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Teaching puppies not to bark

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Does anyone have any advice about how to teach a BC not to bark? I’ve never had a very barky dog. Our 5 month old, Maldwyn, is getting quite vocal; he sounds like Scooby Doo. Do you just attach the word bark to the act and then add NO? Or is there some other better strategy? 

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Research the "Look At That" game online. It's a very effective training protocol for reactive dogs, and barking falls into the category of reactive. I saw it work beautifully on three very barky shelties, although I have never needed to use it myself.

What I have done that has worked very well if I stop what I am doing when the dogs bark, and I say "show me". Then I go to window or door and get on their level and look out with them. Often I don't see anything, but I know they did, so I say "Thank you, you can stop now, that'll do". And they stop and go back to what they had been doing.

You can of course use whatever words you want. What I have found is that the dogs alert to something and want me to pay attention to it. since I live rurally and without another human being, I think it's good they let me know. Plus, I thought about what it means to them, and they are happy that I listen to what they are telling me.

The one thing you don't want to do is raise your voice and say "no, stop, stop", which to the dogs sounds  as if you are joining them in the barking. :-)

Main thing is however you approach it don't punish the dog for barking. It's important for the dog to bark. If the puppy keeps on and on even when you have used one of the useful protocols, then it is time for a "time out" which means 5 minutes in the crate, in another room away from people. Only 5 minutes for a puppy! And don't put the puppy into the crate with the idea that it is a punishment. Do it as if the pup were a baby who needed a nap. Gently but firmly, no scolding.

 

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On 5/25/2020 at 10:58 AM, D'Elle said:

...I thought about what it means to them, and they are happy that I listen to what they are telling me.

This is something that's too often left out of our thought processes when we try to work with our dogs.

My lurcher (border collie x sighthound cross) is very reactive and barks at every little thing she hears and sees. Asking her to stop rarely works; she can sense the frustration in my voice -- as well as the exasperated and usually louder tone -- and it just makes her bark more. Although it's usually inconvenient to go look out the window as D'Elle does, it's much more effective at getting her to stop so I do it. That gives me the pause from her that I can reinforce. Instead of trying to correct the wrong, it's usually more effective to reward the right or desired behavior. This has always been more effective with my purebred border collies than the sighthound mix whose you're-not-the-boss-of-me kind of attitude is challenging at the best of times. But border collies were bred to want to do what their handlers want of them, so to interrupt-and-reinforce the absence of the behavior is much more likely to succeed and you should end up with a dog who alerts only when there's a good reason for it.

And yes, check out the Look at That game. Brilliant and effective for reactivity. It's helped a lot with the lurcher for her reactivity to other dogs.

 

 

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Thank you both! I will research Look at That. The situations that I’m talking about are usually when a stranger or another dog is near our property. I don’t mind the initial warning—that’s great actually. Even though we live in a city neighborhood, if he wants to be a guard dog, that’s cool with me. But the problem is, when I come and see what it is and tell him it’s fine, he still won’t stop. Ultimately I want him to take cues from my behavior: alert me to the potential problem, sure, but when I say it’s fine, believe me, don’t keep going on about it.

I’m wondering now that I type this up if this isn’t a result of not enough socialization due to COVID. He is really confused about why we are social distancing I think. He’s pretty skittish around new people even when I throw them treats from six feet away to give to him. We got him March 1; he probably doesn’t remember much from before the pandemic.

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For the continued barking you'll have to mark and reward even the slightest break between the barks. Hopefully you've been clicker training; if not I'd suggest you research it and begin immediately. It's really the best way to mark something as brief as a break between continuous barks. If you can distract him, or better yet if the time between barks is even one second longer on his own, click and reward that momentary instant of quiet. Keep feeding him tiny treats (or toy play if that's what you're using for a reward) as long as he doesn't bark. It might take a little while, but he should catch on to what he's being rewarded for, and eventually he should bark and then look to you for the reward. Once the pattern is firmly established, work on lengthening the break between barks, even for just another second to begin. Eventually you can put the pause on cue. E.g. if he barks once to let you know something's caught his attention, use "Thank you" as a cue that you're acknowledging his warning and you're taking over now so he should stop barking.

It's quite possible this has a lot to do with not having sufficient opportunities for adequate socialization. I fear that a lot of young dogs are going to have socialization issues by the time this social distancing is finally over. In the meantime can you take him to a park or walking trail where people take dogs where you can just sit and watch them pass by? You could reward for calm behavior without the need to interact but at least be able to see people and dogs consistently and at a closer distance than you can from inside your home.

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I had a barker.  I taught him to bark on command. It was easy because excitement caused barking and barking was its own reward.  Then after I got him barking on command, I would say quiet and I would stand still.  When he stopped barking and looked at me, I gave him a treat.  Rinse and repeat.  He thought the game was great.  After he learned reliably to speak on command,  I lengthened the time he had to be quiet before he got his treat.  When he started to bark at something, I had a command to get him to stop and look at me so I could redirect him to a better activity.  The crazy part was it lessened his barking in general.  

