Barking, part 1

Teaching Quiet and Speak commands and addressing common household barking due to excitement or nervous anticipation

The easiest way to teach quiet is to first teach the speak command on cue, so that you can then train a dog to be quiet when it is not overly excited by whatever is causing it to bark. Before we go further on the topic of unwanted barking, begin by teaching the dog the Speak and Quiet commands as outlined below.

SPEAK:

1.       To teach speak arm yourself with treats or whatever item the dog loves.

2.       Go to the front door.

3.       Say speak.

4.       Knock on the front door or ring the doorbell until the dog barks (or have an assistant the dog knows knock on the door from the outside or ring the doorbell).

5.       When the dog barks, praise the dog and offer a treat or reward.

6.       Repeat the exercise until the dog will bark on the speak cue without the knocking.

7.       Practice in several locations of the house and yard to ensure the dog fully understands the cue.

QUIET:

1.       To each quiet, arm yourself with treats or whatever item the dog loves.

2.       Command speak and when the dog barks command quiet

3.       Wait for the dog to become quiet and when the dog is quiet praise softly and offer the treat or reward.

4.       Practice until you can tell the dog the speak command several times and then give the quiet command once and the dog will shush instead of bark, thus showing that it understands the difference.

5.       Practice this command in several locations.

6.       To further the quiet command, once both are taught, give only verbal praise for the Speak command and give a food rewards and praise when the dog does the Quiet command.

Once the dog understands the meaning of the words Speak and Quiet you can then work on addressing the unwanted barking scenarios. The dog will understand what you are asking of it more easily since it knows what Quiet means and thus it will more clearly understand why it is being corrected and how to successfully gain the reward being used in training.

For a dog that is barking out of excitement or nervousness, such as when new people knock on your front door and then enter your home, you want to combine the Quiet command with desensitization of whatever the object of the barking is, such as the doorbell, another dog out the window, or the guests themselves. To do this you set up a scenario that closely mimics the real life one and practice it repeatedly. Some examples could be, having a volunteer that the dog would normally bark at knock on your front door repeatedly, having a friend’s dog stand in your front yard where your dog can see it through your window, or having a guest enter and exit your front door repeatedly. Whatever your scenario, start it off at an easier level, such as the other dog being further away and quiet, your door knocker staying outside and knocking more quietly, or your guest being someone calm that the dog has met before and is averagely excited about and not extremely excited. As soon as the dog sees or hears the trigger and begins to bark command Quiet and wait. Initially, wait until you get a second of silence, don’t expect long at first, and during that second or two quickly and happily praise the dog with a known praise word such as “Yes!” or “Good dog” or a clicker if using one, and offer a treat. The dog is likely to be distracted by your praise and remain quite for another second or two but then will probably go back to its barking. Repeat this procedure, capturing successful seconds with rewards in response to the Quiet command. Right now you are simply working on teaching the dog what you want from it, and making the stimulus gradually more and more boring by repeating it over and over again without something terribly exciting like a different new guest entering happening. This is an initial learning phase.

Once the dog has practiced this in several separate sessions and is Quieting more and more quickly, you can increase your criteria of success for the dog by adding in mild corrections, but continue to be patient and wait for the dog’s correct response and give the dog wonderful, rewarding feedback to let it know when it is doing well.

The next time you practice with corrections added in, repeat the same unwanted barking scenario that you have been setting up but with a long leash, kept loose, on the dog.

When the dog begins to bark upon seeing or hearing the trigger being used, command Quiet, if the dog stops barking for even a couple of second then reward! If the dog continues to bark then tell the dog “Wrong”, “No”, “Ah”, “AhAh”, or whatever verbal word or sound you typically use to communicate to the dog that you do not want them to be doing what they are currently doing. Do this while simultaneously giving a quick correction of the lead and then immediately release the leash again so that there is no tension left in the leash. Use only the amount of correction that is required to get a brief response of not barking out of the dog.

You always want to use the minimum amount of force necessary to get a response out of that particular dog, which will vary by dog. When using corrections, you always want your corrections to be fair and well understood by the dog, which in this case means a correction for disobedience of a known command, Quiet, rather than for simply barking, which is a natural thing for a dog to do.

Following the correction, if you get even brief silence REWARD IT! Ultimately the way to stop the barking will be by creating good Quiet habits, so if you do not reward clearly what you DO want you will forever be correcting the unwanted which is good for neither you nor your dog.

As your dog is successful, increase the level of difficultly in small increments. An example would be having someone new and more exciting come knock on your door while you train, having the person come inside of the house, or come over to the dog, or act strangely and excitedly. Using an animal outside, you could increase the difficultly be decreasing the distance of the other dog, squirrel, cat, or other animal or by making it easier to for your dog to hear the animal make noise such as by cracking a window and having the other dog bark or utilizing barking neighbor dogs whose barking noise would normally causes your dog to bark also.

Most dogs do not generalize well, so practice Quiet in a variety of circumstances that would normally cause your dog to bark, and be patient, expect there to be some regression in your dog’s compliance and speed of Quieting with each new scenario at first. Most dogs need to relearn the same lesson in multiple ways and with numerous different types of challenges before they are reliable in general.

Practice training with your dog when you can control the scenario and thus set your dog up for success, and when you are unable to practice with success, avoid the trigger and the subsequent bad habit until you can give your dog the attention needed to work through the issue or until your dog is at a training level where the dog can success with the trigger present on its own. Do practice throughout the day in real life scenarios if they arise and you are able to train through them however!

The end goal is always to get to the point where training and daily life with your dog are simultaneous and cohesive, where your relationship with your dog is not broken up into successful training sessions which include communication, enjoyment, and attention part of the time and a state of frustration, tuning your dog out, and not communicating effectively the rest of the time. You want your interactions and relationship at all times to be clear communication and enjoyment of your dog on your part and an attitude of compliance, attention, readiness to learn, and enjoyment on the part of your dog towards you. This happens by integrating what your dog is learning into your everyday interactions with your dog through communicating your expectations, pleasure, and displeasure with words and signals that your dog understands and through being consistent; also, don’t forget to enjoy your dog just for the fun of it!    

Written by Caitlin Crittenden, 2016