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Ask a Trainer Question Answered

Author: Andrea Miller | Date: February 22, 2012

Here’s the next round of answers for our Ask a Trainer feature on our new website. It’s your chance to get dog training advice from the pros at AnimalSense. Stay tuned for more questions & answers, and if you have a burning dog training question, just “Ask a Trainer”!

I have a well-behaved 2 1/2 yo dog that has 2 problems. The most urgent being that she barks very loudly and incessantly when other dogs walk by our house. We have tried telling her “quiet” and rewarding her when she is quiet. We have tried telling her to go to her crate and rewarding her when she is in the crate and quiet. We have also tried an ultrasonic device which worked for awhile but no longer works for her. I sincerely believe that she knows we don’t want her to bark but that it is such a strong instinct, maybe she can’t control it. Do I have to resort to covering my windows so that she can’t see out?

You are correct that barking is indeed a very strong instinct in dogs. Plus, every time your dog barks and the other dog and/or people outside “go away”, your dog’s barking behavior is rewarded because she thinks she is doing her job by preventing others in her space. Though you are rewarding “quiet”, it’s happening after she’s already barking. In order to prevent her from practicing this rewarding behavior, you will need to restrict her access to the windows. But that doesn’t mean having to cover them and live in the dark!

Try tethering your dog to you with a leash. That means that when you are home, she is connected to you. If you feel like she is about to go for the window, distract her (perhaps with an attention exercise she knows really well like “Watch Me” or “Touch”) and reward with a treat when she pays attention to you rather than the window. When you are not home, restrict her access to the windows with either a gate or crate so that she can’t practice barking while you are away.

You’ll also want to teach her “Leave it” and eventually, you can use this command to tell her to leave her barking at the door!

Here’s how to teach “Leave It”:

• Present a treat that your dog will want in a closed fist.
• Let your dog lick or nudge your hand to try to get to the object. If your dog mouths your hand with teeth, take your hand away.
• Once your dog backs away and stops trying to get the item out of your hand, even if itʼs only for a split second, say “Yes” or “Good” and then reward them with a treat from your other hand.
• Once you see your dog starting to “get it” because they are looking for a treat from the other hand automatically when you present your fist, then you can start adding the command, “Leave It”.
• Present an item in your closed fist.
• Say “Leave it” after you present the fist.
• If your dog looks at you, say “Yes” or “Good” and reward from the other hand.
• Practice this for several days, always going back to the beginning when you add a distraction or a new environment.

The next steps are the same only making the task a little harder:

• Present an open fist with your thumb over the item and repeat the steps above.
• Present an open hand with a treat or object on it. Close the hand if dog tries to get the item and repeat the basic steps again.
• Put the treat or object on the floor, barely take your hand away, say “Leave It” and if they do, reward from other hand. If they go for the item, take it away.

Practice makes perfect and this is definitely the case for this behavior. Just because your dog is doing it with all the steps above, doesnʼt mean that they can resist a coffee table full of food when you arenʼt in the room. You have to practice this scenario, or any other scenario that happens in your daily life, so that when it happens for real, they will be ready. The beautiful thing about “Leave It”, is that you can teach your dog to apply it to objects like above or other other dogs. In your case, you’ll eventually apply “Leave It” to the windows.


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