside as that would be more along the lines of punishment to her. What have you others with shy, fearful dogs done to manage a situation like this?
 

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Crate in another room. Yeah, they will bark.. so what? That's where my dog goes when she can't behave herself (there are a couple kids that come to my house that she doesn't like) and every time we have people over to get something done in the house.

That being said, 90% of the dogs I've met bark when someone is at the door. Even my 14yo will bark at people for a few seconds before gluing himself to them for attention... But yes they pick up on it. My 1yo bark monster only started barking because the 14yo does it.. but it's something you can work on with a trainer.
 

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Your new dog is coming out of her shell and showing her true fears now which is really a good thing. Now you know and you can work with her issues.

Do crate if you have people over and she's reacting. She isn't learning that people are safe if she's reacting. I'll bring out Bucky when he's quieted down on leash with treats and we advance and retreat using treats keeping him more or less calm.

Dogs bark at doorbells, it's normal and annoying. You might go through Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol to help her get used to the scary sound and even move to having a very patient helper work with you further so long as your fearful dog is on leash so she's safe from a lunge. Bucky is great with workers around because they have zero interest in him. I bring him out on leash and we watch as the sink is fixed or whatever and he gets treats for bravely looking away from the person banging and laying down on the floor and all that weird stuff.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thank you. Yeah, I know barking at the doorbell is normal, it just seems excessive when it's been 10 minutes since the doorbell rang and they are still barking.
 

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Crate them in another room with each dog in a SEPARATE room. They can't see each other and are less likely to key off each other. Shut the doors to those rooms if necessary. Your 3 yo dog is quickly teaching your 1 yo dog to be mistrusting. Mistrust is both body language and body odor.. and when one dog is being spooky the other dog will suddenly wonder what it is they need to worry about and get spooky too.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I never thought about that being an odor thing, but that makes sense. I wish I had more rooms in this house. I might just have to lock the 3 y/o in the basement or outside.
 

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If you have the time and enough friends to help, you can try to desensitize:
1. First work with a few people that she knows. Have one ring the bell, come into the house, toss the dog a treat, then leave after a few moments. Then, after one minute, repeat. Do this 4 or 5 times, then repeat again about 4 hours later.
2. Next day, repeat the process, and include another person that she knows.
3. On the third day, include a third person.
4. On the fourth day, go back to one person that she knows and then include a person that she is less familiar with ... or someone she doesn't know, and repeat the progression over the next few days.

The idea is to expose her to as many non-threatening people as possible, for short encounters, in a predictable way.

If she has trouble with one of the people, then during the next visit, greet this person warmly, shake his hand, or hug her, and talk with him as if part of the family. Dogs can pick up on your unease or nervousness, but they can also pick up on warmth.
 
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