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Hello, this is my first post. It's not exactly a training question, but does include some behavior modification and whatnot.

Long story short, I just relocated from China back home to the US. I brought my poodle that I'd gotten there. He's 5 and grew up in Shanghai with me and my partner. My Chinese partner can't physically come to the US. So, my dog is understandably stressed out of his mind with our 24hr journey on Sunday, a new home in rural northern NH, missing one of his dog parents, and my mother's presence.


After a few days, he's still barking at my mother when she moves around or makes noise in another room. He was friendly with her pretty well during her visits to me in China, but I guess he's forgotten. I know that being in his own home was a factor that he no longer has. Here, he'll let her pet him and will even play with her a bit, but it's like he forgets her when she goes out of sight.

I don't know what the best course of action is to deal with his barking. We both say 'No' firmly, and I'll give him firm taps when he won't stop. I don't want to positively reinforce the behavior by cuddling him, but I know that him being very stressed and uncomfortable is the primary cause.

I brought some of the food he's used to, a bunch of his toys and clothes, and we're nearly inseparable in the house. I'm trying to make him feel as secure as possible, but we need to get over the barking fits like when my mother gets up to go to the bathroom art 5am or either of us brings in wood for the stove. He uses his new bed and seems comfortable there, but he'll wake up barking when he hears even cooking noises from the kitchen. We're social distancing inside until I get tested for covid, so we can't sit with him for extended periods together on the couch to get him used to physical contact with her.

I'm stressed that he's stressed, and I need to try and manage myself. Other than that, is there anything else I can do to try and stop the barking? We've ordered a beeping/vibrating bark collar (no shock). Is this something we'll just have to wait out? If so, how long would it be until I should be worried if it doesn't stop?

*He's always barked a bit at outside things, and I don't blame him. China is really 'loud' in terms of delivery men just shouting down the hallway for residents to come out and meet them, 'recycling carts' driving by with megaphones, old men with bells scaring away ghosts, and aunties unnecessarily yelling gossip at each other. One of my hopes was that my dog could have a more peaceful life in the US without all that, but he's barking at inside things, now.
 

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Well, not a complete fix, but-
1. Time. And Patience and Kindness
2. Make sure he is getting enough mental and physical exercise
3. Do everything possible (as I'm sure you are) to build a positive bond between the dog and your mom
4. It is okay to comfort him, to a certain point. Fear cannot be reinforced as it comes from a different part of the brain as the part that learns. Of course, you do want to make sure that he doesn't begin to associate the pets with barking, as you said, so you can (a) try to comfort him when you see he is beginning to get stressed, not when he starts barking. (b) try to spend time comforting him the rest of the time. Even when he's not actively showing it, he's probably feeling a lot of stress.
5. Your mom might want to try things like petting him or feeding him if at all possible... Will he do better outside than in the house?
6. You do what is best for your dog, you know him better than I do. But I will STRONGLY encourage you to reconsider the vibrating collar. I will NOT say this is an inherently bad tool, but adding one more new, unfamiliar, and potentially confusing or stressful thing could make the problem much worse. He is barking likely out of fear and stress, not because he is "bad" this is his natural response to his world being turned upside-down. The best thing to do, it seems from your description, is to retain whatever semblance of normalcy you can. Kindness, patience, love and more patience and more love is what will et you through this.
7. Would it help to let him see what's going on? You said the barking fits take place when he hears your mom doing something. Perhaps it would help him to see what is going on and realize that it is ok, not some scary new house monster out to get him :).

Again, I don't know to what extent any of this is possible or useful for your dog and your situation, but I hope this helps!
 

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One of the commands I use is "Enough"
If I say 'enough' and the barking persists then a verbal scolding of "no!"

You could try to teach this command in a different scenario.
I think your dog will adjust with time. You could limit how much access they have to a single room instead of the whole house.
 

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One of the commands I use is "Enough"
If I say 'enough' and the barking persists then a verbal scolding of "no!"
A very helpful command, all dogs would do well to learn it. We just want to make sure we are also addressing the cause, not just the symptom. Which, of course, I am sure you do and are well aware of, just wanted to add that little clarification :)
 

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Even though you're social distancing, can you take the dog to the doorway of the room your mother is in and let him see what's causing the noise? In other words say something like, "It's okay," or "That's just Mom," and then take him to where he can see. Same with the 5 a.m. thing. What if when she gets up your Mom sang out, "It's just me"? I'm thinking if you did that consistently, it should get to where just saying, "It's okay" would reassure him about a noise and stop excessive barking.
 

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A very helpful command, all dogs would do well to learn it. We just want to make sure we are also addressing the cause, not just the symptom. Which, of course, I am sure you do and are well aware of, just wanted to add that little clarification :)
The dog is stressed and it barks. tell it to stop barking. idk why its more complicated than that.
If you overthink it and do things like take it to the other room when it barks you will be rewarding and reinforcing the barking behavior.

