Listen to this podcast “stop dog barking – my dog is driving me barking mad”
Cassandra Roland, our positive dog trainer, gives you the reality of how to stop your dog barking. She shares how to decrease your dog’s “alert” barking using positive reinforcement training techniques.
This podcast is called “barking mad”and no prizes for guessing what it’s about: it’s about how to stop your dog barking. Firstly, it’s really important to recognise that barking is a heavily reinforced behaviour. What that means is, by barking the dog is either self-reinforcing or we have accidentally reinforced the behaviour. You may have heard of what is called “postman syndrome”. Postman syndrome is where the postman comes along; he is just doing his normal job. He comes in, puts your mail in your post box. The dog often barks at this point. The postman has done his job, so off he goes. In the dog’s head, he barked and therefore the postman went away. The same process happens when somebody walks past. They are just walking past and walking their dog. Your dog barks; again your dog thinks “They left because I barked”. They are thinking “Awesome! This is a great behaviour and it works and I am going to keep doing it”. Any practiced behaviour gets stronger. So the more opportunity they have to practice barking the more times they are going to bark.
The bad news
The bad news is that 80% of changing behaviour in a dog is to manage it. That means that it is up to us to take away the opportunity to keep practicing that behaviour. So that does mean doing a bit of modification to your yard or where you keep your dog. This is so that when you are at work or out, your dog is not going to keep reinforcing that behaviour. Otherwise, you are going to do all this great work trying to change the behaviour but they will get more opportunity to practice it so that you are not going to see any results.
What do you have to do
So, what do you have to do? That’s the key, right? You need to reinforce the opposite i.e. you need to reinforce silence. So you need to do an exercise where you capture the dog just before they bark at whatever the trigger is. I always suggest to have your dog on leash and at a time you know that there are going to be people walking past. Or you can set someone up to walk past. When your dog looks at that other person, before they have any opportunity to bark – the moment they look – you want to click to mark that silence. Now, if you don’t know what a marker is, please have a look at our blog that talks about using clickers as markers. You can also use the word “yes” to mark that behaviour and then reward them. The key to this exercise is your timing. If you miss the opportunity and they have had long enough to look and then bark you have missed it.
Hopefully that gets you started for being less “barking mad” in your household. If you do need any assistance or help we are always happy to help and give advice.
Fur Get Me Not offers private behavioural consultations for a variety of behavioural issues. We help owners train their dogs to do less alert, anxiety or attention barking. There is no one solution that suits every dog, so please contact us to talk about what you want to achieve with your dog. We will recommend the best training solution for you and your dog,