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Terrific advice from both Gentle Lake and 2bc4me, above. 

I have had wonderful success with clicking and rewarding even one second of non-barking or growling or jumping or whatever, with foster dogs I have had.  I had one who was terrified of other dogs and extremely aggressive, and would continuously bark and snarl if there were another dog in the house, even if she couldn't see it. By clicking and rewarding (with very prime treats) each time she stopped for breath, and of course starting with the other dog behind a closed door on the other side of the house,  I got her to the point of being able to sniff at another dog in under a half hour. It was amazing. Results vary of course, not all would learn so fast.

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I'm no expert and haven't tried the games mentioned above so this is just anecdotal personal experience. All the above seems very thorough but I wanted to share our experience in which some regular methods haven't worked well because of my dog's anxiety. I should mention that my dog is now on anxiety medication and that much of her progress may simply be due to that, but below is what seems to be working for us. 

I have a very barky and anxious girl. Realising that her barking was coming from a place of fear/stress helped a lot in how I deal with it. Initially, we tried to catch her to remove her from the situation which actually made things worse as she's quite flighty and would run and hide from us. Timeouts were also similarly ineffective as she has severe anxiety and would freak out more in time out.

If I'm being honest, the only thing that has helped is getting her attention in some way and praising when she stops. For us, that looks like me saying in a really calm, not angry voice 'quiet' and the moment she looks to me and is quiet I shower her with praise and pats. Realising she's barking out of fear has led me to respond in a reassuring way such as patting her and telling her everything's alright (I know she's a dog not a human but somehow this works really well?), or generally just being cheerful and distracting her with a toy or training and treats. I do often also go and check out the source of 'danger' and reassure her that everything's fine which helps too. I've seen a massive improvement over the past two months. 

Socialisation is soo important and incredibly difficult to do right now! we take our dog to the park (in Australia) and there are a bunch of kids/people out and about at the moment - just walking around them normalises people being out in the world (our dog used to bark at all kinds of people out of fear on walks and after a bunch of exposure at a distance is actually really good now). Our covid restrictions are pretty non existent now so perhaps it's different for you. Our dog was/is fearful of people too, and she responds best to softly spoken women so we've started most socialisation with that, often getting the person to simply ignore her and just exist in the same place as her has been the most effective and least confrontational - she usually then warms up pretty quick. 

Good luck, it's a hard time to have a pup but it seems like you're committed to learning and putting in the time which is great

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13 hours ago, mol said:

I'm no expert and haven't tried the games mentioned above so this is just anecdotal personal experience. All the above seems very thorough but I wanted to share our experience in which some regular methods haven't worked well because of my dog's anxiety. I should mention that my dog is now on anxiety medication and that much of her progress may simply be due to that, but below is what seems to be working for us. 

I have a very barky and anxious girl. Realising that her barking was coming from a place of fear/stress helped a lot in how I deal with it. Initially, we tried to catch her to remove her from the situation which actually made things worse as she's quite flighty and would run and hide from us. Timeouts were also similarly ineffective as she has severe anxiety and would freak out more in time out.

If I'm being honest, the only thing that has helped is getting her attention in some way and praising when she stops. For us, that looks like me saying in a really calm, not angry voice 'quiet' and the moment she looks to me and is quiet I shower her with praise and pats. Realising she's barking out of fear has led me to respond in a reassuring way such as patting her and telling her everything's alright (I know she's a dog not a human but somehow this works really well?), or generally just being cheerful and distracting her with a toy or training and treats. I do often also go and check out the source of 'danger' and reassure her that everything's fine which helps too. I've seen a massive improvement over the past two months. 

Socialisation is soo important and incredibly difficult to do right now! we take our dog to the park (in Australia) and there are a bunch of kids/people out and about at the moment - just walking around them normalises people being out in the world (our dog used to bark at all kinds of people out of fear on walks and after a bunch of exposure at a distance is actually really good now). Our covid restrictions are pretty non existent now so perhaps it's different for you. Our dog was/is fearful of people too, and she responds best to softly spoken women so we've started most socialisation with that, often getting the person to simply ignore her and just exist in the same place as her has been the most effective and least confrontational - she usually then warms up pretty quick. 

Good luck, it's a hard time to have a pup but it seems like you're committed to learning and putting in the time which is great

mol, it sounds to me as if you are doing pretty well with this dog, so good on you.  Your getting her attention and praising her when she stops barking is pretty much the same thing as what I was describing in my post, although I used a clicker to mark the fact that she had stopped barking for one second. Clicker works well but is not necessary, as your work shows. Also good for you for being cheerful with her to relieve her fear and being gentle with her. She is lucky to have come to you. 

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