Teaching Two Aussie Sisters to Stop Barking

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 26, 2014

Raven and TobieSisters Raven and Tobie (from left) are Aussies who’s over-barking had reached its limit with their owners. Usually when a dog over-barks and doesn’t respond to corrections, its because they see themselves as equal to or having more authority than the humans. The best way to stop it is to change the leader follower dynamic with their owners.

When I arrived for the session, the sisters put on a barking demo as soon as I walked in the door. Raven seemed a little more intense in her barking so I decided to focus on her. I grabbed a four foot leash from my bag, attached it to her collar and pulled her so she was within a foot of me. As soon as I did this, her barking stopped. Tobie continued to bark, but with far less intensity and frequency.

I gave her a moment to stop completely, but she kept at it so I walked over to her and gave another correction. As soon as I did, she stopped barking as well.

Once I was able to stop the barking, I sat down with the family to discuss what they wanted to get out of the session. Usually my clients have a long laundry list of behavioral issues they want to address, but aside form the barking, the only other issue was intermittent responsiveness to commands.

Their owners had already read my blog and adopted some rules based on what they saw there which was a nice head start.

One of the rules they adopted was making the furniture off limits to the dogs. However they quickly found out that adding rules in one thing. Having the dogs understand and respect them is another.

Almost as if on cue, Raven jumped up on the couch as we were discussing this. Now the dog did pause and give its owners the ability to disagree with its intention to jump up on the couch. But because they didnt recognize or respond to the dog’s request, Raven took that as a yes and promptly jumped up on the couch.

I instructed their owners on how to get the dog to get off the couch as well as how to recognize the request for permission. This will allow her owners to disagree with the request in a way the dog understands.

It may not seem like a big deal, but because dogs equate the height that they sit at with their rank amongst the members of the pack, keeping them off the couch will help the dogs change their perception of themselves as equals or leaders to a follower mentality.

Because the dog’s did not seem to respect their owner’s authority, I started to show them a leadership exercise that will help change that dynamic. I started with Raven and was successful in completing the exercise.

This particular exercise can be perceived as a challenge to authority and that’s how Tobie saw it. She started to disagree with me through barking midway through the exercise and continued until the end.

I gave one of her owners the four foot leash and had them place it on Tobie. Often times the act of placing a dog on a leash can stop a dog that is barking. It did, but only for a moment so I went over a few different ways for the owner to disagree with each bark. It took a handful of corrections, but the barking finally subsided.

To avoid a repeat of the over barking in disagreement I changed tactics and employed a “recall” exercise instead. I had all the members of the family take positions around the room and them we took turns calling the dogs over, one at a time.

While this is an extremely basic exercise, it gives its owners the ability to condition their dog to respond to commands using positive reinforcement. Raven picked things up right away and it was easy to see the change in her demeanor and responsiveness. Tobie, not so much. She was determined to control the situation at first; sitting a few feet away from the person who called her. I went over a change to the technique that got her to come closer to the person who called her before sitting.

By the end of the session, the dogs had stopped barking to disagree and were much more responsive and attentive to their owners. It will take a week or two before these new behaviors become permanent, but based on how quickly they picked up the new rules and corrections, it shouldn’t be long before the days of over barking are a distant memory.

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