I have a two and half year old pug (1/8 boston terrier) named Stella!
Ever since she was a puppy she has had a habit of screaming (not barking, very much a scream like howl) when she is anxious or excited. We like to take her for walks but when she see someone else, especially other dogs, she immediately starts to scream which can scare and intimidate other dogs. She is very friendly and stops screaming if the dogs come up to her and play with her. Many onlookers are afraid something is wrong with our pug or that she is in pain but we let them know she is just excited. Regardless, it is a very jarring scream that would make anyone concerned!! It causes quite the commotion at parks.
I've looked on some forums and I haven't seen many others who experience this. Those who do say a spray bottle with water works well. We use it at home but I would feel embarrassed taking it to the park! We've also tried to coax her with treats but she is always too focused on the dogs around her.
Generally, Stella is very calm but her anxiety and excitement can skyrocket. I'm looking for suggestions on how I can help her and us!! thank you in advance!!!
Hi & I'm sorry I've no advice to offer, but I hope you can find a solution, or you might have to just adjust to the fact that her "bark" is different from most, but that's just the way she is. There are herbal calming collars you can buy--we tried them once on our Pug and Lab when we had to go on a trip to Canada & really needed them to be on their very best behavior, as we were going to stay with relatives who weren't accustomed to dogs in their house. The collars did seem to work. We had them on the dogs part of the way while driving in the car, & the fragrance was rather strong, and I do believe they were having a rather calming effect on us, too! But if she behaves fine when interacting with other dogs & people, maybe that's just the way her "voice" is, & she can't help it. You might try asking a dog behaviorist, if you can find one. Please keep us posted on how it goes.
Rugby 7/10/02 - 9/28/15 Miss you, little girl! You're always in my heart!
Molly DOB: 7/6/04
Hello and to PugVillage. Glad you have joined us. I have two Pugs. Lu Ci has the more traditional Puggie, "Woo, Woo" while Ri Ki is a screamer. I know what you mean about the scream being quite jarring but that is just his voice and I have never tried to train it out of him so I don't have any suggestions to offer. Would love to see pix of Stella. We do love photos here.
We never touch people so lightly that we don't leave a trace.
Welcome to the Village. Like you and Lu Ci and Ri Ki, I too had a screamer: my sweet one-eyed brindle boy Wooster, who had been traumatized by abuse. He would scream in anxiety, aggression and also excitement (when we were getting ready for walks). It diminished somewhat with positive reinforcement training, but it persisted, as it was his natural voice.
So I can understand your own anxiety about this, and it's a challenge, but I've learned from my trainer that we shouldn't squirt water on an anxious pug any more than we'd spray an anxious child—Stella will rightly view it as an attack, and the last thing you want to do to your loving pug is attack her, especially when she's anxious. Sure, it'll stop the behavior at the moment — aversion training does have its effect on animals and humans alike—but in the process, it erodes your dog's trust and love for you, and in the long run will intensify her anxiety and might make her fear you.
I admit, I used to use squirt bottles myself (for group barking), thinking it was a humane, nonviolent way to keep the barking down when all else failed (I have four pugs at once, so it can be quite a chorus around here), but my wonderful trainer explained that to a dog, a sudden squirt is a punishment, analogous to being physically struck, and, like all aversion training, it damages the human-animal bond with fear and confusion. And because this is a natural behavior (it's just Stella's voice), that makes punishment even more problematic and tough to change. But with positive reinforcement you would have the best chance, and it has many other great benefits.
Especially for anxious/excitable moments, clicker-based reward training would be a great option. When you see the behavior you want (in this case, when she stops screaming), you "mark" that moment with the clicker and then immediately deliver a high-value treat. This speeds up learning considerably and might make her less anxious and scream less, if not get rid of it entirely. You might have better luck by introducing a substitution behavior to replace the screaming, as it's easier for dogs to understand — for example, maybe she could do a series of sits and downs when you see her amping up.
Sophia Yin and Karen Pryor are great behaviorists/trainers who have posted very helpful videos and articles online for free. Training really enhances the human-dog relationship and occupies the mind, which will also help her calm down. You might also try chews: bully sticks, himalayan cheese chews, antlers... a good chewing habit can help a dog self-soothe.
Boosting her physical activity would also be likely to help, as barking is often diminished in a dog that has plenty of exercise.
And it sounds like she would benefit from group training too, since she needs controlled, positive-reinforced (keep some high-level treats and clicker in your pocket!) exposure to the triggers to learn to handle social interaction and excitement more calmly. Make sure it's entirely positive-reinforcement based (NOT "mixed training" or Cesar Milan-style "dominance training," which use negative reinforcement and punishment/aversion "training", which is actually abuse). Along with exercise, positive reinforcement training, at home and in group classes, can help you bond, help her calm down, occupy her mind, and wear her out in a good way.
Good luck, and keep us posted!
Last edited by Loconn55; 03-12-2018 at 10:04 PM.
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My puppy is not screaming but loves people and other pets. He just runs to everyone jumping up barking. I trained him to walk “heel” , “no play” and sometimes used “sit”. It takes some time but your pug can learn to be calm on walks. At the dog park I do not care - he is there to play and socialize. He is there for him I am only making sure he is safe. Other people there should mind there own business, I am hardly talking to people and am to busy watching my guys having fun. So my best suggestion is a trainer and group lessons.
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Hello & to the village! Tinker only screams when she is super excited but it is ear splitting! I don't know what you can do about it. Pugs have their own peculiarities, this being one of them. Glad to have you both here!
Jackie,Mom to Robbie & Stacy my human children and Tinker my furkid.
Wonka is a screamer! And Wow, he can really scream! It can be ear-piercing. But, I have never tried to train it out because that is just him, that's how he vocalizes. He barks as well - when he sees a "threat," but when he is excited about something he screeches....loudly. When we are in the car and pull up to the pet store, you can probably hear him screaming from inside the store! Yes, people turn and stare. But, as I said, that's just him and I've learned to accept and live with it.
I agree with LoConn55 above that, since Stella appears to screaming due to excitement and possible anxiety, a spray bottle would be the wrong course of action. She had some good suggestions in her post about training a substitute behavior and about getting Stella into a group class for some socialization and training.
I hope you find something that works well for you and for Stella.
Mom to Miss Jelly Bean "Beanie" Licorice Pug
Forever in our hearts: Miss Nilla Sassafras Pug August 17, 2002 to April 19, 2018
And my Heart-Dog... Wonka the Dancing Pug, CGC, W-FD, W-TFD.
Februrary 11, 2005 to May 10, 2020. Miss you, sweet boy!
Last edited by GordonBrunoPugMom; 03-13-2018 at 06:11 PM.
I am sorry I have no advise as I have failed badly with this issue. Our Eddie is a rescue and from the day we picked him up he has been a screamer. And I mean a high pitched scream that sounds like we are killing him. We have tried everything but as Wonka's mom has said its just his voice. He is now deaf and has gotten louder, he doesn't here how loud he is. He will scream when we get home so badly I am sure that the neighbours think we beat him. He will also scream when he sees other dogs out of anxiety. He is not very dog friendly. Our way out is to ignore and move on. We never allow him to see other dogs when he is acting like that. If he is calm we will let him meet a dog but never when he is screaming.
I wish you all the best with this.
Pug Mom to Roxie
Zoey (March 27, 2005 - February 23, 2015) and Eddie (October 2, 2010 - September 10, 2019) have moved on to the bridge