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Stop barking at the TV!

The pace of the music speeds up, you know what’s around the corner and you want to scream and warn the girl on TV! You are on the edge of your seat when…

 

…your dog starts barking. UGHHHHHHH  You just missed the most important scene and even though you can rewind… the moment you’ve been waiting for is ruined.

 

Or that DANG commercial with the doorbell comes on again and you brace for the incessant barking once again. Or how about that TOUCHDOWN!!! Fun but suddently your dog is off the chain barking. Grrr…

Your stress level is now up and you can’t relax. That’s not what you want after you settle in to watch your favorite program after a long day or turn on your favorite team.

 

Barking at the TV can be annoying and/or frustrating. Maybe you thought your dog’s barking was cute or even funny at first, but after a while, barking can totally ruin your mood, wake people up and even bother your neighbors. How can you even have friends over to watch a game?

 

So now instead of relaxing…

 

…you are managing yet one more thing, adding to the stress of the day.

 

How can you stop that barking?!

 

Watch the video for 3 steps you can take to stop the barking at the TV and 2 mistakes you will want to avoid.

Need more help? Did you know you can teach your dog when to bark and when to stop? You can, using the 3 simple and easy steps in “Stop The Barking”, which you’ll find inside Play To Behave. Go to https://playtobehave.com/JOIN and learn more.

Thanks for watching and reading and now I’d love to hear from you.

Please scroll down and tell me if you have a system to prevent the barking at your TV? 

Lake House Series Video 7: Your Dog and Strangers in the Home

Lake House Series Video 7: Your Dog and Strangers in the Home

Hi, good morning! I am at our lake house and I just wanted to check in with you because we’re having some windows put in today. It’s somewhat heavy construction. Two guys showed up with a huge truck. Here’s the way I managed this and the way you can do this with your dog. First, I got her here before they got here. I had her in a crate, in the car. Then she heard me talking to them, she heard the truck come up, she heard all of that. Then they started carrying things in while I started getting things set up too.

So, all this time she’s listening, hearing their voices, smelling them and getting a feel for what our interaction is going to be like, so that helps calm her down. Or keep her calm I should say.

I want her to be protective. I should mention, I’m talking about Rae, my young dog. She’s two year old Australian Shepard. She’s very excitable and protective and I want to make sure that she welcomes people into this house. So, I’m working on some of her behavior as we move to this new house.

I brought her a bone and she just found it. So that’s going to keep her busy today. We’re going to be in a side room and I’m going to be working on some business work for the online class that’s coming up, or membership that I’m going to be doing. And she’s going to be in this room with me.

So this is Dr. Carolyn Lincoln with Play to Behave and you can find out more about me at playtobehave.com. Basically, this is part of series called the Lake House Video series that is just sharing with you how I’m moving to a new place and how I want to get the dogs used to the new neighbors and new people around. This series should help you if you’re doing some of the same things or you’re trying to get your dogs used to strangers and so forth.

So, one of the best ways to help your dog adjust if you have people coming in your house is to go ahead and let them get used to the sounds and the smells of the people that they don’t know. Then have them in a separate room, if possible, for a period of time until they relax and then they can go out and meet these new people.

Now, since this is just construction that’s going on, I’m probably not going to have her go out and meet them. Maybe at the end… I don’t know, we’ll see. For the most part she’ll be on a leash if we go out and she’s just going to be in this room with me or I’ll put her in a crate. I can always bring a crate in this room if I need to, but it’s a really small room and I’ve just got the door closed. So, that’s where we are right now. She’s going to have a bone to keep her happy and she has barked which, as I’ve said before, is great because I want her to be protective, but I don’t want her going crazy and barking all the time and being obnoxious. I think it really helps if you let your dog get used to listening to people’s voices and smelling them before they’re ever introduced. Especially if they’re confined in a safe area where they feel like they don’t have to necessarily do anything.

She’s been great. She’s really been great. They’re out there working so I’ll take the phone out there and show it to you a little later, but right now all they’re doing is putting up plastic and starting to take the molding off the windows. So we’ll get some new windows! I’m really excited about it.