You're talking to me about addressing the cause but in your OP you stated that the cause was an unfamiliar environment.. won't that be addressed by the natural passage of time ?
 

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Hi! I moved from the US (NH actually) to Norway several years ago now, with my poodle. It is a huge change and it will probably take weeks or months for both of you to adjust fully. I say both of you because sensitive dogs will absolutely be feeling that you're also a little off-balance about the new situation, and that probably plays a role in their stress as well, since they can't really understand what happened.

I agree with giving him time, and avoiding adding to his stress by using corrective tools like bark collars - even if they don't shock, they work by being unpleasant for the dog to experience. This may solve the barking, but increase his overall stress and anxiety about the new living situation to the point where you will see other, more difficult behavior issues start to develop. My poodle was always obnoxious about barking and excitedly pulling towards other dogs on leashed walks, but in retrospect I now see that it escalated to more intense growling, whining, and freaking out after the move because he was experiencing a lot of stress we didn't realize, and it lead to this behavior becoming a significant issue. We're now actively working with it and finally seeing improvement, but it would've been better for everyone to help him learn how to manage his stress better when it first started escalating.

Work with fun, calming, confidence building activities like nose games - for example hide kibble for him to sniff out as part of his daily meals. Stock up on stuffable chew toys like the Kong Classic and offer them to him during periods he seems worked up or when you anticipate an event that usually sets him off, for example if you know your mother will be making 'weird' noises during her 9AM workouts (random example), you offer a frozen, filled Kong (or similar) at 8:50 so your dog has something more interesting to do and is engaging in naturally calming chewing and licking behaviors when the sounds start.

We're using pattern games recently to help our poodle de-escalate when he gets stressed and frustrated over other dogs, which may be something useful if your dog can't seem to stop barking or calm down after something sets him off. Our favorites are "1-2-3" which is where we count and always give a treat on three, useful on the move when we need to walk him past a stressful spot, because he starts anticipating the treat and returns his focus to us by '2', which helps him learn to redirect to us and keep his anxiety lower. If he's had a freakout, we like to do a game where he looks at us and we drop a treat to his left, he gets it, we drop one to his right, rinse and repeat. This one is good for getting him to calm down and unwind instead of spending the rest of the walk tense and looking for the next dog to freak out over. Usually we'll do these 5-8 times in a row using small, healthy treats, and we practiced them a lot in non-stressful training sessions first before using them outside. They're naturally calming and comforting because the dog knows exactly what to expect and it gives them something to focus on instead of their stress. Might help shorten the barking sessions with your pup and keep him from getting too amped up and more likely to bark again.

It's okay to comfort a distressed dog. You can't reinforce anxiety by being calm and comforting (you can by freaking out and acting stressed or scared yourself). Even if the dog does start to think that they'll get cuddles by barking, the emotional intensity behind the barking will naturally decrease, and be easier to train away or even may disappear naturally as your pup becomes more comfortable. Now is a time he needs to know you're there for him. If he's barking just to alert, you can work on tricks like teaching him to bark on cue, then training him to stop on cue, which usually leads to the dog responding to the stop cue in other situations.

But yes, a lot of this is just time. Give him routine and security, make sure his physical and mental needs are being met but don't do too much to challenge him in ways that might be stressful (like I described above, nose games and pattern games are awesome, but super easy, fun, low-pressure training can be a great stress reliever too). If you can, walks in a wooded area where the dog gets a lot of freedom to sniff around and explore are great for dog and human alike.

I really feel you since I went through a lot of this same experience (my wife lived in Norway for a couple years before I was able to move there to be with her, so even including the international relationship part). I wish you a ton of luck. It's hard, but you'll figure things out.
 

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Lots of good advice already given regarding ways to help your dog settle in & acclimate to her new living environment.

Not exactly the same situation as yours, but one of my dogs has a similar 'stranger danger' reaction when we have guests over (particularly men) She's happy to greet them when they arrive & all is fine, but after that anytime they leave the room & reenter, or sometimes even just move through or across the room, she goes into a fit of hysterical barking.

Last time we had extended houseguests (pre covid) I was dreading a week of her non-stop hysteria, so we asked our male friend to toss her treats every time he wandered around. He also would 'warn' her verbally in a happy, upbeat voice before moving or entering ("Dinah!! I'm going to stand up now." or "Good morning! Here I am! I'm coming down the stairs now.") and then scatter treats around for her to swiffer up. We started calling him 'Cookie-Man' :LOL: Well, as silly as it seemed, after only about a day & a half instead of barking at him she was running towards him with tail wagging anytime she heard him coming. At that point he was able to back off on the constant treat throwing & only occasionally upon entering the room would he toss one.

