Using Counterconditioning to Stop a Dog From Barking When People Move

By: David Codr

Published Date: July 30, 2021

For this LA dog training session we worked with Bogi, a 10 year-old King Charles Cavalier who barks when people move; sharing a counterconditioning lesson to stop the barking.

I’ve worked with a number of dogs to bark when caught off guard people they don’t know move suddenly. But in this case, the dog was barking at someone he lives with.

Many people think of barking as a nuisance behavior and often tell their dog to be quiet when it barks. But when a dog barks, it is trying to communicate something. If you were trying to communicate something that you felt important, and the person that you were trying to communicate that to continually told you to shush, it would probably cost you to speak louder not be quiet. Unfortunately most humans don’t make this connection.

Instead of focusing on trying to stop the dog barking problem, as a dog behavior expert I am trained to look for the root cause of the behavior. Once you addressed that, the symptom, in this case barking, goes away on its own.

I think a big contributing factor here is that Bogi has lost his hearing. As a result, he probably is caught off guard and surprised when his guardian moves because the dog doesn’t get the telltale signs, in this case sounds that precede a human getting up. Training a deaf dog is different than training one who can hear.

I had to come up with a way to introduce a marker signal before I could show the guardians how they can use counterconditioning to stop the dog from barking. At first I was using two hands waggling back-and-forth which is American sign language for applause. But as we started practice, I recognize that it was more effective to use one hand in more of a waving motion instead of two. This gave me the ability to use my other hand to reinforce or reward the dog after the marker signal.

I showed the guardians how to load the marker signal. It will be important for them to do this a few times by waving at the dog and then delivering a treat within two seconds. I recommended that they walk around the house doing this so that the dog practices this interaction all over the Homestead.

After going over how do use a marker signal, I shared a number of other dog behavior tips such as the importance of mental stimulation and regular physical exercise, ways to create motivation for the dog to want to listen and a number of other suggestions such as putting a bell on the dog’s collar so if Bogi gets loose and lost, he’s easier to find.

I also recommend that the guardian that the dog barks at start engaging in some positive activities with Bogi. Taking the dog for one or two short walks a day is a great start, but I also recommended that he grab handfuls of the dogs kibble and rub it between his hands then into a bag. This is a great way to add the persons scent to the dog’s food and create another positive association. Note, this is not something you should do for a dog that is terrified of someone as you can poison the food as a reward for the dog, philosophically speaking.

Id also like to see the guardian he barks at to practice the training exercises we went over and if possible, take the lead on teaching this old dog new tricks. The more the dog and human interact in a positive way, the less likely Bogi will bark at them.

I handed my camera to the guardians so that I could demonstrate how they can use counterconditioning to stop the dog from barking when people move. You can learn an easy way to put a stop to dog barking with counterconditioning by watching the free positive dog training video below.

This secret to stopping dog barking is most effective under a controlled situation. In this case I acted as the “trigger” which gave me the ability to have precise control over the activity (movement and treat delivery). When the guardians are practicing this on their own, it will be important for whoever the dog barks at to have very good timing and crisp movements. In other words, they need to listen and follow direction well.

The great thing about this technique to stop a dog from barking is that anyone can do it. You don’t have to be a professional King Charles dog trainer to stop dog barking with this method. The key is to go in slow steps so that the dog is not reactive. If the dog starts barking or lunging, we likely took two big of a step.

When you are using counterconditioning to stop the dog from barking, it’s a slow process. But if you do it right, in many cases, you can stop the dog barking for good.

There were a number of other dog behavior tips that I shared in this in-home LA dog training session. To help the guardians remember them all, we recorded a roadmap to success video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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