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Please help - barking!

I'm a lurker but really need some help with my dog's barking.  We have a rescue that we have been loving on for almost 3 years now.  She is very smart, well trained in terms of listening to us (sits, heels, stays, comes on command, etc).  However, she barks violently when someone enters the door.  I know it's more of a protective thing, but we just can't do it with 2 little kids who she will wake from naps and sleep.  She also barks at squirrels or dogs that she may see at the windows.  How do we go about training her for this.  A friend recommended a bark color, but I just don't like the thoughts of that, it doesn't seem fair, but maybe I'm being a whip.  Any advice for teaching this old dog some new behavior! TIA!

Re: Please help - barking!

  • Some dogs are more heavy barkers than others. It's a tough thing to train them not to do. First, you'd need to have your dog under control for a while when they start barking. Correct with a "no" and a small leash correction. Alternatively, you could leave water bottles in every room and spray the dog while giving him a firm "no" as well. They also make collars (I believe citronella) that spray into the dogs face when they bark, leaving an unpleasant odor/taste in their mouth. 

    Good luck! If you can find an in house trainer to come to you, that may be worth it too.  

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  • One of my dogs was quite the alarm barker when we adopted him (~2.5 years ago).  He barked at the doorbell as well as things he saw out the window (especially small critters but also people walking by, etc.) and sometimes things he saw when we were outside walking around (especially birds).

    There is some helpful info about barking in the FAQs: https://sites.google.com/site/petsboardfaqs/home/training-and-behavior/barking

    We used different techniques depending on the stimulus, but the one overarching thing we did was teach him the "quiet" command.  To do this, we started rewarding him for being quiet at any time (even with no stimuli).  Then we started matching the word "quiet" with him being quiet.  So if he was quiet on his own, we would say "quiet" or "good quiet" and reward.  Then we worked up to being able to tell him "quiet" when there was a trigger (weird sound, birds outside, etc.).  The look/watch me command is also very helpful for barking that happens on walks - you can distract the dog from the stimulus and reward him for being quiet and looking at you.

    For barking at things he saw out the window, if he started barking, we immediately shut the window shades and did not open them again until he was quiet.  If he barked again, the shades were shut again.  He caught on within a day or two so that now he watches things out the window but never barks.  The key with this training is that you have to be home with him.  When we are gone, the shades in the room our dogs stay in are closed so they can't look out the window and bark (which would undermine the training we have done).

    For barking at the doorbell/people coming in (and this is the one thing we are still working on because it is our dog's #1 strongest trigger), we use "quiet" but also have started teaching our dog to go to his "place" (a command he already knows), which is his bed in the living room.  If the doorbell rings, we do not open the door until he is on his bed, and we make him stay there until he has calmed down.  At this point, if we know someone is coming over, we leash him so that he cannot charge the door (we don't want him practicing that behavior).  Instead, when the doorbell rings, we tell him to go to his "place" and reward him for doing so.  You can practice if you have your significant other or a friend who is willing to stand outside and ring the doorbell multiple times (with some time in between).  It allows your dog to hear the stimulus but also allows you to not have to actually go to the door (which is part of what most dogs are reacting to - all the activity when the doorbell rings gets them excited). 

    I personally avoid things like leash corrections, spray bottles, and even "No" because I prefer using positive reinforcement to teach the dog what I want them to do, not what they shouldn't do.  So, instead of telling the dog "No" when he's barking, I teach him "quiet" and tell him to be "quiet" if he's about to bark.  That way, I can reward him for doing to right thing.  It also teaches the dog a desirable behavior (being quiet, going to his bed when the bell rings) that is incompatible with the behavior you're trying to get rid of (barking, rushing the door).  GL!

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  • Thank you so much for this response!  Your rescue sounds exactly like our dog.  I hope the training ideas you suggested work, I'm going to discuss these things with my hubby tonight!
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