Alright, you guys all have a great day and I’ll check back with you and let you know how things are going. And if you have any questions about your dog getting used to people coming into your home, let me know.

This is Dr. Carolyn Lincoln with Play to Behave. See you soon.

How to Break the Habit of Excessive Barking

How to Break the Habit of Excessive Barking

How to Stop the Habit of Excessive Barking


All bad habits start slowly and gradually,
and before you know you have the habit, the habit has you.
~
Zig Ziglar 

I love that quote because it is so true and because it can help you understand why excessive barking is so hard to manage.

So here you are, searching on the internet because you can’t stand the barking anymore or someone has told you it has to stop. On and on and on it goes. You know barking is normal in dogs and you also don’t want to stop all the barking because, even if you could, you still want your dog to alert you of any visitors and to provide some protection.

But what can or should you do because the barking is out of control?

First, I want to impress on you that when barking is excessive, it has basically become a habit or think of it as an automatic response. This means your dog starts barking without thinking and is on a pathway that is difficult to interrupt. He has little control over his barking  just like you do with automatic behavior. If you brush your teeth the same way every day, once you begin, you continue it without thinking. In fact if you are interrupted, sometimes you can’t remember what part you already brushed so you start back at the beginning.

Habits or automatic behavior are a result of an actual brain change in how behavior is processed. As a simple explanation, when you repeat a behavior the same way over and over again, you brain moves the pathway to a different part of the brain. Initially when you learn something new or use higher level decision-making and thought, you are using your pre-frontal cortex. For behavior you repeat over and over that doesn’t require any complex thought, your brain uses the basal ganglia or limbic system.

In my case, I am thinking about what I want to say while I type this. When I first learned to type, I had to pay attention and make choices but now, it is automatic behavior. So creating a pathway in this “automatic” part of the brain saves energy and as said, frees you up to do something else. It is a brilliant system! Well, unless it is something we don’t want to do which we call a bad habit!

So when barking becomes excessive, think of it as an automatic behavior.

Changing a Habit or Automatic Behavior:

There are 6 other types of keyboards besides the commonly-used QWERTY keyboard. Now if you are a pretty good typist and can also think about your writing while you type or even talk to someone at the same time, imagine learning to type on one of the other 6 keyboards. It would be awhile until you could attain the proficiency you have now because your brain, again in simple terms, needs to create this new pathway.

Now do you see that if the excessive barking is ingrained, changing your dog’s behavior will take time – maybe a lot of time. So you need to be patient.

Second, it makes sense that if you are learning a new skill or behavior, you will learn it faster if you stop doing the old behavior. If you are switching keyboards, you will learn the new one faster if you stop using the old one. Right? So you will need to prevent excessive barking.

Your dog will still bark at times because it is a normal behavior and the way they communicate, but we want to teach them when barking is a good response. So to control this problem, it is important to prevent as much barking as possible.

So now you are probably thinking, “OMG, if I knew how to prevent it, I would not be here reading this!!!” I’m going to help you with that, but honestly, the problem is not usually that you don’t know how to prevent it, but instead that the solution is not one you or your dog can live with or you don’t believe it matters because you didn’t given it enough time or you haven’t taught your dog when it is good to bark, so the behavior returns.

But now you know better! You know:

  • Controlling excessive barking takes time because it becomes an automatic/habitual behavior
  • The preventive measures are usually temporary so you can work with that
  • And as discussed in a prior blog, knowing the cause will help you tremendously because if you can address the cause, it is much faster to resolve or control
  • You need to know how to teach your dog the behavior you want

I am not suggesting this will be easy, but if the excessive barking bothers you or someone else badly enough, it will be worth the effort.

Prevention:

This is so important as explained above. If you’ve skipped ahead, know that the measures may be, for the most part temporary while you teach new behavior, so don’t despair!

Behaviors that are automatic run this sequence:

Trigger (cue) –> Behavior –> Reward

To prevent the behavior, you can change one of the three pieces of the sequence.