Perhaps you could come up with a similar system when your Mom makes noise? If she's in another room, then maybe you could be the one to scatter feed & announce "Hey! It's Mama!!" I do agree with the above advice to give it time & avoid using an aversive collar to try & achieve the quiet. I know it's frustrating, but you need to find ways to reduce her stress, not increase it, which punitive methods will do.
 

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Calming Care isn't a drug. It's a probiotic, with a strain proven to have an affect on behavioral issues. Diphenhydramine might help with allergies or for mild sedation in a pinch, but it doesn't address the underlying anxiety.

And there is absolutely no shame in using behavioral medications prescribed by a vet. In too many cases, people turn to them as a last resort, when their dog's life (and theirs) could have been made so much easier by trying medication earlier on.
 
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Calming Care isn't a drug. It's a probiotic, with a strain proven to have an affect on behavioral issues. Diphenhydramine might help with allergies or for mild sedation in a pinch, but it doesn't address the underlying anxiety.

And there is absolutely no shame in using behavioral medications prescribed by a vet. In too many cases, people turn to them as a last resort, when their dog's life (and theirs) could have been made so much easier by trying medication earlier on.
If a substance you ingest has a physiological effect then it is, by definition, a drug. and some probiotics are regulated by the FDA.
And it certainly does address the underlying anxiety. I must disagree with you.

In humans there is something called exposure therapy. You provide the human with a sedative such as xanax and then expose them to the anxiety producing stimulus.
Over time they get used to the stimulus, the associate being relaxed around the stimulus, and the anxiety is alleviated.
 

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Putting on my mod hat for a moment to point out that suggesting someone give their dog a human medication without veterinary input is pushing the boundary of the forum's no medical advice rule. We can debate whether probiotics are a 'drug', but the fact is Benadryl is not packaged or sold for canine use and an overdose is both possible and extremely dangerous, while overdosing dog probiotics is both quite difficult to do and has much less dire consequences.
 

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One of the commands I use is "Enough"
If I say 'enough' and the barking persists then a verbal scolding of "no!"
I'm curious to know, by what process does a verbal scolding of "no!" bring effectiveness? In other words, what causes success with "no!" when "enough" has failed?
 

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I'm curious to know, by what process does a verbal scolding of "no!" bring effectiveness? In other words, what causes success with "no!" when "enough" has failed?
Well I realize when posting this I only gave half the story!! Sorry. Here is full story.
When dog barks and I say "enough" and the barking stops then the dog is praised and rewarded! If it keeps barking then it is scolded.

This falls into the basic training premise of carrot or stick
The main thing here is that it gives the chance for a dog to be rewarded with positive interaction when it stops barking.

If you just jump straight to the "no" then youre being negative all the time.
But it's very clear to the dog you want the barking to stop if its rewarded for stopping and punished for continuing.

Putting on my mod hat for a moment to point out that suggesting someone give their dog a human medication without veterinary input is pushing the boundary of the forum's no medical advice rule. We can debate whether probiotics are a 'drug', but the fact is Benadryl is not packaged or sold for canine use and an overdose is both possible and extremely dangerous, while overdosing dog probiotics is both quite difficult to do and has much less dire consequences.
I'm new here and I'll be more careful in the future.
 

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The dog is stressed and it barks. tell it to stop barking. idk why its more complicated than that.
If you overthink it and do things like take it to the other room when it barks you will be rewarding and reinforcing the barking behavior.

You're talking to me about addressing the cause but in your OP you stated that the cause was an unfamiliar environment.. won't that be addressed by the natural passage of time ?
Absolutely! And I totally agree with you :) . Definitely the dog should be told that it is not expected to bark, or the behavior will not stop, even after he settles in more. I just feel that if the dog is nervous and stressed, the best thing at this point isn't to be stern and insist on good behavior. While insisting on proper behavior is always necessary for any dog owner, simply telling a nervous dog a command or giving a "stern no" is not in the best interest of the dog. To solve the problem, generally you should both address the symptom and the cause. Simply suppressing the barking may solve the human problem, but it could cause extra stress for the dog.
So what I'm saying isn't that your approach is wrong- far from it. I just think it would be better to also address the nervousness that is causing the unwanted behavior, for the sake of the dog, mainly. I hope this makes sense.
-Also, I don't think it would be reinforcing the behavior. If he was barking, say because he wanted to be let out of a crate, or wanted to go see OP's mother, then yes, it would be reinforcing it. You'd be giving him what he wanted. But he is barking because the noises confuse him and maybe even scare him a bit. So taking him to show him "see, this isn't a scary thing, it's just mom" isn't reinforcing the barking, it's reassuring him. You cannot reinforce fear, it comes from a different part of the brain.
 
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