Tips to Help a Venice Beach Terrier Stop Barking at Sounds Outside Her Home

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 18, 2018

For this Venice dog training session we worked with Gabby, a 1 year-old Terrier mix who barks when people pass by the home and is anxious around little kids and people she doesn’t know, especially in crowded or busy scenarios.

Abby was pretty cautious and withdrawn when I arrived for the session. I was able to help her relax a bit by offering soft body language (slower movements, sideways or seated postures, avoiding direct eye contact, refraining from trying to pet her, etc). While this helped, she remained pretty jumpy and trepidatious.

I asked a bunch of questions to determine if this behavior was due to insufficient socialization when she was a puppy, under exercise or being in situations that caused her to become stressed.

I learned that Gabby frequents events where she may feel overwhelmed. Because she is so cute, its a safe bet many people come up wanting to pet her. But if she is anxious and someone pets her, they can amplify and intensify that anxiety as anything a dog is doing when you pet it is what you are reinforcing. This includes unbalanced states of mind.

I recommended the guardians start petting her with a purpose and to pet her when she offers desired behaviors like sitting, coming or laying down. By using these easy aspects of positive dog training they can motivate her to engage in desired behaviors more often, boost her self esteem and stop reinforcing unwanted mental states.

I also went over how important it is to recognize when she is feeling overwhelmed. Avoiding putting Gabby into situations she is unprepared for, until she has practiced to develop confidence and the skills needed to thrive in those situations, will help her stop feeling so anxious.

I also recommended they tie a yellow bow halfway down the leash when out and about. They yellow bow is something dog behaviorists like me suggest to identify a dog who needs more space or isn’t wild about new people approaching or petting. The ribbon causes people to ask what it is for which gives you an opportunity to explain why a dog needs more space.

This led me to offering some tips and suggestions for meeting kids. Kids are unpredictable so unless you socialize a puppy around kids during their Critical Socialization Period, many dogs have difficulty with them.

When Im out with Quest and we meet some kids, I ask them to form a line to meet him, then invite them over one at a time. This is much easier for a dog to deal with and something kids are very practiced at doing via school.

I also shared some tips such as having Gabby practice being near kids like her guardians having a picnic near a playground. By sitting, eating and hanging out at a distance where Gabby can see the kids without feeling threatened (tests; will she sit and take a treat while lookin at the kids. If not, move further away until she will) she can gain confidence in the kids and her guardians.

Once she is calm at that distance, they can sit a few feet closer next time. By repeating this exercise over and over, Gabby can grow more comfortable since the distance is only reduced gradually and only when she shows she is calm and confident.

Although this is absolutely not something they guardians intended, they were sometimes communicating to her that they were going to put her in what she perceived as dangerous. We tend to keep walking and tug a dog along when they stop walking or shut down. We usually think they are just being difficult. But in reality they are often saying “I don’t like the way things look over there.”

If we don’t listen and pull them along or force a dog to sit so a friend can pet them, we damage the dog’s trust in us. After enough experiences like this, some dogs start to nip, bark, lunge or offer other unwanted behavior to get the person to move away.

By reading Gabby’s body language and allowing her to move away and asking friends and kids to not pet her or give her more distance, her guardians can help the dog see that they are no longer putting her into situations she is not prepared for.

To address Gabby’s habit of barking at sounds from outside the home, I asked a friend of her guardians to help. I had her play the part of a guest opening the gate outside their home so I could show the guardians how to use counterconditioning to stop a dog from barking.

Because we had been working with her for a while and the friend had been hanging outside of the apartment while we worked inside, Gabby didn’t bark at the sound of the gate opening. Training a dog to not bark at something can be easy with this approach. But the dog can’t know its a set up.

If Gabby’s guardians can call or text one another before heading home, that will give them a chance to use this counterconditioning technique to stop a dog from barking with out tipping her off that its just practice.

I also showed the humans a focus exercise. If you practice this a bunch for a week (getting up to 20 seconds on the second movement in two locations; inside home and outside home), it is a powerful way to redirect your dog’s attention away from something that may trigger a response.

By the end of the session Gabby was comfortable enough for me to touch and pet her. It was hard to not reach out for the first few hours, but building up her trust is more important that my enjoying petting her.

To help the guardians remember the major dog training tips I shred during this in home dog training session I shot 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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