I know first hand the frustration of dealing with a barking dog. Trust me, I have a Chihuahua! While inappropriate barking can make you want to pull your hair out at times, it’s important to remember that it’s a natural behavior for your pup. Barking is the way he communicates and of course he’s going to feel the need to alert you when an intruder is approaching (by “intruder” I really mean a friendly neighbor)!
Barking can be a nuisance both for you and your neighbours. It can also be a sign that your dog is bored or anxious. There are a number of solutions for barking dogs that avoid the use of punishing anti-bark collars and will help you to achieve peace.
The positive interrupt is a well-programmed, highly reinforced behavior that allows you to redirect your dog’s attention back to you when she’s doing something inappropriate like barking. Ideally, you want your dog’s response to the “Over here!” cue to be so automatic – classically conditioned – that he doesn’t stop to think whether what he’s doing is more rewarding or interesting than turning his attention toward you and running to you for a treat. He doesn’t think – he just does it, the way your foot automatically hits the brake of your car when you see taillights flash in front of you on the highway.
While industry claims that no harm is done to the dog, obviously the stimulus, or sensation, provided by the no-bark collar is not something the dog likes. If it didn’t hurt them, they wouldn’t worry about barking freely despite the consequences. That being said, we don’t know of any severe injuries or deaths caused by no-bark collars, and if the dog learns not to bark, it won’t be shocked anymore. We can’t help but wonder how this is restraining some of dogs’ natural functions, however, or causing undue stress and anxiety. Furthermore, consider the fact that in Europe, electric shock no-bark collars are illegal.
When your dog barks, mark the desired behavior with the click! of a clicker or a verbal marker, such as the word “Yes!”, and feed him a treat. Repeat this until he’ll bark on just the cue, without the trigger. Then practice in different environments until the “bark on cue” behavior is well generalized. When his “bark on cue” is well established, you can follow it with a “quiet!” cue, so you’ll be able to turn the bark off when you want.
Like many Collies, he loves to bark and has a lot to say. Think Sheltie, only bigger. Finn’s bark has a genetic component. Collie’s bark to herd sheep. In the photo below, Finn is just about to bark “let’s play!”
Before you can fix the problem you must know what’s causing it. Why is your dog barking? Is your dog going crazy because he sees someone out the window? If so, close the blinds. Is your dog barking at passersby when he’s in the yard? If so, bring him in the house. Is your dog barking for attention? If so, ignore your dog until he quiets down. Is your dog barking because he’s bored? If so, go for a run!
Go for a walk around the block with your dog on leash. Use the interrupt when he’s sniffing a bush, or eyeing garbage in the gutter. Start with mild to moderate real-life distractions if possible, but if a major distraction presents itself, including a stimulus that causes him to bark, give it a try!
I am working on the follow up article to this one and apologize for not having it last week…I was really sick! You need to introduce all the things that flip your dog out at very low stimulation levels with very high levels of reinforcement. My Collie has issues with things on wheels to, and to be honest, while we have overcome the vacuum cleaner, bikes, and skateboards, the lawn mover is so evil, i gave up and just keep him in the house. Genetics are strong with some dogs! Basically your goal is t the give the dog a different job. Look at you, down, anything other than go forward and back at it. I hope you find some tips in this week’s article.-Nancy
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I leave you with a warning. If your dog is barking while tied out, or even worse barking and chasing while out an electric fence or even in a fenced yard, you have the makings of a time bomb. Dogs who see the world just out of their reach and are allowed to live in an aroused state are the dogs will be go after things when the opportunity arises.
The trick in getting the dog to stop barking is assessing the cause. This practically means that you have to identify why your dog barks in the first place and then see what you can do. We cannot tell you why your dog is barking. You want to try to do your best to identify the problem. If you cannot, it is time to contact a dog trainer as he can easily tell you why the dog barks.