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October 5, 2014

What is Your Dogspeak? Who only says, Sit, Down, Come, Stay? & Tips to Train a Problem Barker

Ernie

Second to loving beachtime in the summer, this time of year is awesome! It’s so much cooler that you people will walk farther and stay out with us longer. There is an article below on the ‘protocol’ (or not!) for dog walking.  I have heard some pretty funny requests? commands? conversation? corrections? from you guys; my stepbrother, Spankie, has shared a few he gets frequently.

REALLY?  Jeez Louise! Sorry!  Don’t Eat that! Be nice!  What are you doing?  Not on the flowers! You are starting our walk like that? Spankie – no second winds at the end of our walk! Stop it!  awwww… look at that handsome labby! NO!! Leave it!  OK, you guys, good job! who wants breakfast?

spanksoncouch

Spankie looking innocent.

ernie hildy's toy

Later,  Ernestine

 

How to Train a Problem Barker

Drew Webster, Petfinder

problem-barker

Nuisance barking can be a big problem for owners.  No one wants to be the neighbor with the crazy barking dog. If you want to improve your dog’s behavior you first have to understand it. Dogs have different barks for different behaviors. Dogs will bark to alert, for attention or out of frustration and many will bark or howl when left alone.

Barking is very hard for pet parents to work through because a lot of our instincts end up reinforcing the behavior. For example take a dog who is barking at a strange dog or person on the street. As nurturing human beings, pet parents often think they should sooth and calm him with petting, where the dog most likely will take this to mean you like my behavior, keep doing it. The other major issue is barking dogs can trigger owners to yell or punish the dog to try to stop them. This might suppress the behavior but it is more likely to cause the dog increased stress and to continue barking. Frustrated owners will sometimes turn to punishment in some form like “anti-bark” shock collars, these tools are not very safe or humane and most of the time they will make the problem worse by creating anxiety.

To train your dog not to bark or to stop barking you will need to understand what is causing him to bark. If a dog is barking because there is something outside triggering him (by sight or sound), change the environment so your dog doesn’t have access to watch and bark out the window, or some noise like music to cover sound. This is a “self-rewarding” behavior for the dog. Think of it from the dogs’ point of view. The mailman comes to the house, dog barks, mailman leaves. He thinks he made the intruder go away, success! If your dog is barking or howling because he is alone, increase his exercise routine before you leave him and give him something interesting while you are gone like a puzzle toy with treats inside. For the attention seeking barker find something that makes him bark out of excitement like a toy, ball or your attention. Wait until he is quiet and reward him when he stops barking; he will learn quiet behavior gets him what he wants faster than getting too excited.

Lastly, reward and praise your dog when he is calm and quiet. Quiet dogs are often ignored, but barking gets a lot of feedback. Let your dog know he has made the right choice when people walk by the window or when his ears perk up, and he will be more and more likely to watch quietly.

 

Whose Walk Is It, Anyway?

Walks let dogs get mental and physical stimulation by exploring and interacting with their surroundings — this should be the priority. One dog parents view… from Dogster

Quite often, when I’m out walking my dogs, I see numerous other dog/handler teams out for a stroll in the neighborhood.

I see all kinds of things I don’t particularly like that compromise dogs’ physical or mental health –- dogs getting yanked around on leashes, yelled at, and constantly scolded. I also see training concerns, and people reinforcing correct behavior. I can’t recall a single time I’ve seen a dog in my neighborhood get a treat for doing the right thing when out on a walk.

But of all the things I see on walks, one of the most frustrating for me is seeing dogs being punished, incessantly, for being dogs. This is National Walk Your Dog Week, so it’s a good time to consider what a walk is all about — and who should benefit more from it. Read on for some observations, advice, and tips on dog walking.

Sometimes it seems as though owners take their dogs for walks and forget what a walk is all about — for their dog. For dogs, a walk is about sights, sounds, and experiences. It’s about checking “p-mail,” sniffing hydrants and trees to find out where the neighbor’s dog or cat last peed. It’s about shoving their faces down a groundhog hole and sniffing until they finally pull their faces out, dirty, blissful, their nostrils full of the smell of wild animals. It’s about munching a particularly tender blade of grass, saying “hello” to a friendly stranger they’d like to greet, lifting a leg on every fire utility pole or tree you pass, splashing in a puddle or creek, or chewing a stick for a brief moment.

This is what walks mean to dogs. It’s a chance to investigate and interact with their environment. It’s mental and physical stimulation.

Many owners approach a walk with the mentality that, “We’re going to walk X route in Y amount of minutes whatever that takes. It will be your exercise for the day and you’d better well like it.” It’s a “Let’s just get this over with” mentality, a “You’re an imposition to me and I’m doing this because I have to, not because I like to,” mentality. For these people and their dogs, walking is a chore. For me, Cuba, and Mokie, more often than not, it’s a game.

Let’s face facts. For many dogs, a daily 30-minute leash walk barely begins to address their true exercise needs. Mokie, my Chow mix, is a very active dog and for her, a walk is certainly more about mental stimulation than it is about physical stimulation. A 30-minute walk is only the beginning for her. If I want to really tire her out, we need to go hiking, backpacking, swimming, or have a long and adventurous romp with some of her favorite doggy pals.

When we go on a walk, I’m walking for my dogs. It’s their chance to just get out there and be dogs, to sniff and explore. If I want to go on a brisk, no-nonsense, let’s-not-stop-for-anything power walk (which happens rarely, I just can’t see the point in walking without at least one dog and would feel utterly naked), I would go without the dogs.

Despite the fact that I’m a trainer, I also don’t insist on perfect obedience from my dogs when we walk. A colleague once said, “Well, my dogs would NEVER pull on the leash because I’m a dog trainer.” Well, la-dee-dah. Dogs are dogs. They move faster than we do and think poop is fascinating. I’m not saying I let my dogs pull me around, but sometimes the leash does go tight. So what? I just stop, wait for the tension to come off the leash, and we start walking again. No biggie.

I do use equipment as a cue for the type of walk we’re having. If I’m going on a training walk, where we’ll work on heeling or obedience, my dogs can wear their collars and six-foot leashes. If we’re going for fun, a “for the dogs” walk, they get to wear front-clip harnesses and a long-line or flexi leash. (For dogs — and owners of dogs -– who are not already trained to walk politely on a regular leash, a flexi leash can be a safety risk and inhibit the learning of appropriate leash manners.) When they have those “clothes” on, they know they’re off the hook. It’s dog time –- do whatever you want. Sure, I’ll still call them back and reinforce the behavior for coming, ask for a few steps in heel and reward with a chance to shove their face in a hole dug by a woodchuck, or ask for a few hand targets and reward with a stick tossed into the creek for retrieving.

But my dogs aren’t always “on.” They’re not always performing, I’m not always rigid. I don’t spend every second we’re together thinking of criteria, reinforcement schedules, and so on. I think of behaviors I like, and I look for ways to make it fun for them to offer those behaviors by giving them the things they want and need. Yes, dogs do NEED to sniff things and interact with their environment.

Sometimes, I’m not even a dog trainer, I’m just She Who Likes to Have Fun With Dogs.

I don’t want robots, I want canines. Yes, I find their good behavior rewarding and fulfilling. It makes me proud to know how wonderful my dogs are. But at the same time, I want them to have plenty of opportunities to just do the things that they like to do, even if means that they’re sniffing for 30 minutes out of a 45-minute walk, and we make it around only four or five blocks instead of a few miles. Sometimes, I let the dogs pick the route we take on our walk. Something smells good on Fairview Avenue? Let’s go that way instead of taking Riverside today!

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