The sound of silence can be a much-coveted thing in a household with barking dogs. Trust me, I live with a border collie. I know barking. Getting it to stop … that’s where so many of us go astray. (Keep reading. Details on this week’s prizes below.)
And, that’s where so many dogs end up getting choked, pinched, or zapped in the neck by a shock collar (either sound-triggered or by remote) simply for trying to communicate.
Why Dogs Bark
If you’d like to read much more about barking — why it happens, what it means — check out this book: Barking: The Sound of a Language, by Turid Rugaas
In it, Rugaas outlines the 7 kinds of barking:
- Excitement barking
- Warning barking
- Fear barking
- Guard barking
- Frustration barking
- Learned barking
- Breed-related barking
In addition to offering insights on how best to retrain dogs who bark, Rugaas suggests keeping a bark log that includes (among other things):
- When it starts
- How long it lasts
- What it sounds like
- What the dog is doing while barking
Because barking drives us barking mad, we tend to exaggerate the frequency and length of barking. Keeping a log for a week is a good way to really assess how much and why your dog barks.
Throughout the book, Rugaas advises … “You will see that it is completely ineffective to punish a dog for barking, no matter what kind of barking you are dealing with.”
The Never Shock a Puppy Coalition could NOT agree more!
Training / ReTraining a Barking Dog
The goal cannot be to have a dog that never barks because that simply is NOT realistic. Dogs bark. It’s what they do (in certain circumstances). The key is to have a way (or several options) of getting the dog to stop barking, once he starts.
The truth is, in cases like this, that you cannot change the behavior (barking) until you change the way the dog feels (anxious, worried, frustrated). Punishing the behavior might change the barking, but it will NOT change how the dog feels that causes him to bark.
Two Barking-Dog Strategies
I’m sure across our blop hop this week that others will offer good insights into retraining barking dogs, but here are the two methods I use (or try to, at least):
1. Train an “off button.” For us, it’s the cue SIT. Lilly was taught that no noise is allowed when she is asked to SIT. So, in the morning when she gets really excited about breakfast, I ask her to SIT while I put food in her bowl.
One of our early dog trainers joked that a client once asked, “You’re the dog trainer?” when the client arrived to find all of the trainer’s dogs barking like crazy at the doorbell.
The trainer smiled and said, “SIT.” All the dogs sat. All the dogs were quiet. Then, he replied, “Yes, I am.”
We taught a quiet SIT by only rewarding silent sitting, not noisy sitting. I’m NOT going to say it always works, but it’s one option in our toolbox of managing behaviors I find less than ideal.
2. Play on/off switch games. One of the best ways I know to better steer less-than-desirable dog behaviors is to put them on cue. In other words, you actually TEACH the dog to do the crazy thing, but only when you ask. Then, it becomes a game … of sorts.
For example, my border collie barks during play when she gets over-excited. So, I really rev her up in play and let her bark. THEN, I ask her to SIT-STAY (and by default be quiet, see #1 above). We play again and get really noisy, then I ask her to settle down again.
By working through several on/off cycles, your dog learns the pattern that says, “I can be noisy now.” and “I need to be quiet now.”
This requires some baseline self-control training, but I’ve found it really helpful with my dog — who is just naturally noisy.
Prize Drawing #2
This week, we’ll be collecting entries for the second of FIVE prizes we’ll be giving away during the Never Shock a Puppy campaign. All you have to do is post a comment to this blog entry before midnight (MDT), Sunday, Sept 26, 2010, to be entered into the random prize drawing. (Since our chosen WordPress template puts the link to comment in tiny, tiny print WAY at the bottom of the post, we’re putting a jump link here that will take you right to the post page with the comment screen showing.)
Because we hope to reach out to first-time dog owners and new dog adopters, people who self identify as such in their comment below will get a couple of bonus entries. (We’re working on the honor system here, folks.)
You can read all the official rules to learn more, but for logistical reasons, we must limit entries to those in the U.S. and Canada. We’ll notify the winner next week via email, so be sure you enter your email address correctly. Once we know via private email conversations, where the winner lives and what size is needed, we can arrange for prize delivery and for the dog training contact.
This week’s prize package includes:
- A new Halti head collar or harness from The Company of Animals (Thanks to our coalition connections through Best Friends General Store)
- A one-hour private lesson with a dog trainer in your area (paid for by sponsor K9Cuisine.com) and contacts gained via the No Shock Collar Coalition and Truly Dog Friendly)
- A $25 electronic gift certificate from K9Cuisine.com
- A toy supplied by Calling All Dogs
- A gemstone collar charm (which also makes a great zipper pull) from Debbie Jacobs at FearfulDogs.com
You can click through here to comment.
How Your Donations Help!
Do you want to help spread the word about pain-free dog training? Then, we need your donations today!
As our service project, we’re raising money for the Humane Society of Boulder Valley‘s upcoming No-Choke Challenge. (More details on how our efforts dovetail on our About Page and on the No-Choke Challenge page.)
Just click the donation button on this handy-dandy donation widget to get started!
If for some reason you cannot see or use the donation widget below, please visit the Never Shock a Puppy Donation Site instead.
Never Shock a Puppy coalition members (and others, we hope) are blogging from their own sites on this and related topics. Each of us explain our opposition to shock collars (and other punitive methods in our own ways), so we hope you find at least one blogger who “speaks your language” so that you can follow our campaign in a way that feels most comfortable to you. Check out this blog hop to learn more.