A Doodle Poodle Trio Learns to Stop Barking at Dogs on TV or the Doorbell

Libby Winks and George

Libby (left) is a six-year-old Golden Doodle who lives with eight-year-old Shih Tzu / Toy Poodle mix Winks and George, a four-year-old Golden Doodle. All three dogs bark anytime the doorbell rings, they see an animal on TV or at dogs in the neighborhood. They also usually only listen to their guardians when they feel like it.

Because the dog’s guardians have a toddler and a newborn, I knew that barking was one of the primary issues they wanted to address. But to my surprise, the dogs didn’t bark very much when I arrived for the session.

I sat down with the dog’s guardians to discuss the rules and structure that they had incorporated into the dog’s lives. Unlike many of my clients, the dogs actually did have a few rules that they were expected to follow.

But as I chatted with the guardians I discovered that many of the ways that they interacted with their dogs actually gave the dogs the wrong impression as to their actual authority. It’s a pretty safe bet that these dogs considered themselves to be equal in authority to the humans in the house. Dog school was now in session.

When a dog considers a human it’s peer, then listening and obeying the human becomes optional to the dog. In order to get these dogs to listen to the guardians, I knew I needed to change the leader follower dynamic before we could do any dog obedience training.

I went over a few ways that the guardians can interact with their dogs that will help the dogs start to identify as being in a follower position. While I was in the middle of this dog behavior training discussion, I noticed George going over to his guardian and nudging her with his nose to get attention. As soon as he did, she reached over and have him a scratch behind the ear.

Whenever a dog tells a human what to do, and the human complies, it can cause the dog to think that it has more rank or status than it actually does. To help the guardians start to change this perception in the dog’s minds, I went over a technique that I have developed called Petting with a purpose.

If the guardians can get into a habit of always asking the dog to sit, come or lay down before they pet them, they will be able to establish a healthy leader follower dynamic that results in the dogs respecting and responding to the human’s commands and corrections.

After suggesting some other ways of interacting and communicating with their dogs, I had the family’s father had outside so that I could show the mother how they can counter condition George to stop dog barking.

Earlier in the session we had utilized the same counterconditioning technique to stop the dogs from reacting to animals that they saw on TV. I suggested that the guardians record a few animal programs on their DVR then use this technique with each dog individually until they no longer respond to the presence of animals on TV.

It was pretty clear that George was the catalyst for the overexcited barking behavior so I knew that if I could get him to stop responding to the doorbell, the other dogs would follow suit.

Because one of the primary scenarios that got the dog’s excited was the arrival of guests, I had the father step back outside so that I could show the mother how to claim the area around the door.

Because security for the pack is generally handled by the senior ranking dog or dogs, having the humans take over this job will go a long ways towards the dog’s developing more respect for the humans as authority figures.

By the end of the session, George was hardly barking when he heard the sound of the doorbell, he had stopped nudging his guardians for attention and all of the dogs seem to be responding much faster to commands and corrections.

If the guardians can practice the counterconditioning techniques and door claiming exercises multiple times over the next week or two while always following through and enforcing the new boundaries and rules with good timing, all three dogs should develop respect for the humans. Once all those pieces are in place, most of the dogs unwanted actions and behaviors should dissipate. And any that remain should be easy to stop.

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