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Page Nine of a twelve-page article:
A Detailed Examination of the Process of Bark Training a Dog

Enhancing the Effect of Punishment by Punishing Across People, Places and Techniques

Punishment is likely to take effect more quickly and exert a more powerful influence if it is delivered in a number of forms by a variety of people. So, select the techniques with which you are most comfortable and alternate their use. Have the members of your family take turns dispensing the aversive. That will convey to the dog more quickly that no barking is the law of the land and that the entire pack is in agreement on the issue.

Another good strategy is to punish barking in a number of locations. Place the dog in the front yard and punish him when he barks so he will grasp that there is to be no barking in the front yard. Then, place him in the backyard and repeat the process. Take him for a ride and facilitate an understanding that the cab of the car and the back of the truck are no barking zones as well. While you're at it, take him over to your friend's place and enlighten him as to the rules there. If you do all that, you will have a dog with a profound grasp of the rules of etiquette that a well-socialized canine observes when living among humans.

Do Not Call Mohammed to the Mountain. Take the Mountain to Mohammed

Dogs, like humans, seek to make associations between what they do and what happens to them. You could almost define intelligence as the ability to correctly associate one event with another. If the dog engages in a given behavior (like barking) and some specific event (like getting smacked) consistently follows that behavior, then the dog will think to himself, "you know, if I want more of that to happen, then I need to do more of what I just did, and if I don't want it to happen again, then I need to stop doing what I just did."

The dog tends to think that what happens to him is the consequence of whatever response he most recently made. Take this scenario, for example. The dog barks, so you go outside and call him. The dog comes to you and you smack him. In the mind of the dog, he was just punished for coming to you when called, even though, in your mind, he was being punished for barking. Needless to say, when you are going to punish the dog you need to go to where he is located. Do not call the dog to you and then punish him. Also, from the time he barks until the time you dispense the aversive, you should not issue any command or say anything to the dog other than, "No."

Punish Immediately

When you punish your dog, you want to be certain he understands that your tapping him (or whichever technique you are using) is the direct result of his barking. So you need to get to him immediately after he barks. If you can arrive on the scene while he is still barking, that's better yet. The sooner the punishment follows barking, the better the chance that the dog will make the association.

The longer the delay before you arrive and dispense punishment, the greater is the possibility that the dog will make some other response and mistake the aversive as punishment for the other thing he did. Also, by delaying punishment you run the risk that the dog will receive reinforcement for barking before you arrive to punish him. Someone might, for example, respond to the dog by calling him, crossing over to the other side of the street or in some other way rewarding him for having barked. That's something you definitely want to avoid, because a response that is followed by a reward (a reinforcer) is always more difficult to punish away than a response that has no source of reinforcement. So get there immediately, and make sure something unpleasant happens before some enjoyable consequence has a chance to occur.

If much more than twenty seconds goes by between the time the dog barks and the time you are able to get there, you might as well let it go. After much longer than that you run the risk that the dog will not make the association between your unpleasant behavior and his barking. There is no point in going out there a couple minutes later. He won't know why you are punishing him. In fact, delivering punishment well after the act would probably make your intervention less effective, because that might make it appear to the dog that you sometimes come out and dispense aversives for no reason at all. You want him to understand that your abrasive behavior is not a random act but that, rather, it is a direct consequence of his barking.

You can see then, it is essential that you arrange the situation so, during bark training, you are close enough to hear the dog barking, and are able to reach him in short order.

Punish Continuously

To punish "continuously" does not mean to punish the dog all the time, no matter what he does. Rather, it refers to punishing the subject every time the target behavior is emitted. In this case, that means dispensing an aversive every time the dog barks. Every time.

I can't stress this strongly enough. If your goal is to teach your dog not to bark, then you need to go to him and do something he doesn't like, every time he barks. Every time, without exception. If you go every time and dispense a punishing aversive, your barking problem will be all but completely resolved in a few days.

Probably the most common mistake people make during bark training is that they fail to punish continuously. If you punish every episode of barking, the dog will learn in a hurry, but if you sometimes just ignore it and let him bark, then you can bet it's going to take Old Shep a long, long, time to get the message.

Less Than Ninety-One Minutes of Effort

Let's deal with the issue of how long it takes to bark train a dog. If every time he barks, you dispense an aversive in an effective fashion, you will need to punish him no more than ninety times before he gets the message. In fact, most dogs will stop barking inappropriately at a point much closer to the twentieth correction than to the ninetieth. If you punish continuously, even a dog that's as stubborn as a mule and as stupid as a rock is going to change his ways before you make that ninety-first sortie.

When your dog barks, it should take you no more than one minute to stand up, walk out and smack him, walk back in, and resume what you were doing. That means that with less than ninety-one minutes of effort, you can have your dog bark trained. Compare that to the years of suffering your neighbor will experience should you instead opt to shirk your responsibility.

The Miracle of Bark Training Through the Critical Stage

Perhaps the least known and least appreciated bit of information in all of dog training is the ease with which a dog can be trained during his critical stage of development. During the critical stage, and often at other times when a paradigm of first responses is in play, a dog can be dissuaded from ever again barking problematically with just a very few corrections. So start early, before bad habits ever have a chance to develop. Bark training your dog will be infinitely easier if you do.

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This page on bark training is part of Section One:
the Your Dog section of