Triggers:

Triggers are anything that sets “a behavior in motion” and leads to a “reward”.  For example, some dogs are triggered by bicycles and that sets their excessive barking sequence off.

Your first steps:
  1. Get some paper and have everyone in the house make a list of triggers for the barking. Add as many details as possible to describe each trigger
  2. Describe your dog, home and the typical situation in your home when the excessive barking occurs
  3. Compare your lists
  4. Do your best to determine the major causes for the barking
  5. Now, given the information you gathered, consider how you could eliminate the cause or prevent the barking until you can make more lasting changes, if needed
Here is an example of one evaluation of a trigger:
  1. List and Describe Triggers: People coming home after getting off the train at the corner stop usually between 5:00-7:00 pm on weekdays
  2. Describe your dog and a typical day when this occurs: Henry is a 3 years old male Miniature Schnauzer who weighs 12#. He is healthy and up to date on all of his veterinarian’s recommendations. He is a sweet dog but definitely has a lot of energy! Some might say he is nervous but then you think that all Schnauzers seem that way.

You leave him a Kong filled with his kibble in the morning and arrive home from work about 5:30. Henry is home during the day except for your old cat, Smudge, who basically sleeps all the time.  After work, Henry greets you at the door barking and you suspect he has already been barking for the last half hour.

You say hello to Henry and then let him out to relieve himself. You try to wait until after “rush hour” is over to walk him because he’ll just bark at the people coming off the train or honestly, you usually just let him go back out in the yard to relieve himself. It’s just too much trouble to go on a walk with a dog that barks at people.

Once back inside, Henry barks out of the front window in the living room or dining room at every single person that walks by and when you tell him “No!”, he stops but starts right back up again. Your husband returns home about 7:30 every night and plays a little with Henry. By then, he is usually done barking. But for those 2 hours, you want to pull your hair out! You are tired from work and can’t deal with the noise.

  1. Compare lists and descriptions from everyone in the household: Once your husband and you compare lists, you realize you forgot that Henry gets triggered by people outside on the weekends too, often when only your husband is home and children are out playing in your neighbor’s yard
  2. The major causes: Henry is young and healthy but not getting enough mental or physical exercise. Barking has become “entertainment” and a release of all his energy. He also may not understand when barking is appropriate and thinks he is protecting the house. He can’t help that he has a bit of an anxious nature and all these people worry him. In his mind, thankfully, when he barks at them, they do go away except for those kids….but at least they don’t ever come to the house. So, active people outside are his trigger for the unwanted excessive barking.
  3. Prevention:
    1. Change the environment: close the shades and curtains on the front windows when you leave home in the morning and on nice days over the weekends when children might go out to play. If that doesn’t work, put up gates so that Henry cannot get to the windows
    2. Provide an appropriate release for his energy:
      • At mealtime, use ½ of his kibble, a few treats and a toy or two to do some trick training and use equipment that involves physical exercise and some mental stimulation. You can also buy some items that will give him some indoor exercise as an alternative to walking but until then, you can use the stairs and some items you already have to keep him active.
      • Give the other ½ of his dinner in a Kong or another food puzzle toy to provide some mental exercise and depending on the toy, a little physical exercise too.
      • Continue having Henry play with your husband when he gets home. That is another way to provide enrichment.
      • Walk him after people are done returning on the train and if you see a person coming up, return home or use other techniques to keep his attention and avoid his reaction to them. If you don’t have these skills yet or in that instance you can’t do this, then you will wait to walk him in the area until you can teach him good behavior on a leash. He will have to get his exercise indoors or in your backyard.
    3. Training:
      • Teach Henry to go to a mat and stay so that after his meal you can send him there to relax. He won’t have access to the window on the mat, so now you can open up the curtain and shades and get your own dinner ready
      • Begin teaching Henry when barking is appropriate (The details of this training are beyond the scope of this blog but basically, you have eliminate the automatic sequence first and then reward the barking you want, communicate when they can stop and take away any reward for inappropriate barking)

I am sure you can think of other situations where a solution is much more difficult, such as a noise trigger from ongoing construction outside your home. It can take some creativity and you may need help with ideas. There is almost always an answer. To finish this example a bit, you could cover up the noise with white noise or the TV, crate the dog in the basement where the noise doesn’t sensitize him and/or he feels safe and doesn’t bark or even take him for boarding when you can’t be home. Those are just a few ideas and remember, these can be temporary.

