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Recently Adopted / Rescued - Barking Issues

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Hi Everyone,



I am new to the forum, I have some experience with other breeds however am new to BC's.


We researched BC's in advance of selecting a BC to rescue and decided to accept the challenge. We are a very active family and my wife works from home so the dog will always have company and not be left to his own devices in the backyard.


We have had "Ollie" for 4 weeks now and he has just gone 8 months old. He is a very bold dog and had no training whatsoever when we brought him home, however he was well socialised (with people). Ollie is our pet, so won't be "working" as such.


In the 4 weeks that we have had Ollie, he has gone from being a crazy, jumping ball of uncontrollable energy who had never been walked, let outside or put on a leash, to quite a well mannered family member who is responding well to basic obedience training.



Although we are working on a range of fairly "serious" behavioral issues with him (like his strong desire to chase cars) the biggest immediate problem for us is his barking. The barking started in the backyard (classic comment?) when he became excited by things like birds, neighbor's dog barking etc. When this happened we would bring him inside the house where it would stop.


This was a fairly occasional occurence however it soon progressed to the point where he will now actively seek out a reason to bark the minute he is put outside unless we are there to distract him with a game or high value treat.


Currently we have him permanently restricted to being inside the house where we can control the environment and level of distraction as much as possible. This worked at first, however the same barking is now happening inside the house. Ollie seems to get into a mindset where he will want to bark at anything / everything / nothing for long periods. The accompanying body language is tail in the ear and ears back, prancing around the house at full voice. This can occur with all our blinds drawn and in situations where there appears to be no stimulation starting the "episode".



Ollie is surrounded by various toys (inside and out) as well as bones to chew on, treat filled Kongs etc (these things do seem to keep him occupied for intermittent periods - an hour here or there. It may be worth noting here that Ollie is not very food motivated, however a ball game will have him fixated immediately.


Ollie gets several high energy walks a day, starting with a bike ride at around 6.30am which goes for around 10 - 15km (no more as per our vets advice). The route is changed daily and we are lucky to be surrounded by a lot of interesting parkland etc. Usually we stop for some off leash time in enclosed areas where I zig-zag around and he attempts to round me up (at least it seems that is his goal). We also mix things up with several of us kicking a soccer ball in a triangle which he absolutely loves and also traditional fetch type games with balls.


In addition to the exercise we are working hard with mental stimulation with all sorts of trick training, hide and seek, general obedience etc.


We believe the barking doesn't seem to have any correlation to exercise / energy / mental stimulation levels and often we think he may even be overtired because he frequently falls asleep as soon a he stops barking. Actually sometimes he wakes up for a quick bark and goes back to sleep.


We are working towards the Pat Miller "Positive Interrupt" and our current strategy is to distract him (with a ball game or a high value treat) and we are slowly introducing the "quiet, good boy" cue. Ollie seems to stop for the treat / game and then immediately continue on when that is gone (when we walk away for example). This is fine when we can spend enough time with him to distract him long enough however it can be really hard if we don't have that time. He usually does not bark in his crate if it is covered, however we are not putting him into his crate when he barks out of fear of this becoming a punishment - it happens so frequently that he would be in there a lot I'm afraid. (He does sleep in there at night and never barks so we are very thankful for this)


If we really can't spend time distracting him for some reason eg during the day if my wife is on a phone meeting with work etc, then we lock him in the laundry - often he continues barking in there for quite a while. (If possible we let him out the moment he stops and praise him)




I know it is very early days and we have much work ahead of us however in all areas of Ollie's training he is progressing well, with this exception. In fact he actually seems to be getting progressively worse and the barking mindset more intense (self-reinforcing behavior?)


At this point I am more than happy to accept any advice from all of you experienced BC owners and will happily report back with Ollie's progress. So if you can spare a few minutes to offer your thoughts it will be much appreciated.


Sorry for the lengthy post, I wanted to give you as much detail as possible.


Attached are a couple of photos of our lovely young boy.






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post-13600-008556100 1345534320_thumb.jpg


post-13600-081382700 1345534401_thumb.jpg

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I don't have much to offer, except congratulations - he's a beautiful boy - and appreciation that you're working so hard and doing such thorough research to try to help your boy the best you can. If I recall, Patricia McConnell had a good protocol for barking dogs that I used early on with my dog (who used to bark at every moving thing outside our window). I never really pursued it to mastery, but I did get to a point when I can make my dog stop barking when I need to.


Good luck!



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What a cutie! I have to admit I skimmed a bit, but the big picture I got from your post was that Ollie has learned that barking=attention. First it got him back inside where the people are, then it got him games outside, and it sounds like he gets games inside as well when he barks.



