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Old dog "hearing things" and barking A LOT!

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  • Old dog "hearing things" and barking A LOT!

    Hi. I have an old girl who I believe is deaf, or at least heading in that direction. She also has issues with one eye. Overall, she is very happy and healthy but she is very much a "granny dog" with "granny issues."

    The problem I am having and need help with is this:

    She thinks she hears things, like cars in the driveway or people on the front porch when there is no one there. Sometimes it's the bass of my surround sound when we are watching a DVD. Sometimes it's the train that is over 2 miles from my house! In any case, she BARKS like crazy at the oddest times, to the point of being a real pain. I know she is old...and she is very sweet...and we laugh about this sometime...but...I've actually had to rewind DVDs because she wakes from a deep sleep and runs to the door. Well, that just gets the rest of the bunch doing the same thing so it's a bark fest.

    Sometimes this happens 10 times in a movie

    Do any of you have a suggestion that would be "kind and gentle" to my old girl so she learns to stop barking on command or before the whole pack runs to the door barking? I don't want to use a bark collar or anything like that.

    Thank you in advance for any suggestions!

  • #2
    How about turning down the sound, or disconnecting the surround sound all together?

    If she's losing her sense of hearing she may have a lot of trouble identifying what she's hearing. Not knowing what's going on would make her feel defensive.

    Hearing is very important to a dog, not being able to identify sounds may make her feel vulnerable.

    There is also the possibility of senility.

    the thing is, as our pets age, they need special considerations, and possibly sacrifices from us, to make their senior years as comfortable as possible. A small price to pay for all the years of unconditional love, right?
    Last edited by special; 06-09-2009, 06:44 PM.


    • #3
      But what would be the point of this person watching a movie?

      I mean maybe try taking off the surround sound but Im wondering if the dog is being that sensitive to sound, surround sound or not will set them off. Beside, that wouldn't solve the problem long term, that just masks it for a bit. There is still the issue of other noises triggering the behaviour.

      With dogs, you can't just avoid the situation. You have to train them out of the issue because anything can trigger it after a while. Im sure having the dogs go off after someone knocks on the door is just as annoying as during a movie. My parents have a dog like that. God love her but she just barks at every little thing and it doesn't matter if im laying around, doing nothing or watching TV, its horrible to listen to.

      Perhaps put a movie on and keep treats with you. When she starts to go nuts get her attention with the treat or toy or what not and everytime that sound is played treat her so she starts to understand its a good sound and shes rewarded when she is calm.

      Can she hear anything? Can you use a clicker? Perhaps do the clicker training thing where you start with introducing the clicker (click and treat her about thirty times in a row). Then get her to lie down and be "calm." Maybe Calm can be your cue word with this. Get her to "calm" without distractions for a bit. Then start bringing in the distractions, click and calm her. Then try it with a movie.

      I hope something helps!
      My Lovies: Fred, Keeper and Layla


      • #4
        Our old-timer, a 10-11 years old Border collie, was getting really confused...he'd be downstairs, and just bark and bark mournfully....though nothing was there. He also seemed to have forgotton how to get out of the room down there, he'd just shake and bark, as if an invisible barrier held him back.

        Hariold has been getting his "smart pills" for six months now, and he completely quit those behaviors. It's called Cholodin, and its a chewable tablet with choline (our vet suggested it--its supposed to help brain function), amino acids, vitamins, minerals.

        I don't believe in a lot of remedies that are out often its just hype. And, I can't say for sure that there has been a direct cause and effect, because other variables could have come into play. But I *do* know that Harold isn't doing all the mournful barking any more, and he seems a lot less confused!

        Roxanne Rustand
        All Creatures Great and Small Blog


        • #5
          Originally posted by FredsMom View Post
          But what would be the point of this person watching a movie?
          As I said, when our pets age, sometimes they require small (or large) sacrifices from us. A movie can be viewed without a lot of loud sound. Is a lot of noise more important than this elderly dog?

          Since this is a new behavior, in my opinion, the first issue is to find out WHY she is doing this.

          If she's losing her hearing, she could be confused as to what these sounds are. Which could make her feel defensive or vulnerable.

          She could be becoming senile, developing dementia. A vet visit could help determine that and know how to cope with it.

          I think this dog needs compassion and understanding and a check up, prior to any retraining.


          • #6
            To me, the surround sound doesn't seem like the issue since she's barking at things other than just the movies. No need to unplug your expensive sound system.