A common mistake:

Besides allowing the barking to continue, there is one very common mistake most people make and that is the use of punishment, including telling your dog “No!”, throwing a can full of pennies, spraying them, using a bark collar, etc. Why aren’t these good solutions?

Your dog needs to know what behavior you do want. Telling them “No!”, spraying or shocking them does not teach them any alternatives. Secondly, aversive measures in and of themselves do not address the underlying cause and therefore, they can create a different unwanted behavior.

For example, lets return to Henry in the above example. Remember Henry needed more mental and physical exercise? Let’s say you put a bark collar on Henry during the time you are away at  work and continuing until after 7:00 pm when people stop coming off the train. Because the collar is big and bulky, you take it off after 7:00 pm. And guess what? It works! You are thrilled! Sure it was expensive even at the sale price of $50 but the barking has stopped. Hallelujah!

However, Henry still has no way to release his energy and as it builds and builds. So after about a week, BOOM! He finds a great solution! That day, your heart sinks as you return home to find the corner of the couch chewed clear through to the wood. Oh, and one other thing, unbeknownst to you, he is now even more upset about people walking by because they cause this horrible shock to go off. He doesn’t realize it is the barking because as soon as he barks, it happens. He probably playfully barks now and then with your husband and there is no shock then so why would he ever think barking is what caused it? Nope, he is sure it is those people who have always been a problem anyway.

The result? You have created a destructive chewer and increased his anxiety and reactivity to people walking by.

So please avoid the use of any punishment, including yelling at your dog. I would be surprised if you have not already yelled “No!” or “Quiet!” more times than you can count. Well, it doesn’t work, does it? Not in the long run. It doesn’t provide any information or resolve the cause.

Finally…

Please don’t expect that you will have all the answers or get it right the first time. Be patient with yourself and just try something different than what you are doing now. If you aren’t successful, go back to the questions and see if you missed anything. You may need to be creative or need professional help. Certainly you need professional help if there is any question of safety.

The two most important things to remember are an automatic ingrained behavior like any habit, takes time to change because your brain actually has to create new pathways and second, to make that change happen, prevention is almost critical and will certainly make the process of re-training faster.
If you have found a good preventative solution, share it in the comments and maybe you’ll be helping someone else.

The “Not So” Perfect Watchdog

The “Not So” Perfect Watchdog

In the Aesop’s fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf?”, a young boy was charged with keeping watch over the family flock of sheep. One day, to amuse himself, he went to the town and cried “Wolf, wolf!” People rushed to his aid and it was a thrill for him, so he repeated this day after day. No wolf was ever found so the people, of course, began to realize that he was lying and eventually no one came to help. Not long after, a wolf actually did come for the sheep. That day, when the boy cried out to the village for help, no one believed him and the wolf had a satisfying meal.

The moral of the story: “Liars won’t be believed even when they tell the truth.”

If we replace the boy in the story with your “watchdog” that barks at each and every little thing, well, the moral of this story could be “Nuisance barkers won’t be believed, even when there is an ax murderer at the door”! That’s not such a great watchdog, right!?

We can add another moral…

“The life of a dog can get pretty boring so you better provide something for amusement or beware… they will keep busy by creating an activity; perhaps barking!”

Barking can be valuable to alert us when someone is on our property or to warn us from impending danger but we don’t need protection from the casually strolling couple, every car passing by or the leaf fluttering down to land on the lawn. This is just nuisance barking.

But can you teach a dog when there is reason to bark? Yes. Of course, it is more of a challenge if they have already become a nuisance barker and habits are formed. This can’t be covered completely in a blog, but beginning with the “Say Please!” strategy shared in the last blog will help your dog understand that he should check in with you. In the next blog, I’ll cover a little about habits and how to change those. For now, here are some pointers on how to respond.