I have limited experience with dogs that bark a ton, for whatever reason I end up with the quiet ones, so I'm sure someone else will have better advice for you. But my initial reaction would be to simply stop giving him what he wants when he barks! Now that it's engrained it will take a while to break this habit, and I know how frustrating a constant barker can be. Max, my 6 month old rescue that I've had about a month now, really pitched a fit the first couple times I left him in his crate in a room by himself. He quickly learned though that being loud and obnoxious got him nowhere, while quietly settling down to his kong got him praise and attention (and oh boy does he love attention). It may fray your nerves a bit, but I suggest starting off by leaving him in his crate with a favorite chew toy or kong. If you can put him in a fairly sound proof room and shut the door to muffle the racket a bit. Ignore him when he's barking, praise him and let him out when he's quiet. Progress to loose in the house- ignore or, if need be, quick reprimand when he barks, praise/attention/games when he is quiet. Eventually he will learn that being quiet gets him all sorts of goodies, while barking means he's ignored.



Also, even with a vet's approval a 15 km bike ride seems quite excessive for an 8 month old puppy. Exhausting him (and stressing those growing joints) won't help the barking, as you've discovered.


Best of luck!

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I would agree that he has learned that barking = fun with people! Games and treats come from barking and being an obnoxious barking adolescent. If he were mine he would get one chance to be quiet, I would give sharp hand clap or something to interrupt the barking and give a verbal cue like 'enough' or 'quiet'. If he continues to bark I would simply get him by the collar or a dragging leash and calmly and neutrally take him to the laundry room and place him in there. He can remain in there until he quiets down. Once he is quiet he can come back out. If he starts barking again he would get one chance again to be 'quiet' then back to the laundry room. For a smart dog it wouldn't take long to figure out that if he 'quiets' immediately then he gets to stay with his family, if not he is put away and the fun and games stop until he stops barking. Be warned that the behavior may escalate at first as he tries harder to make he initial games and stuff start back by barking but if you can be consistent you can break the behavior. Just remember who is training who! :)


Congratulations on him, by the way! He is a beautiful boy!!


I second the warning that 10-15km of biking sounds like too much for an 8 month old pup. Too much on those growing joints.

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I have to add that I own a barker. She barks to talk to the world, when she's happy she barks, when she's upset she barks, she barks because she was born a barker.

I have come to allow one comunitive bark then tell her thank you very much and to hush or quit. Those commands she had to learn but she did.

I found it easier to let her get one bark in because that's how she is wired but more than that is just obnoxious! And I'm ever so glad the newest pup we have is silent as can be!


Congrats he is adorable. And good luck with your barker. I often tell Dew we are going to do a barkerectomy but she isn't convinced. ;)

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Thanks heaps for the feedback everyone.


There seems to be so much conflicting information out there regarding the best way to manage the problem.


I freely admit that I have never had to deal with barking and am quite lost on this one.


Regarding the riding, I'll back it off - it is having absolutely no impact on the barking problem and I would hate to be putting his health at risk.

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Don't know if this will help you, but here's what worked for my dogs:


We struggled for a long time to get Bear to stop barking. He barked when outside when he wanted our attention. We tried many thing, but for him, the only thing that worked is time-outs. He is now 12 years old and still occasionally needs a time out, but for the most part he's quiet.


For Bear 'time out' meant he had to lay quietly by the back door and stay until we said he could get up (2-15 minutes). The big thing for him was during this time he got no toys to put in his mouth (he's very 'mouthy'), no food or attention. We completely ignored him except to remind him to stay if he tried to get up (or put him back if he did get up). This accomplished three things: (1) it showed him coming 'inside' wasn't always fun and games and people and (2) it gave him time to settle and calm down before interacting with us and (3) it showed him if he was quiet then he got to come play with the people.


The location of the time out was key for Bear. We had tried putting him in another room, but he couldn't see us and would just bark and scratch at the door non-stop to the point of destroying the door. The living room was too close to the people and I think he still found it rewarding. The rug by the back door where he could still see us, but was far enough away to where he was clearly not 'included' in the activity turned out to be the perfect spot. Initially he had to be put back several times and sometimes he would whine, but eventually he caught on that he wasn't getting up until he was calm and quiet.


Of course, your dog must know 'down' and 'stay' pretty well for this to be of use. And be sure the dog has a rug or something comfortable to lay on so he is more likely to stay until released.


HOWEVER, the 'time-out' method did not work for Meg (who for a while was in the habit of barking at the neighbor dogs when outside). She wasn't barking for our attention and coming inside was not her goal. She saw 'time out' as more of a challenge or game than a consequence to her barking. For her, simply giving her something else to do (sit, down, stay, etc) to redirect her focus and rewarding her for that behavior while outside was all it took for her. It had to be something that took her focus off the other dog and was not in itself overly rewarding (not play; being told what to do or being given a job is still rewarding in itself for Meg, but requires calm focus).


