Advanced Barking Tips
Before barking gets out of control, try these advanced techniques.
In the lesson on HOW DOGS THINK, we discussed how dogs are very good at making connections between things that are happening around them. They don’t usually know WHY something is happening, but they can usually figure out things like “IF I jump up on people, THEN I usually get attention” or “IF I bark at my owner when they’re eating, THEN I usually get food”
Dogs really do understand the world in much simpler terms than we do! It really is as simple as: “if I do this thing, then good things happen! Let me do that more!”
Dogs make connections between one thing happening, then another thing following after. So your dog probably won’t understand WHY you want them to sit before giving them food, but they can definitely understand that IF they sit, THEN they get food.
Because of this we have to be super clear that good things don’t happen when they bark.
This might be difficult to do, but when your dog is barking at you for attention, to go outside, etc., you must ignore them. You should even walk away or stop what you’re doing if you can. It might seem difficult at first, but you have to get into the habit of not reinforcing barking or other bad behaviors.
Also remember that scolding your dog, pointing at them, or even just looking at them can be rewarding enough for them. So you have to totally ignore them!
When training your dog, and even with everyday living, you have to think like they do, which is moment-to-moment. When your dog does something bad, you have to stop doing everything “good” and rewarding that you’re doing. If you don’t, this tells your dog that everything tat is happening is OK, including their bad behavior. Doing this is not confusing to them at all! In fact, getting upset sometimes, and happy other times, would actually be more confusing.
So for example, if you’re playing with your dog and they start mouthing on you too hard, you must stop playing! If you don’t, you’re pretty much telling them that the rough mouthing is OK.
Here’ s a few examples from other lessons that show how to ignore a dog in the moment when they bark at you for attention. The secret is that is has to be immediate so your dog can make the connection that their barking caused you to turn around and ignore them.
It’s very common for dogs to bark when the doorbell rings or someone knocks at the door. This is usually just excitement for a new person coming over (but sometimes fear!). Teaching your dog to be calm when someone enters will be much easier if they’re calm when there is knocking and doorbell ringing.
To do this we will use two techniques called:
This is a fancy term that basically means teaching your dog to have a different reaction to something than they did before. So instead of over-excitement, we are going to teach them to have calmness instead!
Desensitizing can only be done after you have used Counter-Conditioning to teach your dog to react differently to something. Once you’ve done that, you can leave them around the thing that they were freaking out over, and let them get used to it over time, without needing to use any treats!
This exercise will walk you through how to slowly build your dog up to being able to handle intense knocking at the door. Remember, at this stage you should only be using positive reinforcement since you’re teaching a completely new behavior. Remember:
Using positive reinforcement first to teach your dog new things is much less stressful on them. You can only even think about using light punishments once they know the behavior you actually want them to do. If your dog hasn’t been taught with positive reinforcement first, being punished for something they don’t understand will be very stressful! This can damage your relationship and cause your dog to totally shut down.
The trick with this first step is to start with knocking that is SO LIGHT and with treating your dog SO FAST that they don’t even get the CHANCE to bark! This is how we’ll start them off understanding that “knock” = “treat”.
This step will help your dog understand that “being quiet” is the same as any other command. Knock the door very lightly, immediately say “Shush”, and treat your dog. Just like before, you have to go so fast that they can’t get it wrong!
Now that your dog is understanding the basics of “knock” then “shush” and “treat”, you can start to make it a little bit more difficult by knocking louder, more times, or waiting longer before treating. But make sure to not progress too fast! You don’t want your dog messing up and barking more than 2 times in a row. If they do that then you made it too difficult and need to take it back a bit.
Now that your dog understands much better how the door-knocking works to get them treats, start doing the same with other things, like jiggling the door handle. Make sure to start super easy just like before!
Once it seems like this is all too easy for your dog, and they’re looking at you like you’re crazy, you’ll have to really mix it up to take this behavior to the next level! Your ultimate goal is to be able to knock the door, jiggle the handle, shake some keys, or even ring the doorbell (!!) while your dog stares at you, just waiting for treats.
A very effective way of eliminating bad behaviors is to actually teach your dog when they can do the bad behavior, by making it into a fun trick command! For example, to work on barking you can teach your dog to “speak”. To work on jumping up on people you can teach them “up” and “off”. Then you can teach them that they can only do those things when you ASK them to! While this is a very effective method, it can easily go wrong, we recommend working with a trainer if you want to learn how to “put the bad behavior on cue”.