Adding Rules and Structure to Stop This Pack’s Over-Barking

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 19, 2014

Phoebe Gigi Elise

Tonight I worked with (from left to right) Phoebe (three-years-old), Elsie (seven-years-old) and Gigi (seven-years-old). Their owner called me to help stop the cascading barking that had developed since Elsie joined the pack a month ago.

When I arrived for the session, the dogs barked up quite a greeting. Phoebe and Gigi barked and sniffed with a medium energy while Elsie barked from a distance and showed a lack of confidence. After we walked into the living room the barking subsided pretty quickly which their owner told me was pretty normal.

I observed the dogs while discussing the situation with their owner. Aside from Elsie’s apparent lack of confidence, the dogs seemed pretty well balanced. Their owner mentioned that Elsie had shown a few pseudo-dominant behaviors towards Phoebe which is likely her attempt to assert her position in the pack. I went over a few tactics to use to disagree with the behavior and when to apply them. Since these were only occurring in a few specific situations, it should be easy to curb this unwanted behavior pretty rapidly.

Because the over barking was the primary concern of the owner, I went over the various reasons dogs engage in the behavior and what they were attempting to communicate. Next I offered a few tips such as not yelling at the dogs to be quiet. Many dog owners engage in this behavior but it often is seen as barking in agreement by the dogs. A better technique is to remain silent. Stand up, turn and face and if needed, walk over toward the dog until it sits or turns and walks away.

Usually when you have a pack of dogs that over-bark, its a result of their perception that they hold a leadership position in the pack. The best way to curb this behavior is to have the dogs see their human’s as their pack leaders. A great way to do this is to incorporate some rules and boundaries the dogs are expected to follow.

Because the dogs followed their owner everywhere, literally under foot, I showed them how to communicate that they wanted the dogs to respect their personal space with body language as that is the dog’s native language.

Next I went over the escalating consequences I like to incorporate when a dog breaks the rules. By consistently disagreeing with unwanted behavior as soon as it starts, in a way the dog understands, the dog understands what we do and dont want and quickly adopts to these new rules and boundaries. Over time, this reinforcement helps the dog see their humans as authority figures.

Next we went over a few leadership exercises. I started out with Elsie as her lack of confidence seemed to be the more pressing issue.  At first she would only timidly engage int he exercise but as she became more familiar with it you could see her confidence rising. I coached the owners through the exercise until they felt comfortable. By repeating these exercises daily and increasing the level of difficulty, they will gain confidence and see their humans as authority figures to listen to and respect.

When one of the members of the family arrived part of the way through the session, the dogs bolted out of the room towards the front door. I followed behind them, then showed their owners how to disagree with the behavior. By inserting myself between the dogs and the door, then focusing my attention on the most intense barker (Gigi), I was able to get them to stop barking fairly quickly.

I had the members of the family leave out the back door to practice this exercise a few more times. By the fourth repetition, the dogs barking was cut in half and they were much more responsive in terms of taking direction from they owners and keeping a distance form the door.

By the end of the session, the dogs were either lying on the floor or walking around in a calm, balanced frame of mind. It will take their owner a few days to get used to the new ways of communicating with their dogs, but once that’s the case, the dog’s new behavior should become permanent.

As I was getting ready to leave, I was presented with a box of cookies hand made by the dog’s owner. After working with 500+ dogs this was the first time I got such a delicious tip. I guess  that’s my reward for good behavior!

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