It doesn’t matter how many times my dogs, Daisy and Opie, have seen a squirrel, a bird, a deer, or even our next-door neighbors; they bark incessantly until said animal or person is out of sight.
Is there anything I can do to get my dogs to stop barking when they see animals or people in and around our property?
Thank you in advance,
While we two-leggeds would ignore people and squirrels passing by, dogs’ territoriality elicits the barking alert. Add to that the fact that dogs are strong creatures of habit: The more they do it, the more they become habituated TO doing it. There’s an Arabic saying, “One dog barks at something, and the rest of the dogs in town start barking at the barking dog.” So whoever alerts first, Opie or Daisy, they tend to reinforce each other.
They need to distinguish the visitor at the door from the passerby with the command “Quiet,” coupled with what I call the “door turmoil routine,” the routine that enables visitors to enter with a minimal amount of doggy turmoil. Rather than screaming “QUIET!” I’d suggest you buy a cheap ultrasound dog device. When your four-leggeds bark at the squirrel with the audacity to be visible across the street, let them hear you say “Quiet!” firmly (not yelling — who’s the better teacher, the one talking or the one yelling?). A split-second after they hear you say “Quiet!” you’re pressing the ultrasound button, with the dogs having no idea whatsoever that there’s a device involved. You want Opie and Daisy to respond to your command, not a weaponized device. Don’t point it at them, don’t let them see it. The moment they startle from the distasteful sound that we don’t hear, and “shut up,” praise verbally (with real joy in your voice). If they bark again, repeat — “Quiet,” ultrasound, praise. The timing is critical. If your timing is right on, they will stop yapping immediately to avoid the ultrasound, which is why the happy praise is so important, filling that empty moment in time when they just stopped barking with your pleasing praise.
As for my door turmoil routine, it requires that you praise Opie and Daisy for barking while telling the guest at the door, “One minute,” then telling O and D to “Go to your spot, down, stay!” Then you let the visitor in and greet her while the dogs stay on their designated spot, until you say “OK,” at which point they can come forward and greet the guest — politely! That’s another chapter, for which you may need the help of a pro. In my experience, the great majority of dogs are reactive to the ultrasound, so let me know how it goes. Thanks for the question.
Have a question for the Dogcharmer? Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Instagram at DogTrainer Diaries.