Q&A: How do we get our dog ready for our RV lifestyle?

sad-dogWe have a 7 y/o Pyrador, altered male, lots of energy, super-guardian, barks at cars going by and intruders; has bitten one intruder (a friend he didn’t know;) and he doesn’t like men as much as women. In the next 6-9 months, we are taking him away from 3 rural acres (we currently live in the country bordering a national forest) where he can run to his heart’s desire. We are moving into a 5th-wheel RV while we tour the nation for our retirement. He will have to be on a leash or lead at all times and will have strangers around him at all time (whom he will bark his head off at). How do we make this drastic change in his lifestyle? We are healthy owners and plan to walk him often, but we know the barking and restraint will be a problem.  Thank you, Kyla F.

So- think of the breeds that went into your mix. Labs are normally considered fairly docile and people oriented, but the Great Pyrenees is a different story. This is a powerful breed conceived with a very protective instinct, and are known to bark at just about everything. It’s not his fault at all, just the purpose for which he was bred.

It sounds to me the most important thing you need to consider is working on social skills, especially if he is aggressive toward strangers right now. I’m sorry to say, at 7 years old, that is not going to be easy. Dogs are most receptive to new experiences and welcome new encounters during puppyhood, specifically 12-16 months. It can be much harder to socialize a grown adult. It’s not his fault at all; even if he is fantastically social, this is a breed that will bark at unfamiliar things encroaching his territory.

You can try rewarding him for allowing strangers to approach, asking strangers to hand him treats, etc. Show him strangers aren’t a threat. You can contact a certified animal behaviorist if you have the money to afford one (be sure he is an actual certified behaviorist, and not just a trainer), which could offer one on one help.

If you are going to be around kids or other strangers are likely to approach while you’re away, I would certainly suggest keeping him inside as opposed to outside on the leash.

Consider a body harness with a sign, something like ‘don’t approach, or ‘do not pet’. I’m sure you’ve seen the harnesses that service dogs wear, with signs alerting strangers not to pet? Don’t go with those exact colors, but something that stands out.

Try this Training Method:
When your dog is barking, say “Quiet” in a calm (don’t show any emotion), firm voice. Wait until he stops barking, even if it’s just to take a breath, then praise him and give him a treat. Just be careful to never reward him while he’s barking. Eventually he will figure out that if he stops barking at the word “quiet” he gets a treat (and make it a delicious treat, such as cheese or chicken, to make it worth more than the barking.)

You might consider investing in a ‘bark’ collar. Not all ‘shock’ or jolt your pup; many of the new ones will offer a sound and vibration correction as well. You can also talk to your vet concerning mood altering medications, such as those used to treat excess anxiety or depression in dogs. Anxious dogs will often bark more.

As far as strangers entering your area or home while you are away, this is what GP’s were bred to prevent (as far as animals/predators) and it would be natural for your dog to show aggression. You might want to check the laws in the area you will be in regarding dogs, and prepare accordingly; not all will side with the homeowner (though it does seem ridiculous for any legal system to support an intruder).

Avoid muzzles that restrict your dog from panting, which any that prevent barking would probably do, but this could prevent dog bites.

Finally, I don’t like to suggest this and I’m sure you might cringe at the idea, but it is a preferred alternative to sheltering him. There is a surgery you can talk to your vet about that will ‘soften’ his bark.

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Junior Watson

Junior is the DogTrainingBasics.com resident "Top Dog". He enjoys walks in the park, chasing invisible cats, and of course... bacon strips!

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