Barking Blondes: Barking, fireworks and Simon Callow

Joanne Good and Anna Webb

barking 300x225 Barking Blondes: Barking, fireworks and Simon CallowThere is a dog in our block that barks incessantly and has done so since we moved in four years ago.

Nobody has ever seen it or can discover which apartment it’s living in. It has become part of the soundtrack to our lives. Along with the car horns, the fire alarms and the hum of the fridge… is the barking dog. Does it still bark in the hope that, after all this time, one of us will rescue it from its now familiar living hell or has the barking become a habit?

The “home alone” dog is a familiar theme in this city. The popularity of professional dog walkers is proof enough. But they come at a price.

We are asked regularly by potential dog owners whilst out with our two bull breeds, Molly and Matilda. “Are they ok left on their own? You see, I’d love a dog but I work during the day. I won’t always be there to walk it.”

Our answer is a simple “Well, don’t get one then”. Being around to walk the pet is only one of the prerequisites. A dog’s instinct is to guard its home so, as with the barking dog in our block, they are constantly on alert and will react to any unfamiliar sound.

Which brings us on to Guy Fawkes Night. Is it our imagination or were there fewer random fireworks this Halloween? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm and people are holding back for tomorrow, November 5. Dogs don’t get fireworks and their sense of hearing is so much more acute than ours that the sudden onslaught of bangs in the sky leads them to believe that the apocalypse is nigh!

Interestingly, during the Second World War many dogs were put to sleep because they couldn’t cope with the bombs in the Blitz. They were not allowed into bomb shelters and it was thought to be kinder to remove them entirely from the stress with euthanasia. These sounds are agony for them and it’s particularly high-pitched screeching and whizzing that dogs hate, especially if these sounds are alien to them.

This time of year it is best to stay in with your dog as you have no idea how it will behave when alone and spooked out. It only takes one such experience to alter their behavior for ever and leave them psychologically damaged.

Tales of owners returning home to devastation and the family pet cowering in the corner are too  familiar. There are some gadgets like pheromone diffusers, which release calming “ happy hormones” into the atmosphere to relax the dog but they are chemical and therefore how beneficial they really are, who knows?

Two CDs that may be useful, from companies with an eye on the ever increasing popularity of pets, are now on the market and may help. The “Sound Scary” collection is packed with noises that dogs hate, such as babies crying, traffic and fire works and may be of use in desensitizing them ahead of the festive season. Play them as background whilst the dog is eating and playing etc.

And then there is Simon Callow’s new audio, bed time book for dogs called Teddy and Stanley, in which he emphasizes all the vowel sounds. Apparently studies have proved that these sounds help to calm dogs and are in complete contrast to the whizzing whirring sounds of bangers! Pop Simon’s rendition into the cassette player and as Fido settles down for a snooze and you sip your cocoa, those happy heady days of Listen With Mother will come flooding back.

Woof  woof!

‘Barking at the Moon’ is on every Thursday from 10pm to midnight on BBC London 94.9FM

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  • Gizwiz

    I’m with Peter, I absolutely hate Guy Fawkes and all the other occasions (ie New Year’s Eve) where people think they have to let off fireworks. We seem to have the Americans to thank for this – along with the ‘begging’ that is known as Trick or Treat – as they tend to set off fireworks to celebrate a sneeze! Anyway Ziggydog, what’s this Sounds Scary CD? Sounds like a fantastic idea.

  • 5brian5

    Hi Ladies; I’m sorry i’m late responding to your blog, as I had browser problems. You forgot to mention the intermittent obnoxious noise of the illegal air conditioner system outside your flat, and the neighbours you can hear talking all night long if your window is open. I am lucky to be deaf in one of my ears. If I can’t sleep, my good ear goes into the pillow, and I wouldn’t notice a nuclear war going on. A couple of weeks ago, we had a bad thunder storm. My cat was very jumpy throughout the whole event. I can only imagine what fireworks next summer, or the sounds of idiots firing guns on news years eve will be like for her. Recent legislative changes in Michigans fireworks laws, have allowed citizens to go from sparklers to morter fired rockets and explosives, al quida can only dream of. Its all about the money, even though the fire department is broke and can’t respond to the aftermath. Go figure! Having someones dog barking constantly, would be quite unsettling for me. As a repair person who has been in thousands of homes and flats over many decades, you never know what you’ll find when you enter someones residence. Hording, filth, disarray or even obsessive compulsive cleanliness. Some people don’t have enough sense to have a dog, or for that matter, the mice and cockroaches which reside in their home either. In your situation, I don’t know what I would do. Calling the authorities to check on the barking dog, could open up a can of worms that wouldn’t turn out well at all. Doing nothing at all, for an animal who is obviously in distress or neglected, well, I can only say, I feel bad for the dog, and i’m four thousand miles away. Getting my cat, has made me realize, that no matter what kind of behaviour problems or fears an animal has, constant love, affection, interaction, and patience, seems to be, at least for me, something that after months of consistency, has had a major payoff. Thanks for another thought provoking blog! Take care of each other! Brian (Detroit)xxxx

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