Dear Lisa: I have two Pembroke Welsh Corgis. Within the last year or so, my oldest, age six, has begun to bark at certain objects in our home. For instance, he will bark at the waste can in our bedroom (which is the same as in the other bedrooms but he doesn't bark at those) and he will bark at our CD rack. These objects have always been in the house. He barks incessantly and pokes the objects with his nose. My husband thinks he has been watching too many of those home decorating TV shows and has become displeased with our decor. We've ignored him, tried to distract him, removed him from the room, etc. all of which have not changed the behavior. Any ideas? --Bizarre Barking Behavior
Behavior that shows up unexpectedly or suddenly is always puzzling but a little fact finding mission might reveal the causes. He may be barking for a variety of reasons such as his genetic predisposition to herd things, self-stimulation, (i.e. his barking and herding the furniture is keeping himself amused if he is otherwise bored or under stimulated or exercised), or he is doing it to gain attention.
Ask yourself a few questions. Does he do this only when one person is present in the house? Does he do it only when someone is watching? Has anything changed in his lifestyle or yours? Do you now work longer hours and are unable to take him on those long walks? After a little analysis you may find emerging patterns that can help you either curb this behavior or present opportunities to introduce new routines and behaviors that you all can live with.
If it's not boredom, or him trying to get attention, one of the first things that it might be is a change in his vision. Maybe there is some obstruction or cataract that is developing that is changing the way he sees things. Maybe certain items he is barking at look different from his point of view and he is alerting you to the changes. I would recommend going to see an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. Or, maybe something changed in the house that makes these objects look different, such as new lighting, new window treatments that create a new shadow pattern on the waste can in the bedroom, for example.
As a test, I would try moving the waste can into another corner of the bedroom or another room and see if he still barks at it. If this simple solution works, great, if not, then engage in more individual one-on-one time with your dog. Introduce new training techniques, enroll in an obedience or agility class, locate a herding club in your area and train the Corgi to do what he was bred for. The more positive and varied stimuli you give your dog the less likely he will be to engage in excessive barking at random pieces of furniture.
If you have a question, send it to Lisa at AskLisa@AKC.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions she cannot offer individual responses.