Helping a Couple of Power Barkers Stop Barking

By: David Codr

Published Date: July 3, 2014

Spunk and OtisAllow me to introduce Spunk (left) and Otis, a Lhasa Apso and Lhasa Apso mix. Their owner called me for help with their barking, occasional lack of response to commands and some nipping by Spunk.

When I arrived for the session, they barked at me like there was no tomorrow. As I was greeted by their owners, the barking was so loud and frantic I could barely hear their owner’s voices.

I could immediately tell that Spunk was barking to disagree with my presence while Otis’s barking (while more intense) wasn’t as defined. This is likely a result of his pal barking and his decision to simply bark along with him.

I pulled out a leash and had one of their owners place it on Otis while the other owner put one of their leashes on Spunk. Once leashed up, I stood on the leash about a foot away from Otis’s head. Most barking dogs (who are not aggressive) do their barking at a distance. By eliminating their ability to add that distance between us, the barking decreased dramatically.

I suggested that their owners place the dogs on a leash this way anytime they started to over bark.

The introduction of the leash is a great way to disagree with the barking, but it won’t address the root cause. In this case, it was pretty clear the dog’s did not respect their owners as authority figures.

Its pretty common for dog behavior issues to result in the dog thinking its in a leadership position. The best way to eliminate the behavior is to change the dog’s perspective of who is a leader and who is a follower.

To do this, I demonstrated a leadership exercise to help the dog’s identify as being in a follower position. During this exercise, I placed a high value treat on the floor and claimed ownership of it.

I started out with Otis who responded right away. He only attempted to take the treat once. After that he kept a distance and quickly laid down on the floor to tell me he was no longer trying to challenge me for ownership of the treat. I repeated the exercise a few times before coaching his owners through it as well.

We swapped dogs and I repeated the process with Spunk who was slightly more challenging, but also got it pretty quickly. I suggested that both owners practice this exercise a few times a day for the next week or two as well as how to make it more challenging as the dogs become more proficient.

Next I went over a few rules that will help the dogs see their owners as having more authority then the dogs. While minor to the humans, these will help remind the dogs that they are outranked by their human counterparts.

Next we went over a different way of feeding the dogs. Because dogs eat in the order of their rank amongst their peers or members of the family, making them wait until after the humans eat is a great way to further define the leadership in the home.

We placed food in both dog’s bowls, then told the dogs they had to stay out of the room. We had to correct / disagree with them a few times before they started to respect the boundary we wanted them to observe.

Next the humans snacked a bit in front of the dogs. This helps the dogs identify the humans as having more rank then they do. Once they finished their snacking, they gave Spunk permission to eat. It took a little encouraging, but then he went right to it.

While Spunk was eating, his owners make sure that Otis stayed out of the room. This helps both dog’s see that the humans have the situation under control. Once Spunk was done, his owners asked him to leave the room before inviting Otis in to repeat the feeding ritual.

Their owners both commented on how much calmer and responsive the dogs were for the feeding exercise. I explained that if they continue with the new rules, boundaries and feeding structure, this new better behaved pack will become the norm in their home.

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