I’m answering a Frequently Barked Question (FBQ) today.
FBQ: We have recently moved and my Pyrenean Mountain Dog, or Great Pyrenees, has started barking at everything. He was quite sensible about what he barked at before we moved. How do I help him to settle down and stop barking so much?
Clowie: From his point of view everything has changed and there are lots of new potential threats. He needs some time and help to work out which things are normal in the new location and which things are a concern, just the way he did when he was an adolescent and assumed his role of looking after household security.
I’d like to tell you about when we moved to a house in a remote part of Spain. It was very quiet. There were only a couple of houses and a barn anywhere near us. The houses were empty most of the time as they were used as holiday homes and the farmer rarely visited his barn.
On the day we arrived we stood on the terrace together looking at the view, when the male biped said, “Well, Lieutenant Woof, even you’re going to find it difficult to find anything to bark at here!”
I should explain that Lieutenant Woof is one of my many nicknames. It’s because I’m as excellent in my role of Chief of Security as Lieutenant Worf in Star Trek is. I should also say that wasn’t one of the brightest things the male biped ever said. He won’t mind me saying that, as he freely admits that he had totally underestimated my abilities to spot a potential threat when he said that.
During the course of the next few weeks I alerted the bipeds to all kinds of threats that they had no idea were lurking. Each time I barked one of them would come and check what I had seen and tell me what it was and that it was okay, just like they had when I was an adolescent first taking up my guarding duties. I think they were quite surprised at the variety of animals they wouldn’t have noticed near the house!
One Sunday afternoon a few weeks later, I was in my favourite lookout position on the terrace when I spotted something and began to bark. The male biped came out onto the terrace and looked around. He said that he couldn’t see anything to worry about and told me to be quiet. I continued to watch as I knew he hadn’t seen the threat. It wasn’t long before I felt the need to sound the alarm again. The male biped came out and he still couldn’t see what was bothering me, but he told me to be quiet.
I knew he didn’t know what I was barking at, so it wasn’t long before I barked again. This time he came out he asked me where the threat was. I stared pointedly at the ridge, but he still couldn’t see anything. He went indoors and returned with the binoculars. He put them up to his eyes and scanned the ridge. I knew he’d spotted the threat when he stopped moving and looked intently at one spot. He took the binoculars away from his face.
He looked at me and asked, “Seriously? A fox on the ridge?”
I looked back at him, pleased that, at last, he’d seen what I was warning them about.
He said, “But that’s about half a mile away, Clowie!”
I stared at the fox again, it was brazenly strolling about in broad daylight – it was obviously up to no good. I drew breath, ready to bark again. The male biped told me it was okay for the fox to be there and he didn’t want to hear another woof on the subject. I was wondering how close the fox would have to be before I should warn them, when he said that he didn’t want to hear another woof until the fox was in the yard below. He then turned to go back indoors but as he went in through the door I gave a quiet woof. He turned to speak to me again. I was sure he’d realised it wasn’t a good idea to let the fox get that close.
He said, “Clowie, it’s only a fox, be quiet! Not a woof till it’s in the yard below.”
Then he added, “On second thoughts, I don’t want to hear about it unless the fox starts climbing the grapevine to get onto the terrace! Not a single woof.”
I could hardly believe my fluffy ears! As you can imagine, I kept a close eye on that fox. It eventually disappeared into the distance and I knew all was safe. Over the next few weeks, I became more familiar with my surroundings and the things that my bipeds wanted to hear about. I also discovered there were plenty of things they thought of no concern, but I continued to watch just as carefully.
See you next Wednesday!