“I’m Barking! Are you Listening?”

Yes, I am sure you are but what they heck should you do!?

The Ax Murderer:

There really is someone at the door and you are happy your dog is barking! Let it continue, if controlled. Most of us will never be faced with an ax murderer or the like, of course, but if you live in an unsafe area, live alone or worry because people show up at your door occasionally, you may want a dog for protection. You’ll be happy to know that most criminals will be scared off by barking or even the mere presence of a dog.

Years ago, I took a course on Criminology taught by a policeman to learn how to protect myself. The instructor made a point that stuck with me. He said that most criminals targeting a home or a victim walking, will opt to avoid one with a dog. They’ll just move on to the next target. In fact, you can even leave a large bowl and bone outside, put up a “Beware of Dog” sign and that can be enough to deter a break-in.

But if you are concerned that barking is not enough and have considered training your dog to attack, please think again. Even if you need protection, you must be able to control your dog. When there is potential danger at your door, you should be able to use a previously-trained behavior for control, such as a down-stay in a specific location or be able to physically and calmly remove your dog from the door if needed. Stop and imagine the difference between a dog on command and in control vs. a dog that makes its own decisions, including when to attack.

By the way, previously trained behavior like a sit-stay can be a big bonus! Consider that your dog can appear even more menacing when you have the power to command him into a sit near the door or even better, higher up on a few stairs. Once in position, your dog can increase their intimidation with their eye contact, as if to say, “As soon as I’m released, watch out!” I am not suggesting you let someone in or even open the door. I am saying your dog does not need to be out of control to protect you.

I am also not suggesting that you train a dog to protect you or attack. Most dogs will naturally protect you and no training is recommended or needed to encourage it. In fact, if you do encourage it, you may create a dangerous dog.

I once had a client in clinical practice that had a 120# Rottweiler. He had to travel for work quite a bit so he got the dog to protect his wife and children while he was away. Unfortunately, he lacked any good control and the dog had become reactive and aggressive to all strangers. This was a dangerous dog and I worried about his children and their friends. At the hospital, we could not safely provide even routine veterinary care unless the dog was sedated. Even so, the owner was proud of the protection he had provided and could not be convinced otherwise. He is not alone. Many people are misguided about using a dog for protection and like him, they end up with a dog that cannot be safely handled, will make its own decisions about who to attack and most likely cannot be stopped once an attack begins. This is the last thing you want in a dog, much less in a home with children. This dog should have been carefully trained for obedience, including a “drop” on command. (With a “drop” on command or an “emergency down”, your dog will stop and go into a down on command, even if running.) And honestly, a 120# Rottweiler’s presence – especially if well-trained – is intimidating enough to keep any trouble away!

So basically, when you are in danger and your dog barks, your best response is to let him continue but under your control with a command or with physical means by calmly holding him back and using a barrier if needed.

The Invader:

Your dog is barking after seeing or hearing a noise indicating someone unidentified is on your property. You investigate the warning and determine there is no real threat, praise your dog and tell them “It’s okay!” Ideally, your dog relaxes and stops barking or your dog has a routine so he knows to retreat to a bedroom or crate when told. This is also the best response when a friend or someone approved such as a contractor, enters your home.

If your dog cannot settle, it’s a sign that he doesn’t trust you, isn’t being given the right signals and/or needs to be taught the proper response. Training can develop your dog’s trust and teach the proper response. The “Say Please” method described in the previous blog is invaluable and the best place to start. Your dog will learn to look to you for direction. Then you can also add in additional training to prevent jumping, to get him to retrieve a toy for distraction, to go to his crate, etc. There are lots of options for the dog that doesn’t care for your friends or vice versa.

The “Nothing” :

Your dog is barking at a random noise, object or passerby that is at a reasonable distance or posing no threat. Your dog may continue even with reassurance. This is now nuisance or excessive barking and needs to be prevented from becoming a habit or from strengthening what has become a bad habit or it will just get worse. In addition, your dog will need to learn how to determine if something is a real threat – WHEN to bark.