            Basically don't reassure her (that means no saying "it's okay" or "you're fine, it's just a train"). Redirect her attention. Get her favourite toy or a really delicious treat and whenever she starts barking you get her attention and make her do a sit or down or other command to earn that treat. It should be something super special. Also at random times during the day when she's quiet, make her do a command and give her a treat. Slowly work into using a dvd as a distraction. If she's calm, give her a treat. Start associating the word "Calm" or "Settle" with being quiet and well behaved.

            This isn't something needed to be seen by a vet; dogs will bark, it's what they do and older dogs will sometimes bark more cause they get spooked easier. Age is not a medical condition.


            • #7
              True, age is not a medical condition. But with age, comes medical conditions. And Deafness and senility are medical conditions.

              When one's senior pet suddenly begins exhibiting unusual behaviors, it could be a sign of illness. I prefer to be proactive with my pets' health, and so advise others to be the same.


              • #8
                Dogs go deaf with old age, there is no cure for that and no treatment for it either. All dogs bark too, you have only cats though so maybe you didn't know that. Also, senility isn't something worth medicating; if the dog is so far gone to be dangerous without drugs then so be it i don't think the dog is enjoying it's life.

                Once again, barking isn't an unusual behaviour for older dogs. I suggested the methods that have worked with not only my old nearly deaf and blind poodle, but with my clients' dogs with hearing loss too.

                Oh and i love how you're suggesting that I'm not proactive with my pets' health cause i use natural remedies and i don't take my dogs to the vet for every cough and sneeze or eye gunk. Some things don't need a vet, and people in this economy would like to know when it's imperative or not to go to the vet. Not every animal has to be on a medication, there are other ways of dealing with things you know.


                • #9
                  Read the post. The barking is new behavior. The elderly dog is "acting like she's hearing things". When any animal begins to show unusual behaviors, it's for a reason. The first thing to do, is find out what the reason is, not worry about the inconvenience of the human.
                  Last edited by special; 06-10-2009, 06:47 AM.


                  • #10
                    I re-read the post, and i don't think this is a neurological thing like you think it is special. The dog also has vision loss. My youngest has only a tiny bit of vision in her left eye due to a cat scratch injury (hence why i will never welcome a cat into my home or yard unless it's claws are gone), if she's not in a deep sleep and someone walks by her she's up and barking. If it's dark and she sees a strange shadow out of the corner of her eye, she'll start barking. It gives the illusion that she's hearing things and barking at them, but really she was just startled by a shadow or vibration along the floor or something. Just like how if my mother (who has full vision) isn't sleeping soundly and you approach her in the dark she'll freak out and wake up screaming.

                    Basically what is needing to be done is the "Calm" or "Settle" command. I've trained many dogs special, i've had many dogs in my life too; and I'm certainly not the idiot you try to make me out to be. I think you're better off sticking to the threads you know in the cat section. Dog behavioural problems require training not drugs.


                    • #11
                      Neurological was only one suggestion.

                      A dog losing her hearing and sight feels vulnerable and defensive. She probably has more trouble moving than she used to, also. All of this can cause a dog to act in unusual ways, and should be addressed.

                      Sure, a training method may be the answer. And there are people here who have the experience and knowledge to assist with that. but first, find out WHY she's acting the way she is. She needs compassion and understanding.

                      Elderly animals require special consideration. If noises upset her, ways (where possible) should be found to reduce noise.

                      None of us are vets or know the animal in question, but according to the OP, this is new behavior.

                      New behavior in any animal should be investigated. New, unusual, behavior is an indication that something is not right in the pet's world. It is in the dog's best interest to find out WHY she is acting this way.

                      Whether it be cat, dog or human, the elderly deserve compassion and understanding, and medical care, in their last years.
                      Last edited by special; 06-10-2009, 09:18 AM. Reason: to clarify


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MandyPug View Post
                        Basically don't reassure her (that means no saying "it's okay" or "you're fine, it's just a train"). Redirect her attention. Get her favourite toy or a really delicious treat and whenever she starts barking you get her attention and make her do a sit or down or other command to earn that treat. It should be something super special. Also at random times during the day when she's quiet, make her do a command and give her a treat. Slowly work into using a dvd as a distraction. If she's calm, give her a treat. Start associating the word "Calm" or "Settle" with being quiet and well behaved.

                        I think this is definitely the way to go. Its not like you can reduce the noise of the train two miles away from your house! And it would be impossible to reduce the noise of a "phantom" visitor to your front porch that isn't really there! Mandy makes an excellent suggestion on how to regain & keep control of the situation. Vigilance & consistency on your part is necessary though, so keep on it!

