Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Considerate Canine: Barking - Post 2

Lowcountry Dog Magazine

by cindy carter on Monday, May 23rd, 2011 at 11:55pm | filed in The Considerate Canine Training


The Problem: My Pug Sugar barks at any sound outside. How can we get her to hush when we command her to?

The Solution:

Barking is a tough behavior to get under control, after all, dogs do bark. It is also a very self-rewarding behavior: she barks at a passing dog and the dog goes away, or she barks at a noise and you pay attention to her. Continually telling her to hush or shouting is really perceived as attention, therefore encouraging her to bark even more. Barking, like any behavior, only gets stronger if allowed to continue or is rewarded.

Your first goal is to truly define the trigger and manage the situation. Is she actually barking at a noise or is she seeing something that alerts her, priming her to bark? Does she bark at specific times of day, when lots of people and dogs are on the street or the garbage trucks are making their rounds?

If she is responding to visual stimulation, block her view of the street by closing curtains, or moving furniture to deny her access to vantage spots where she can see outside. When you are away, leave a radio or television on to help mask the outside noise, hide stuffed Kongs or other treats around the house to keep her busy.

Make sure that she is getting plenty of exercise. If necessary hire a dog walker to get her out during the day, so she is getting plenty of physical and mental stimulation.

Now for training.

Teach yourself to notice when she is being quiet and reward he
r, after all this is what you want. You can praise her or give her a tiny treat, just be consistent in letting her know when she gets it right. If there are other people in the house, get them on board, the more consistent you are the easier it will be.

Pay attention to her
. When you are with Sugar, practice calling her away from what she is barking at and reward her for a different behavior: coming when called, sit, down, etc. Therefore, she is engaging with you and not the other thing.

If Sugar is barking so much she barely pauses to catch a breath, do something to momentarily distract her: clap you hands, lightly stamp your foot, or make some kind of mild distracting noise. For this to work, you need to be close to her, so you can reward her quickly. Mark the instant she stops barking with a clicker or yes, then give her a treat for being quiet. At first, you may only get a second or two, but the more you practice this, the longer you can stretch the interval of quiet.

You could also teach a variation on the Control Unleashed exercise of Look at That -- into Did you hear that? You would actually cue her to notice the noise and immediately turn her attention to you for a reward.

In this situation, the noise actually becomes the environmental cue to pay attention to and interact with you.

Regardless of the method that you choose. Be consistent, set her up for rewardable successes, make sure to reward even the smallest correct response and be patient. The problem didn’t develop overnight and will not be corrected in a few days.

Happy and quiet training!

If you have a question for Cindy Carter of Mindful Manners Dog Training, email your question to leah@lowcountrydog.com using the subject line: The Considerate Canine.

Cindy Carter has been training dogs in the Charleston area for the past 4 years, the last year as owner of Mindful Manners Dog Training. Cindy is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, CGC evaluator for the AKC, and member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She has written articles for local publications and been featured in several publications focusing on local business owners.

As the owner of two dogs with “issues” she is uniquely qualified to help owners develop and implement management and training plans. She brings commitment and empathy to owners struggling to help their dogs have better lives.

For more information about our training programs visit us at www.mindfulmanners.net

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