In the last blog, using “Say Please!” was outlined. This practice will teach your dog to look to you for direction and develop trust. It also provides attention. So when you reassure your dog someone is a friend or that you know the meter reader is there and you’ll handle it, your dog is reassured and settles. Everyone in the house that wants this ability to manage your dog will need to implement “Say Please!” Otherwise, when that person is responsible for your dog, you will need to put preventive methods in place, such as pulling the shades to prevent viewing people passing by.

What’s Next?

Your dog may begin problem barking for a number of reasons and while you don’t want to stop all barking, you do not want excessive barking. Every time your dog excessively barks, he is forming or strengthening a habit that can be very difficult, but not impossible, to change. Prevention is key.

Check back for more on habits and what you can do to change them in the next blog! Do you have a watchdog that is also good with your friends? Please leave a comment below!

A Quick and Easy Change to Help Stop Your Dog’s Crazy Barking!

A Quick and Easy Change to Help Stop Your Dog’s Crazy Barking!

Have you tried everything and your dog is still barking and barking and barking at….. who knows what!? As noted in the last post, dogs bark for lots of reasons and I can’t address all of them in one post, but there is one quick and easy change you can make to decrease most barking, no matter the cause.

The goal is not to stop your dog from barking completely, because most of us want a watchdog meaning a dog to alert you when there is a possible intruder or another impending danger coming your way. But a dog that barks at every little thing is not truly an effective watchdog. Are you going to be concerned, quickly get up and go check every time your dog barks when most of the time it is your neighbor walking by like they do every day, a car driving past your house or a leaf fluttering to the ground? Well, most of us will just start to yell “STOP! BE QUIET!”, right?! So what most of us want is a balance between a dog that will bark only to alert us to a potential danger and stop when they are reassured.

Quick and Easy: I am highlighting this because if you are like most of my clients, then you are short on time with a busy life and if I recommend a change in your lifestyle that isn’t quick and easy, you probably won’t do it. With that in mind, I chose the one thing that requires the least amount of effort but will also make the most impact on your dog’s behavior. I call it “Say Please!” and it’s outlined below. Intuitively, it may not sound like it would help or even be related to your issue, but trust me… I get great feedback on how much just this one change can make. In addition, this change will jumpstart the process to more complete control in the future and even help with other behavior issues. So, even if your lifestyle is overwhelming right now, you can still manage this change and your dog should show a marked improvement. Later you can work on the cause and add more to your management .

Is this a complete solution for excessive barking? If you follow my directions, you should see a marked improvement within one to two weeks. By then, my hope is that you will suddenly realize that you forgot all about the nuisance barking because there have been some abnormally long quiet stretches of time without it. Yes, it can be a complete solution to the problem barking, but typically, you will still need to put further management in place. This is an investment; an investment in better behavior and a closer relationship between you and your dog.  So, no, this is not intended to be a complete solution but you will be going in the right direction.

In-house excessive barking: This post is addressing barking in your house that either will not stop when your dog is reassured there is no danger or for nuisance barking that is in response to non-threatening random noises or events outside.

What if you have multiple dogs? This can help when you have multiple dogs but it can be tricky to get all your dogs to follow a command separately or at the same time when they are together. You might need to work with your dogs one at a time at first and then two at a time, etc. This is a larger topic so I won’t address it in this post, except to say that if you can get them all to remain in position at the same time and be released one at time, then this will help you also. If you can’t do that, and you can do it SAFELY, then just work with the dog that has the worst barking issue or hold off on this. I will address working with multiple dogs in future blog post.

