A Poodle Terrier Mix Learns to Stop Her Over Barking

By: David Codr

Published Date: January 22, 2016

Lola

Lola is a five-year-old Poodle Terrier mix in Los Angeles who gets over-excited when guests arrive and won’t stop barking until they pet her.

Of course, I didn’t get this response when I arrived to the session as Lola quickly picked up the scent of the other dogs I have worked with from my shoes.

I had discussed the situation in detail with her guardian before the session who had already made some changes like not allowing her on the couch or furniture.

When the dog barks for attention we refer to the behavior as Demand Barking. This behavior usually develops when a dog is overly catered to and doesn’t have much structure or discipline in it’s daily life.

Because Lola’s guardian had recently started to introduce rules and boundaries, she was already starting to see some changes in the dog, but the nuisance barking remained.

I noticed right away that Lola’s guardian liked to speak to her in a high-pitched baby talk style of voice. She included quite a bit of excitement in her vocal delivery which most assuredly had an impact on her dog.

Because dogs hear the sound of words more than they hear the words themselves, it’s very important that we clearly enunciate when we give a dog commands or corrections. While it’s natural for human females to want to speak to a dog with this baby talk voice, it often causes the dog to grow more excited. By speaking in a consistent tone of voice, we make it much easier for the dog to understand what we are telling them.

To take things one step further I spent the next few minutes teaching the guardians how to communicate to their dog in a way that will be much more effective.

By consistently speaking to their dog using body language and movement, Lola’s guardians will more effectively communicate what they do and do not want from their dog without adding any excitement to the situation.

Another common point in dogs that engage in demand barking is an exorbitant amount of attention and petting from their guardians.

While I never want to tell anyone that it’s bad to pet their dog, the dog’s state of mind when we provide this attention and affection is crucially important. Whenever a dog is in an unbalanced state and you pet it, you are communicating that you agree with the unbalanced behavior.

Additionally, petting the dog when it demands it only reinforces the dogs belief that it is in a position of authority. To help change the dog’s perception of authority, I went over a practice that I like to call Petting with a Purpose.

Petting your dog this way is probably one of the easiest yet most effective ways that you can change the leader follower dynamic to favor the humans. It will take a couple of days before the guardians get into a habit of always petting Lola this way, but once they do every time they pet the dog they will be reinforcing a healthy leader follower relationship.

To help the guardians practice using the nonverbal communication cues I introduced earlier, I walked Lola through a leadership exercise that I developed. After running through the exercise a few times, I was ready to coach Lola’s guardians through it so that they can continue practicing this exercise after our session.

Lola picked up on the leadership exercise right away. Her guardian’s were little bit slow in their reactions initially, but should improve as they practice this exercise with Lola every day. Paying close attention to the dog throughout the exercise is important.

One of the side benefits of this exercise it is it gives the dog the opportunity to practice restraining itself. This is a skill that will be extremely important for Lola to develop in order to help her develop more self-control.

Now we were ready to tackle Lola’s behavior when guest arrived at the front door. I had one of her guardians head outside to play the part of an arriving guest.

By claiming the area around the door myself before I opened it, I was able to help Lola not react so intensely at the guest’s arrival..

But it’s not important that I am able to get the dog to behave, my job is to make sure that the guardians can achieve the same results without me there. We had arranged for Lola’s guardian’s assistant to drop by halfway through the session so I used the opportunity to have the guardian answer the door herself.

Lola’s guardian was a little slow in some of her reactions the first time she answered the door. Lightning fast reaction time is crucial whenever you’re disagreeing with an unwanted canine behavior. It will be important that she focuses exclusively on the dog and does not turn her hips or eyes away from the dog until Lola develops an understanding that she has to stay behind the boundary whenever there is a knock at the door.

This door claiming exercise is one of my favorites to teach clients because it usually results in such a dramatic response. Although it didn’t stop Lola from barking completely, it greatly decreased them. Towards the end of the above video, you can hear the dog almost muttering under her breath rather than using a full throated bark.

Lola is a good dog who clearly wants to please her guardians. In this case it appears that the guardian simply hadn’t communicated what they wanted from her in a way that she understood. The Demand Barking behavior was most likely a result of over-petting the dog, not having any rules in place and the excited way at the guardian engaged or spoke to the dog.

By the end of the session, Lola was calmer, even going to lay in her kennel on her own. A client even arrived right before I left and Lola’s guardian was easily able to move her away from the door. Even better, the dog only barked a handful of times before stopping on her own.

if Lola’s guardians embrace the techniques and exercises that we went over in the session, her demand barking should subside and eventually stop altogether. They will also find a residual benefit of a better behaved dog now that they know how to effectively communicate what they do and don’t want from her in a way that she understands and respects.

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