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Senior Correspondent

Bailey, our cocker-spaniel puppy is 10 months old. After months of discussion, searching for a good match in the Phoenix area and finally finding a breeder we trusted, she joined our lives in March. The impact of adopting a puppy has affected our retirement more greatly than I think either Betty or I could have envisioned. Smart and cute as a button, Bailey has proven to be a tremendous addition to our household. She mastered the doggie door within a few days and sits on command.

But she hasn't come without some issues we continue to struggle with, issues that maybe you can help us with. She is a nervous dog. Part of that is her breed and part is probably due to her being shipped to us on a plane flight from Missouri when she was just eight weeks old. Because of delays at one of the airports, she spent six hours in a cage, being buffeted by sounds and sights that probably terrified her.

To this day, she barks at things both real and imagined. Shadows, the wind in the trees and even one of us entering a room abruptly can set her off. Other dogs or people walking by the house and delivery people coming to the door are her two biggest triggers. We have tried all the training techniques we can think of: treats for silence, clicker training, and leash control but that tiny body will still quiver with energy and spout a stream of barks.

We have taken her to local pet stores, malls and neighborhood dog parks in an attempt to desensitize her and help her socialization. We play with her in the house and backyard to help burn up some of her nervous energy. But the barking continues. Frankly, if we can't get it under control our plans to get an RV and take her on vacations with us are in jeopardy because leaving her in a kennel for up to a month is not an option.

So, you who have dealt with this issue, we need your suggestions. "She will grow out of it" may be true but we don't want to simply let her get tired of barking at some point in the future.

Another problem is pulling on the leash and heeling when walking. Betty has found and studied several excellent resources online. We have tried it all. Still, Bailey will pull on the leash 90% of the time when something attracts her attention. One of us immediately stops until she stops and allows the leash to go slack – for a few seconds until her little doggie brain smells something that she just knows is her new favorite thing.

What has worked for you? Is there something we may not have tried, or is the answer just keep at it?

So, pretend you are a high-priced dog trainer invited into our home to help Bailey (and us) conquer these behaviors. Shock collars, crates, and any physical approaches are non-starters. As for anything else, let her rip!

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