and keep a
How to stop barking and keep a quiet dog busy,
(c) 2012-2019 Frania Shelley-Grielen all rights reserved
Dogs bark but what to do when the barking is excessive? How do you change a barking
dog into a quiet dog? Barking is a natural and necessary part of canine expression and
communication,an alert to let us and each other know about what's going on around
them. But not being able to control barking can be frustrating, especially where
neighbors and guests are concerned. Here's my advice after working with a client
seeking help with barking for a small, older rescue (names have been changed), who it
seems had little, if any, prior training. Here are strategies to lower the volume and
give that quiet dog something to do:
Marcelle seems well socialized to people and comfortable in her home. Her focus in life is
you, which is a beautiful thing but makes her life one dimensional; giving Marcelle more
to do that is substantive for her as a dog will enrich her life. While she probably has a
history of positive interaction she also seems to have a history of lack of training which
may explain her insistence on being heard no matter what. Marcelle's barking habits
can be attributed to two things; natural behavior and lapses in training. Here's how
to help lessen the need to bark and keep that quiet dog busy:
- Your dog would benefit from learning canine manners in a human world, little
dogs are in greater need of structure just because they are so little -all that barking
(and jumping or pawing) gets the attention she is asking for at the moment, it serves
her well being so much smaller than everyone else around her but is difficult for
humans around her. Training will also give her confidence, boundaries and create
a stronger relationship, one where she is more tuned in to what you are asking of
her and she is responding to it.
- Give Marcelle more to do in her day: Feeding her diet in a Kong for both breakfast
and dinner meals will prolong the satisfaction and the doing of eating her meals both
of which are enriching for her. Go back to puzzle toys full of treats and leave these
for her as well, more activities to feed her mind. Try new and different toys to leave
for her and keep one by the door (a special one that she only gets when you leave).
Puzzle toys that you have buried for a day or two in your dirty clothes hamper (gives
them the best smell of you) and that you have showed how to play with, are a great
addition to squeaky and stuffed toys.
- Classical music has been proven to soothe dogs and cats, leave the radio (105.9FM in
NYC) on for her for the music and the soothing voices of the announcers for company
and to listen to, another thing for her to do.
- First know that training is so much more than teaching tricks and commands, it is
about finding a clear and consistent way to communicate with another species, one
who has no extensive "language" to understand our explanations and whose idea of
life rewards is at times very inconsistent with ours. Because of this, we are limited
to an almost pantomime if you will, one where we have to identify without words
what stimulates a response (from the dog's point of view not ours) and "condition"
that response, we "associate" behaviors and rewards (meaningful for a dog) and we
reinforce -- repeat so we both know that's what we're looking for. So start with what
you both know already is working. Praise is part of training and a reward that
should be freely given for being "quiet" or "good,” etc. If she is sitting with you or
lying down or waiting patiently you can label ("put it on command") what she is
doing at the moment and praise: "Good quiet Marcelle, good quiet." The trick to
remember is saying the phrase when she is doing the behavior you want to
reinforce. Remember, that her name is not the command or the praise. Label
the behavior, remark on it. We do not nearly praise enough at all.
Work also with your dog on what she knows already to make it stronger for the both
of you (as humans we need to work on our timing of asking, labeling and rewarding
so our pets know what we want). Training is best for everyone if it is constant and
consistent so aim for some time during the day even if it is just three to five minutes
in the morning or the evening.
- On to barking: Marcelle will naturally alert to the presence of a new person entering
a room, you and other people should greet Marcelle first when entering a room or an
area where she is -a simple "Hi Marcelle" or "Marcelle we're home" will help take the
pressure of her to let the world know about it. Strange noises and newcomers
frequently set off alarm barking. Working on "quiet" after you tell her in four or
five words that you hear it too (say 'Thanks, I heard that too" for instance) are the
way to go with this one initially: Start as soon as the barking begins, hold a treat in
front of her nose (or a toy she will respond to if you get up to toys) as soon as she
sniffs the barking will stop (she cannot do both at once) then immediately say "Good
quiet!" or "Hush" or whatever command you want to always use for this and offer
her the treat immediately, repeat frequently.
- Teaching your dog to go to her "spot" or "place" takes more doing but is an exercise
in human canine communication and will teach her and you more about each
other, strengthen your bond and give her a really secure base not to bark and feel
good about it too. To learn "spot" or "place" a pet has to already know "sit" and "stay."