DON'T PLAY. Play is a reward so if you play after he barks, you're rewarding the barking and also increasing his excitement and energy level. If you have him do something else (sit, down, etc) and then reward that, you are rewarding the second (quiet) behavior. Gradually increase the duration of the quiet behavior before giving the reward.


Another option is clicker training. This requires that the dog and you both have an understanding of the clicker and you have good timing. Click and reward the silence between the barks and gradually ask for greater duration. I've not tried it, but one of my dog trainers said this method was used to teach police dogs to not bark in the car.


I hope this helps. Barking can be such a difficult habit to break, but keep up with it. You'll get there. You just have to find what works for your boy.

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Hi Tricky ~


What a beautiful boy you have! Congratulations on taking him in. :)


I have never lived with a barker, but I'll second the other responses you've gotten. He may now equate his barking with your response. Like a kid who goes hollering around the house until Mom stops what she's doing to pay attention to him - even if it's just to tell him to stop it.


So, I think you've gotten some good advice. When he goes on a barking jag, just put him away in the laundry room. No more distractions, no more interactions, just put him out of your presence, leave him a toy or two. Oh, he'll probably screech up a storm, but so long as you hold onto your resolve, I think you'll find that he will, eventually, give in.


This means you'll have to respond immediately, firmly and with no visible emotion, just get up and put him away. And you'll have to do it time and time and time and time again. But repetition and consistency are key.


In other words, I don't think it's about things in your environment stimulating him. I think it's about him stimulating you into a response. Break that cycle, cease responding to him save to put him away, and his barking may well begin to go away. Dogs don't just need distracting, they need leadership and boundaries, and barking is one boundary you need to set.


Best of luck, and keep us posted. :)

Respectfully submitted,



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Thanks for your input everyone.


I should qualify that the positive interrupt method is only applied once he is quiet - I believe the theory is that he is supposed to associate stopping barking and the quiet cue with the reward. The interrupt is another cue like "over here". Perhaps we are not doing it correctly...


The Laundry timeout is not proving very effective unfortunately - although we have been persisting with it.


From another thread on this forum, we read that many people have had a lot of success using a spray bottle filled with water. The idea is to give a quick squirt into the mouth during a bark. I wasn't sure how I felt about this approach however my wife has tried it today out of sheer desperation and apparently it has been extremely effective. She has only used a single squirt, twice and on both occasions he has immediately stopped barking and stayed quiet. Nothing has had a response like this so far and apparently if he looks like he is about to start, merely picking up the bottle is enough that decides against barking.


I'll keep you posted as to how we are going.


Thanks again.

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Barking is inherently self-reinforcing. Some dogs love to bark just because. I'm not a fan of spray-bottle discipline as the first thing to do, but you've done everything you can and Ollie still likes to bark. Sounds like using the spray judiciously is the appropriate next step.


Good luck!


Ruth and Agent Gibbs

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Another update.


It's all quiet on the home front.


Yesterday when I was walking out the door for work he was barking his head off and had been doing so all morning with the exception of his walk. It was complete chaos - I have not heard him bark since, nor have we used the spray since the two my wife used yesterday.


We are thrilled - long may it last.





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One of mine was a terrible barker when he first arrived. We did just about everything and a we brought in a professional who after other methods suggested we try a spray collar with citronella (sp?). It's battery operated and it took but 3 sprays and he got the hint. He still barks but it's been cut by 90%.


I hope you have your barking under control Richard, best of luck!!

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One of mine was a terrible barker when he first arrived. We did just about everything and a we brought in a professional who after other methods suggested we try a spray collar with citronella (sp?). It's battery operated and it took but 3 sprays and he got the hint. He still barks but it's been cut by 90%.


I hope you have your barking under control Richard, best of luck!!

Thanks for that - it's good to know that it can be overcome.


Ollie is doing much better (80%-90%) over the past week - since the spray bottle was introduced. We have only used it 3 times and it seems to have been enough to break the pattern of him constantly barking. This has been enough for us to get some control back to a point where we could work with him again - it has been such a huge relief.


He is still permanently inside, with us escorting him for outside time and he is now only barking at specific triggers; neigbour's dog, cats etc. We are giving him a chance to be quiet on cue, then putting him into a long down if he continues (usually ends up asleep)


I had a long talk to a behaviourist from the RSPCA here in Australia and she also said that it may be worth trying the citronella collar, in random sessions, especially to help with getting him back outside (which is for his sake really). They normally wouldn't recommend them as they are often the tool of "lazy owners" however she seemed to think it would be appropriate for Ollie if used correctly.


Also she noted that his behaviour suggests that he doesn't understand that it's OK to have "down time" during the day. IE He needs to learn that it's ok to just relax, have a snooze and shut out the distractions during the day. So the long downs are helping with that also.


I'll keep you posted - cheers!

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