Before you get started…

  1. Safety: Safety is always first! If your dog is a risk to anyone, to another animal or to themselves (as can be the case in separation anxiety cases), please get professional help immediately. See your regular veterinarian for a recommendation or go to the AVSAB website for a list of behavior professionals in your area. I cannot give you specific advice unless your dog is my patient. What I am providing is general advice that helps provide a foundation for improved behavior. Do not try any techniques unless you know it will be safe to do so.
  1. Health Issues: When your dog isn’t well, their behavior suffers. Honestly, you know you aren’t your best self when you are sick or incapacitated for any reason, so understand that neither is your dog. It doesn’t make sense to work on behavior before you know what health issues could be contributing to it.

It’s time to make this one change!

“Say Please!”

Some trainers and handlers call this “Work for Pay” or “Nothing in Life is Free” but those descriptions imply a bit of negativity, so I prefer “Say Please!”.  If you visit a Kindergarten class, you will recall that the teachers normally ask them to sit in the same seats, follow a daily routine with “The Pledge of Allegiance”, then take attendance, maybe a “Show and Tell” and then the rest of the days lessons and activities are on a pretty strict schedule. Snack at 10:00, lunch at 11:30 followed by recess, etc. They are required to say “please” and “thank you” amongst other things. Can you require this and still be a fun teacher? Yes! Would you call this “Work for Pay”? or “Nothing in Life is Free”? Well, I haven’t ever heard it described that way.

We know that structure and routine in a child’s day provide them with a sense of security and also better behavior, because expectations are clear. Then we build on this as the years go by. Well, dogs aren’t much different than Kindergarteners and if you provide that same type of structure, you will improve their behavior too. (Even mine, if you are asking! 😉 Use this with your dog and their excessive barking will decrease and other behaviors will improve also.

To put “Say Please!” in place, consider every possible reward your dog gets throughout the day and ask for a command before allowing the reward. It is critical that you understand what I mean by a “reward”. A reward is anything and everything your dog wants and even things your dog didn’t even know he wanted!

It’s easy to realize this should be done before their food is put down or before they go out the door. But you will need to add lots and lots of other routines – remember the kindergartners! Also, I am stressing that your command does NOT have to be firm! You ask once, maybe twice and if your dog doesn’t follow through then, oh well….. the door doesn’t open or you block them from going upstairs or the food isn’t served. Try again in 10 minutes. They’ll get the idea pretty quick and comply faster as time goes on. Your attitude is not of a “strict authority” but rather, “You didn’t say please so you must not really want it, so let me know if you change your mind.” 😉

To put this in place, ask for a command your dog knows well:

  1. Before they go outside AND before they come inside
  2. Before getting on furniture AND if it makes sense, before getting off
  3. Before going into a room
  4. Before going upstairs AND before coming downstairs
  5. Before going in the crate and before coming out of the crate
  6. Before you offer any affection or petting
  7. Before you put the leash on AND before you take it off
  8. Before you throw the ball AND before you take it back
  9. Can you think of more? Think of as many as possible and the more you do this, the better

NOTE: if you know that your dog will NOT comply and you NEED them to for example, go outside to relieve themselves, then don’t ask for the command. Wait until you have it pretty solid elsewhere. Remember, if you can’t be sure they will comply, as in the example, before they go out, you still have the opportunity to ask for it before they come in. You can open the door and if they won’t sit, then close the door. If they will then bark or scratch the door, you may have to wait on that also or go outside and help them.

Treats: You do not need treats for this because the reward is getting whatever it is that comes next such as going upstairs. But if you are struggling with this, then your dog isn’t really trained so you may need them at first. After some time, you can fade the treats out and/or use other rewards such as toys, praise, etc.

If you do use food or treats, to prevent overfeeding, you can reserve 1/3 or 1/2 of your dog’s kibble to use as a reward. For other food, use healthy treats and know that dogs don’t care as much about the size of the treat as they do about the number of treats. So cut or break the treat up into mince size for small dogs and no more than a diced size for large dogs.

Keep a Record: Having a record or list in view will be a good reminder to do this. It may even help you to sit down and list the times you can do this. The more you add this structure of “Say Please!” into your day, the more automatic it will become. You won’t need to think about it, nor will your dog.

