Creating Positive Associations to Stop a Dalmatian From Barking at Sounds Outside

By: David Codr

Published Date: April 26, 2019

For this Santa Monica dog training session, we teach 2 year-old Dalmatian Monza to stop barking with some Counterconditioning.

I was so happy to reconnect with little Monza. I first met him in Santa Monica when he was a puppy and I was out walking my own Dalmatian Quest about a year ago. While he is on the smaller side, he was quite a bit bigger than when I met him and his guardian. This Dalmatian was still dealing with the fallout from a negative experience that happened months earlier that had rendered him nervous about sounds outside when he is inside his home.

I could tell that Monza had cortisol in his blood due to his twitchy movements and reactions to benign sounds outside of the home. Barking at sounds outside was the primary thing his guardian wanted to work on, but we spent the first part of the session going over his day to day routine. As a Santa Monica dog behavior expert, I have found that most unwanted dog behavior problems are best initially addressed inside the home.

Dogs that bark at sounds outside the home are often communicating they disagree or want to alert everyone to what they hear. This was amplified in this case due to the cortisol, known as the stress hormone, in the dog’s blood. If a dog is in a stressful situation too long, its not uncommon for the dog to become fearful to things it doesn’t understand. When a dog is under stress for longer periods of time, they can develop behaviors that linger even after the stressful situation is over. This was clearly the case with Monza.

After going over petting with a purpose, passive training, creative forms of exercise (DOGSKIING!) and the importance of rules (another very frequently overlooked factor for dogs who are anxious), I had one of the guardians head outside so I could demonstrate how to use counterconditioning to stop a dog from barking at sounds outside.

Stopping a dog from barking at sounds outside is all about helping the dog feel secure with its human’s leadership and creating a positive association with the stimulus (sounds in this case). Many people try to remove rules and over coddle a fearful dog to help them, but this often backfires. The more the dogs sees us acting like leaders, the more confident they are that they will take care of the unknown. Enforcing rules and providing structure are great ways to reduce stress in dogs.

I made sure to also point out how important it is to not pet a nervous dog as anything a dog is doing when you pet it is what you are amplifying and rewarding. Petting an anxious dog makes it more anxious. Petting an excited dog makes it more excited and petting one who is reacting reinforces the exact behavior you are trying to stop. Petting a dog at the wrong time is probably the most common mistake people make when trying to help an unbalanced dog.

Before wrapping up the session, I suggested the guardians start teaching Monza some new tricks and commands. You don’t have to be a professional Dalmatian dog trainer to do this. Youtube is a great source for free dog training videos sharing how to teach a dog things like how to roll over. They can also use our website as we have thousands of free dog training videos overing everything from teaching a dog to do circles (INSERT LINK), hand targeting (INSERT LINK), a focus exercise (INSERT LINK), even how to lave a room on command (INSERT LINK).

To make sure the guardian remembered all the positive dog training tips we shared in this in home Santa Monica dog training session; Dalmatian edition, we shot a roadmap to success video.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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