Adding Some Rules and Structure to Teach a Glendale Pup to Stop Over Barking

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 8, 2015

Duke 1

Duke is a eight-month-old Brussle Griffan Terrier Mix who lives in Glendale, California. His guardians called me in to help stop his habit of barking, getting overexcited, not always listening, door dashing and jumping up.

When I have a client who’s dog likes to bark at or charge the door when guests arrive, I usually knock on the door aggressively to create a “worst case” scenario when I arrive. Usually this creates more excitement in the dog, but in this case, it had the opposite effect. Duke’s guardian said he stared to bark as he usually does, but as I continued to knock, the dog stopped.

Once I came inside, Duke picked up his barking at me while standing on the couch. And he wasn’t just on the couch, he was on top of the back rest to get as high as he could. For dogs, the height that they sit has a direct correlation to their rank or status amongst the other members of their family or group. By sitting at a level higher than all the humans, Duke was essentially promoting himself to a superior status.

When a dog thinks its in a position of authority, its common for it to try to engage in some activities that can get it into trouble. The big one is security. Dogs are naturally vigilant and when afforded the opportunity to sit in a good vantage point that overlooks the front outside of the home, its not unusual for them to go into “security mode.”

I suggested that the family make the couch off limits for 30 days. At the end of that period, then the dog can up on the furniture, but only when invited and only while behaving. This way the dog see’s a literal distinction between itself and the humans and we deny it the opportunity to feel more empowered than it actually is.

Usually it only takes the dog a day or two to get used to not being allowed on the furniture if the humans are vigilant, constantly disagree or make the dog get down when it forgets or tests to see if anyone is watching. I suggested that they bring out a small dog bed that they had in another room as dogs easily transition to these when added to the room the family hang out in. This becomes “their chair.”

In addition to the no furniture rule, I suggested a few others such as having to wait before going out a door and not being within 5 feet of any human eating food. This last rule will be pretty beneficial for this dog as it had started to snatch food off the grandkids plates and sometimes even from their hands.

Because the development of self restraint will be helpful for many of Duke’s issues, I went over a leadership exercise I like to use. The exercise involves the human placing a high value item on the floor in the middle of the room, claiming it, then walking away. The exercise helps the human set, establish and enforce arbitrary boundaries as well as condition the dog to look to humans for guidance and most importantly give the dog practice at restraining itself.

I ran through the exercise a few times so that his guardians could see the timing and movement before they did it on their own. It didn’t take them long. In fact, after correcting Dukes barking at the door, his behavior was much more subdued for the rest of the session. Sometimes this is because the dog just picks things up quickly, but sometimes it short lived as the dog intends on waiting for me to leave. For cases like this, I make sure I impart as much knowledge to the guardians as I can as they will need to be the authority figure who established and enforces the rules after I leave.

The first time his guardian claimed the treat, it only took one correction and less than two minutes of time before the dog laid down to communicate that he understood the treat was not his.

Duke 5

After we finished the leadership exercise, I was discussing things with Duke’s guardians and learned that they didnt walk him often. This was mostly because they thought dog didnt like walks; literally sitting down to stop it from going any further. Knowing that regular structured walks will go a long way to developing the proper leader follower dynamic, I fitted him up with a Martingale collar and added my special twist to the leash before we headed out.

I took the leash first and its a good thing I did as Duke put up quite the fight at first. He started out by pulling back but when that didnt work, he tried jumping up which I ignored and continued to walk. Finally Duke sat down and tried to imitate a rock. I started out to correct that by pulling the leash with a short tug, then letting the leash go slack. I repeated this several times as it can usually generate a rocking motion that gets the dog going. But not Duke. He sat there and wasn’t going to budge so I pulled him over so he was on the grass and off I went. Its important to not give in and let the dog think it can control the walk. I started off again and was alternating between the short pulls and a little dragging of the dog on the grass. After about 30 feet Duke realized I wasn’t going to give up and so he did instead.

I continued walking him down the street for a bit to seize the momentum. At first he tried to dart in front or behind me pulling every which way so I shortened up the leash and offered a few corrections. By the time we reached the neighbor’s driveway, he was walking in a nice heel position so I turned around and walked back to his house where his guardian was waiting.

I gave her the leash and off we went. He tried to pull and control the walk at first, but the Martingale did its magic and by the time we hit the neighbors sidewalk, he was walking next to her in perfect heel like he had been doing it for years.

Duke 3

When we returned home, I suggested that one of her grandsons go out for a short walk with him so I could coach him through the same. Just like everything else, practice made perfect. Her grandson reaped the benefit of the work we put in earlier and fell into a heel beside him. Halfway throughout hr walk, Duke tried to take the lead again, but his handler gave a timely correction and “poof,” Duke went right back to heeling for him.

Duke 6

Shortly after we returned home, several other members of the family arrived and pretty soon the house was full of people, including a young baby. One of the grandparents mentioned Duke liked to be near the baby due to child’s dropping and throwing food on the floor and asked how we could stop that.

Duke 4

I went outside and grabbed a handful of Cheereos from the baby’s stroller and dropped them onto the floor, right in front of Duke. Duke looked up at them but didn’t make any effort to get up. A minute later he laid down leaving the plethora of treats completely alone. All the work we put in earlier in the session, especially the leadership exercise, had done its work.

By the time we finished the session; Duke was listening to anyone who gave him a command, continued to ignore the treats on the floor on his own and his barking had all but stopped. It will take practice at the exercises, use of the new communication methods and consistent enforcement of the new boundaries and rules before these habits become Duke’s default. But because he is so young and his guardian is so committed, it shouldn’t take long.

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