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A Detailed Examination of the Process of Bark Training a Dog

Dealing With Dogs That Bark When You Are Not There

Every parent knows that what their kids do when mom and dad are home and what they do when mom and dad are gone are often two different things. That's because the situation is different when mom and dad are gone, and the kids react to the new set of circumstances by displaying the behavior that is most rewarding, given the new circumstance. When you leave the house your dog also suddenly finds himself in a new situation, one in which barking is no longer punished.

You can deal effectively with a dog that barks in your absence by attaching an electronic collar before you leave the property. That will keep him quiet while you are gone, but it doesn't truly train the dog not to bark. It just teaches him not to bark while the collar is attached and functioning. If the batteries wear down or the collar comes off or stops working for any reason, the dog will resume his busy schedule of recreational barking. So, it is still a good idea to train your dog not to bark.

The way to train your dog not to bark while you are gone is to leave, then sneak back and catch him in the act. The best approach is to take the day off from work, or at least some portion of the morning. Set your alarm and get up at your usual work time. Get ready and leave the house just as you would on any work day. Then drive a couple blocks, park the car and walk back. Your dog has remarkable hearing and recognizes the sound of your particular car engine, so he will know if you just drive out of sight and park in front of the house next door. In all likelihood he also recognizes your particular footsteps so you must walk back very quietly.

Make it a point to bring along something to read because you might have to wait a while for the barking to start up. You may be able to speed the process along by creating the noises your dog barks at. For example, if he barks at car doors slamming or the sound of skateboards, you can prompt him to bark by creating those sounds. In any case, when he barks you need to rush in, aggressively dispense punishment, and then immediately depart from his presence. Once again, you will want to park a fair distance away and walk very quietly up to the house so you catch him in the act. You want to reach the point where the dog starts to think that, like Santa Claus or God, you always know what he is doing.

Alternatively, if you live near your workplace, you could give your work number to the neighbors and ask them to call you when the dog sets in barking, or get someone you trust to monitor the situation and punish the dog for barking while you are gone.

Start Early and Catch Problems Early

The longer a response (like barking) is in place, the more difficult it will be to get it stopped. Whichever type of bark training you decide to use with your dog, whether he is a puppy or you adopt him as an adult, start training him from the moment he first steps foot on your property. The best way to solve a barking problem is not to ever let it get started.

Punishment Need Not Be Psychologically Traumatic

One of the greatest misconceptions about the use of aversives is the notion that punishment necessarily causes psychological trauma. It is not punishment but, rather, unavoidable punishment, that messes with your head.

If you make the response of putting your hand into a fire, your response will be followed by a punishing aversive (you will be burned). So nature punishes us for touching fire, but we are not psychologically traumatized by the experience because fire is predictable. We know what it will and won't do and so, by adjusting our behavior, we are able to avoid being punished by fire by simply not making the response that triggers the punishment.

I once kept a Labrador Retriever for a few weeks while his owners were out of town. For the first two weeks the dog and I spent almost every minute together and in all that time I never struck him, despite the fact that we were doing obedience work and interacting very intensely. I guess he had come to believe that I would never smack him under any circumstance.

Then one day we were wrestling around when we moved into a posture where we were positioned face to face, sitting on the floor. In the excitement of the game the dog nipped me in the face. He only meant it in a playful way and he didn't bite hard enough to even leave much of a mark, but any sort of facial biting is just too dangerous to tolerate. It is my long standing policy to swiftly punish even playful facial biting so, much to the shock of the dog, I bellowed, "NO" and, a split second later gave him a smack. The dog yelped and dodged away as though he thought I might strike him again.

A couple days later it happened again. We were wrestling around when we moved into the same face to face posture while seated on the floor. In his excitement the dog forgot himself and playfully nipped me in the face for a second time. I shouted "NO" and landed another two-fingered tap that made him yelp with surprise, just as he had before. But this time the dog didn't move a muscle. The fact was that there was no possibility I would strike him again unless he nipped me again, and he obviously knew that. He sat right there in the same position and his body language and facial expression clearly said, "I'm really having fun. Let's keep wrestling." So we immediately resumed wrestling and, I might add, we wrestled long that day as we did on many subsequent occasions and he never again nipped me in the face.

The point of the story is that the dog knew exactly why I smacked him and he also knew that it was entirely up to him whether or not I did it again. He realized that, in a sense, he had smacked himself just as surely as you burn yourself when you put your hand to a flame. He had no fear of my lashing out again because he understood what he had done to trigger my response. Now, if I smacked him periodically no matter what he did, that would traumatize him. But punishment that can be predicted and avoided is not psychologically traumatic.

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This page on bark training is part of Section One:
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