Read on for the steps in how to teach this on your own (taken from the former
ASPCA's Virtual Behaviorist website):
1. Identify a place in your home where you’d like your dog to go when people come
to the door. If possible, choose a place that’s at least eight feet away from the front
door but still within sight. It might be a spot at the top of a set of stairs, inside the
doorway of an adjacent room, your dog’s crate, or a rug positioned at the far corner
of an entryway or foyer.
2. Say “Go to your spot,” show your dog a treat, and then throw the treat onto the
spot where you’d like your dog to go. Repeat this sequence 10 to 20 times. By the
10th time, try pretending to throw the treat so that your dog begins to move toward
the spot on his own. As soon as he’s standing on his spot or rug, throw him the treat.
As your dog catches on, you can stop making the fake throwing motion with your
arm and just give him the cue, “Go to your spot.” Then wait until he does and
3. Once your dog is reliably going to his spot, vary where you are when you send
him there. Practice asking him to go to his spot from many different angles and
distances. For example, say “Go to your spot” when you’re standing a few steps to
the left of it. After a few repetitions, move a few steps to the right of the spot and say,
“Go to your spot” from that position. Then move to another area in the room, then
another, etc. Eventually, practice standing by the front door and asking your dog
to go to his spot, just as you might when visitors arrive.
4. When your dog masters going to his spot, start asking him to sit or down when he
gets here. As soon as your dog’s rear end hits the floor on the spot, say “Yes!” and
reward him with a tasty treat. Then say “Okay,” and allow him to move off the spot.
Repeat these steps at least 10 times per training session.
5. Now add stay into your exercise. Stand next to your dog’s spot. Ask him to sit or
lie down, say “Stay” and wait one second. Then say “Yes!” or “Good!” and give him
a treat. After you deliver the treat, say “Okay” to release your dog from the stay
and encourage him to get off the spot. Repeat this sequence at least 10 times per
training session. Progressively increase from one second to several seconds, but
vary the time so that sometimes you make the exercise easy (a shorter stay) and
sometimes you make it hard (a longer stay). If your dog starts to get up before you
say “Okay,” say “Uh-uh!” or “Oops!” and immediately ask him to sit or lie down
on his spot again. Then make the exercise a little easier the next few times by
asking your dog to hold the stay for a shorter time. Avoid pushing your dog to
progress too fast or testing him to see how long he can hold the stay before getting
up. This sets your dog up to fail. You want him to be successful at least 8 out of 10
times in a row.
6. When your dog can consistently stay on his spot for at least 30 seconds, with
you standing in front of him, you can start moving toward the door. Say the cue
“Go to your spot,” walk with your dog to his spot, ask him to sit or lie down and ask
him to stay. At first, just turn your head away from your dog. Then turn back to
give him a treat and release him from the stay. After a few repetitions, make
things a little harder. After your dog is sitting or lying down on his spot, ask him
to stay and then take one step toward the door. Return immediately, give your
dog a treat and then release him from the stay with your release word or phrase.
Gradually increase the number of steps that you take away from your dog and
toward the door. Eventually you’ll be able to walk all the way to the door and back
while your dog stays sitting or lying down on his spot. (Don’t forget to keep
rewarding him for staying!) If your dog stands up or leaves his spot before you
release him from the stay, say “Oops!” the moment he gets up. Then immediately
tell him to sit or lie down on his spot again and stay. Wait a few seconds and then
release him. You may have progressed too fast. Next time, make the exercise a little
easier so your dog can succeed. Ask him to stay for a shorter period of time and don’t
move as far away from him. When he’s successful at an easier level, you can
gradually make the exercise harder again. Never end your dog’s stay from a distance.
Instead, always return to him, say “Yes,” give him a treat, and then say “Okay” to
7. When your dog can consistently stay in a sit or a down on his spot for 30 seconds,
while you turn away and walk to your front door, you can start to introduce some
distractions. Tell your dog to stay, and then do something distracting. At first make
your distractions mild. For example, start by bending down or doing a single
jumping jack. Over many sessions of training, gradually intensify your distractions
to things like running a few steps or tossing a treat on the floor. Reward your dog
quickly after each distraction for holding the stay. If he breaks the stay, quickly say
“Uh-uh,” ask him to sit or lie down on his spot, and try again. When your dog can stay
while you do all sorts of distracting things, ask him to stay while you go to the front
door of your home and pretend to greet someone there. Your goal is for him to learn
to stay the entire time you’re at the door.
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Copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
"Barking is a natural behavior
for a dog and typically serves
three broad purposes: alert,
alarm and solicitation. Letting
Marcelle know she is heard,
alerting her first and giving her
something else to do will target
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
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