                        And as for taking her to the vet-she should be getting regular check ups-my dogs are fairly young & they go twice a year each. Now that your dog is officially in old age, you might take her to see if anything else might be failing that you can't see!

                        Good luck!
                        Having a dog completely fulfills my need to be called Mommy.

                        "I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."

                        Apologizing does not mean that you are wrong and the other one is right. It simply means that you value the relationship much more than your ego.

                        I bleed blue!


                        • #13
                          Thank you for all the suggestions. I had no idea there would be such a varied and number of responses.

                          Polly is old, not ill. She is very healthy just is either losing her hearing or it may be gone completely. It's hard to tell because there are other dogs in the house is she running to the kitchen because she hears the stainless steel bowls getting ready for feeding time, or because the other dogs are heading there??? Either way, she has hearing loss. She is also "selective" in her hearing (maybe). She seems to hear the bowls but ignores us when we call her. Still a smart dog

                          I really don't do the vet thing unless I know there's a medical problem. I don't do the doctor thing either with my family, unless there's strep throat or something that specifically needs to be handled by a doctor. Polly has no real medical issues. Her coat and skin is good, no shedding except a couple times a year (like right now), her eyes are not goopy, her ears are clean with no smell, her weight is excellent...and she loves to eat so her appetite is good.

                          Polly is on a good supplement...actually two of them. One is a powder called dinovite canine and one is a liquid called supromega. She is on an excellent diet as we switch between commercial foods and raw. Her energy level is pretty good for a 13 year old dog, although she does enjoy her bed more and her romps outside are shorter these days.

                          I think it is probably the vibrations that make her turning the bass down on the stereo might work...but I live in a house of men/boys who like those action movies with lots of bass. I think that is also why she barks at the train.

                          She is actually clicker trained but unfortunately, I don't think she hears the clicker well any longer. But, the suggestions help to remind me that giving her something to keep her "busy" during a movie or in the evening when she seems to bark more would give her a distraction. We use the bleached shank bones stuffed with natural peanut butter as treats so this might do it.

                          I've never used a kong because Polly has managed to shred anything except shank bones. Obviously, her teeth are still in good shape too.

                          I am going to get a bone ready for the netflix have arrived and there's a particular action flick that my boys will be watching on Friday night...I will let you all know how that works.

                          My other option I may consider is to crate her in a bedroom upstairs. She loves her crate and doesn't feel "punished" when she's put in it. We are just used to the dogs hanging out with us during movie nights. But, life is changing for our old girl so this may be a time for changes.

                          Thank you again to all of you for all the information. This was my first question on a forum and what a nice surprise to get all the excellent information.


                          • #14
                            Good luck, and thank you for caring about your old gal! Let us know how movie night goes.


                            • #15
                              No problem dogaholic (BTW, I love the dogs name, Polly, that was my moms best friends name who introduced me to yoga, so now whenever I see the name Polly I think of calm and serene and happy things).

                              Ive had older dogs. Well into her late teens. She started having hearing loss and barking mroe as she got older. Its just something dogs do.

                              And Special, you're sort of generalizing the "elderly." My grandmother is 80 years old and not only in better shape than most people in their 50s (she plays tennis and long walks DAILY, my 104 year old grandmother walked everyday till her last days as well) and would be offended if we treated her as a geriatric. She asks for help when she needs it. Obviously this is a dog and can't ASK for help, but the OP said she wasn't ill and many of us in here have dealt with older dogs, which is why we suggested trying to distract the dog before spending what iwll be unnecessary money at a vet. If the dog was going senile chances are she'd also lose control of her bowels and be showing OTHER signs, such as snapping at nothing, biting herself, etc. There are tons of signs. But barking because she has trouble hearing and seeing isn't necessarily a sign of incontinence and senility.

                              Please understand, many of us on here prefer to understand the problem and treat it, but we prefer doing it without rushing to the vet immediately and dosing the dog up with a ton of medications. And these same people will be the FIRST to say "get the dog to a vet" if we are given information that requires it. In fact there have even been disagreements with some of us who say get to the vet, stop being cheap and other members have come down on us for not trying to diagnose on here. While not ALL vets do this, many make money off of prescribing drugs and whether its needed or not the dog gets doped up. Oh, dog is barking? Here, give her this and she'll calm down. Dog has seperation anxiety? OH, lets start her on paxil. The thing is, the people no here who are suggesting redirection are dog owners and most of us have worked with geriatric dogs, so we have actual experience with this. Raising a dog is VERY different from raising a cat. Redirecting the behaviour is cardinal rule one of DOG training.
                              My Lovies: Fred, Keeper and Layla