Owning a dog that barks too much is bad enough, but when Frieda’s dog, Skye, took to barking constantly whenever the television was turned on, exasperation slowly turned to despair.
Skye, a 7 year old West Highland White Terrier, had become so addicted to barking and jumping at the moving images on the screen that his elderly owner could no longer cope.
Unable to spend evenings quietly sitting in her own living room, tormented during the day by frantic barking whenever she walked past the TV even when it was switched off and worried about the noise disturbing the neighbours, she sadly made the decision that she could no longer keep Skye, and took him to the vet to be put to sleep.
This decision was not made lightly. She loved Skye having raised him from a puppy and he was her only constant source of companionship.
However, living with him was making her ill. She couldn’t entertain the idea of him going into rescue and being rehomed to someone she did not know, so she decided that a one-way trip to the vets was only one route left open.
The problem had begun three years before when they had moved into a new flat.
The TV was down at Skye’s level and he would enjoy watching wildlife and animal programmes. Frieda had encouraged this and had begun to put certain programmes on specially for him because she knew he enjoyed them.
Gradually, over time, the enjoyment gradually became an obsession and his life began to revolve around chasing anything that moved on the screen.
The obsession became a real problem during the Winter months when his exercise was restricted. Frieda, being elderly, was concerned about falling over in the mud and there was a lack of mud-free places around her home to walk him.
As well as restricted exercise, chances to play games with toys were also reduced because he was spending so much time watching television.
The games he was playing with the TV were much less satisfying than real games so he had to play more often and more persistently.
Luckily for Frieda and Skye, the veterinary surgeon Frieda uses knows of my work, having referred cases to me in the past. She called and a consultation was arranged for the following day.
Once here, we went through the problem behaviour in detail and I asked lots of questions to find out how it had arisen.
The basic cause of the problem was that Skye was not getting enough exercise or play and was finding an unacceptable outlet for all his energies which had developed into a bad habit.
We agreed to implement a programme of longer walks (Frieda found a neighbour who was willing to take Skye out when he walked his own dog) and more exciting, satisfying play with squeaky toys.
Skye’s addiction to the TV was gradually broken by tying him down next to Frieda’s chair so that he could not see the screen without standing up.
Since this was such an effort, and he was prevented from chasing the images, he eventually gave up and went to sleep.
Periods of good behaviour were rewarded by exciting games with toys and, after a few days, Skye stopped barking and became the good companion that he had once been.