How do I help my barky dog relax with contractors in the house?
April 8, 2013 9:44 AM   Subscribe

My dog generally loves people, though she's usually a bit shy at first. Normally, when we have people come over, she has a chance to warm up to them and is their best friend in no time. However, we're having an upstairs bathroom remodeled, she's having a hard time with it (the noise and strangers), and is subsequently barking a lot. I have considered some of the anti-bark products (citronella, ultrasonic), but since I suspect this is fear-based barking, I don't want to encourage her to be even more fearful. We are especially motivated, because we're expecting a baby in 10 weeks or so, and we don't want her waking him/her up every time something goes bump. Does anyone have any tips or tricks that could make things better? Thanks, MeFi!

Some more information that may or may not be relevant:

She's a 4.5-year-old lab mix.

She seems to do better when I can be by her and treat her for not barking, but my wife and I are not able to be in the house for much of the time the contractors are.

She generally doesn't bark much, if at all, when out on walks with us, but can be barky when she hears noises around the house or when someone comes to the door, even outside the remodeling stuff.

We have been keeping her in her crate downstairs during the remodel to keep her contained, since the only other spaces where we could contain her are the laundry room (see below), our bedroom, where the cats currently are (and therefore a non-starter), and the nursery, which is immediately next to the bathroom under construction.

We've tried putting her in the laundry room with the exhaust fan on, which seems to help by blocking out a lot of the noise and helping her feel more secure, but in her crate, she takes up basically the whole space, which is inconvenient for us and potentially for the contractors, since the laundry room is directly under the bathroom that's being remodeled.
posted by stufflebean to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You know, it's one of those things. If I had to stay home all day with contractors, I'd be annoyed and grouchy too!

How about Doggie-Day-Care until the new john is done?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:56 AM on April 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've used this anti-barking sonic egg thing, which worked well. I'm pretty sure my neighbors thank me. Note: I had to take the first one back because it didn't work. I've been told by others they had a similar experience.
posted by answergrape at 10:17 AM on April 8, 2013

I can recommend lots and lots of exercise, whether walks, ball playing, or general romping. Like us, dogs can resolve a lot their emotional issues working up a good pant.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:36 AM on April 8, 2013

I have a Rather Barky Dog, and my suggestion would be to keep her crate in the part of the house that is as far as possible from the room being remodeled, with the crate covered with some sort of dark-colored fabric. If that happens to be the laundry room, then I would do that even if it is inconvenient. Ask the contractors to let you know in advance if they're going to need access to that space and you can temporarily return to a less acoustically separated arrangement. Also give the Thundershirt a try; some people find it helpful and it comes with a money back guarantee if you don't feel like it's making a difference.
posted by drlith at 10:43 AM on April 8, 2013

We used the air-version of the citronella collar with ours for a while, but I think your reasons for avoiding this are sound. Letting her meet the people coming in, so they become familiar, can be a huge help, if that's something you're able to do. If it helps any, I can say that our newborn adjusted to our barky dog almost immediately, and slept right through pretty much all standard amounts of barking. Once most babies know what the "familiar" sounds are, they can usually sleep through pretty much anything, noise-wise.
posted by Mchelly at 10:50 AM on April 8, 2013

If being in the room with the exhaust fan helps, how about creating some noise for her wherever you park her crate? Maybe set up a radio on a talk station at a low-ish volume, or leave the TV on, or maybe even run some box fans.

My dog thankfully rarely barks, but he does tend to get up and anxiously whine/sniff around if he hears something unfamiliar or if he hears other people outside. But when the TV is on, he neither notices nor cares about external noise.
posted by phunniemee at 11:14 AM on April 8, 2013

We are in a similar situation too ... although our dog has much more extreme reactions. We're in the midst of a multi-step training process that is working quite well, but two of our techniques may be most helpful for your situation:
(a) replicate the value of the laundry room fan by putting her downstairs but drowning out the noises with a white noise machine or perhaps a CD player on repeat that plays soothing music,

(b) Two to three times a day (10-15 minute sessions max), systematically familiarize her to the construction noises with lots of small yummy treats. Have her downstairs in the place where she will stay when you are out of the house. Then have someone imitate the construction noises while you stay near her with treats at the ready (or be there during construction times). Just before she is about to bark at a sound (at that point when you see her raise her nose and inhale to bark), give her a click and then a treat. Rather than barking, she'll swallow; she will also associate the sound that made her want to bark with yummy food instead. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

These two techniques can also help her with the new baby. You've probably already read similar information, but Dr. Sophia Yin's article is especially good.
posted by apennington at 9:35 AM on April 9, 2013

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