Are you going to take the challenge? If so, comment below and we’ll want to know your results. Remember, you need to ask for “Please” lots of times throughout your day and add any structure you can. Your dog is now enrolled in Kindergarten!

How to Stop Excessive Barking: First Steps

How to Stop Excessive Barking: First Steps

The only place I want to hear non-stop barking is at the Browns stadium! Otherwise, excessive barking is a nuisance. It is also a common problem. In fact, so common that bark collars that shock or spray are now one of the biggest sellers in training aids for dogs. Of course, if those collars were a good choice and actually solved the problem, I would not be getting so many calls.

Besides how annoying it is, there could be more serious reasons the pointless barking must stop. Maybe you are in danger of getting evicted from your apartment, ruining your friendship with your neighbor or causing problems with your work because you do it from home.

So what can you do? There are lots of possibilities to end excess barking but the right choice depends on the cause(s), the dog and the people involved. There isn’t a solution that is “one size fits all”. You may find some solutions that claim to be all you need on the internet, on TV,  in books, or elsewhere, honestly, they usually aren’t complete and won’t work well if you don’t figure out the cause.

Because there is so much to consider, I’ll divide the information into separate blogs.

Before You Make Your List:

Triggers:

It is important to note that there may be a trigger associated with the cause of the barking. A trigger is a situation, event or object including people, that can cause the excessive barking to begin. For example, your dog may be set off by a car so the car is the trigger. However, note that your dog may not be triggered by all cars but only ones that are moving. So be specific when you make your list. More examples include a dog walking by the house, a particular breed of dog or a dog that is running.

Once you identify a trigger, such as the moving car, it can provide a clue to the cause and will also have to be managed. For example, if your dog is only reacting to moving cars, it could indicate territorial aggression or it could be normal prey drive associated with his breed, kicking in because he has no acceptable outlet for that behavior The Sound of Barking:

Also, pay attention to your dog’s bark because it could be a possible clue to the cause(s). The sound, character and rhythm of your dog’s bark can change depending on the message. For example, when a dog is lonely, the bark is typically different than one used to warn you of danger.

A List of Possible Cause(s):

Below this list, you can download and print a more complete checklist of possible triggers and causes. I encourage you to give a copy to each person in your home to fill out separately. Then the fun begins when you can get together to compare your lists. You may be surprised with quite different answers!

Then you can try removing or modifying some of the causes right away. You may be surprised at your dog’s improvement.

A List of Possible Causes and Contributors for Nuisance Barking

Your dog’s needs are not being met. She is:

  • bored
  • lonely
  • full of excess energy and needs an outlet

Your dog is overreacting because:

  • he does not know what constitutes real danger and is overly fearful
  • of abnormally heightened territorial aggression associated with his personality or breed. Examples: barking at other dogs while walking on a leash
  • of abnormally heightened prey aggression associated with his personality or breed. Examples: barking at joggers
  • he has an anxious personality

Your dog’s prior experience:

  • caused barking to be a rewarding activity due to unintentional training on your part. For example, he gets attention, good or bad, when he barks
  • caused a negative association with certain triggers. This can include fear. Example: Your dog remembers the time you slammed on your brakes and screamed which frightened him. He associated it with stops so now barks whenever the car isn’t moving
  • didn’t include proper exposure to the trigger as a puppy (not socialized to the trigger)
  • in a sport or activity that encourages or allows barking that is transferred to other triggers or situations, such as barn hunt or flyball

Your dog’s health can be affecting his behavior, for example:

  • Age-related changes in the brain causing “cognitive disorder” (dementia or described as Sundowners Syndrome in people)
  • Pain can cause your dog to be more irritable and reactive
  • Poor eyesight which can cause your dog to be more fearful
  • Hunger and/or malnourishment which can cause irritability

Your perception:

  • The amount of barking is actually typical and normal for your dog’s breed but it is too much barking for you

NOTE that your dog may bark excessively for not just one, but for a combination of these reasons.

Now What?

Modify or remove any of the causes or triggers when possible and watch for more help in upcoming blogs.

Also, comment below on how the list helped you find causes that surprised you!