Help with a doggy “toddler tantrum”
March 20, 2021 6:36 AM   Subscribe

We adopted Dixie last week. She’ a 9 month old retriever mix and has fit in with us very well so far, except for one annoying habit. If she is bored or wants something she can’t have, she repeatedly barks at us “I WANT IT NOW!” We are pretty good at ignoring her, which is helping, but if Jill, her 6 year old, shepherd/hound mix sister has the favorite bone of the moment, she repeatedly barks in Jill’s face. How do we correct this behavior without resorting to yelling?

The dogs are faIrly well exercised: 1/2 hour walk in the morning, loose in the fenced-in yard throughout the day and a 1 hour walk in the afternoon. Redirection isn’t working in this case because “FAVORITE BONE!” and we are hesitant to introduce a food-dispensing puzzle toy, lest that become the “FAVORITE!”. Jill hasn’t been particularly interested in toys until Dixie’s arrival, now she likes to take the “FAVORITE!” from Dixie, provoking the unwanted barking.
posted by sarajane to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I’ve found that getting toys in multiples helps a lot to short-circuit this kind of thing.
posted by rockindata at 7:39 AM on March 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's best to give dogs high-value treats/toys separately (different rooms, in crate, barrier, etc), especially since Dixie is pestering Jill and Jill is taking things from Dixie. If left to continue this could easily cause one or both of them to start resource guarding, which can end up causing serious fights with injuries.

If you're not willing/able to go that route you can work on teaching a strong leave it and physically separating the dogs when they won't respond to a leave it cue (or recall etc) but depending how high-value the treat is, this may be hard to train.
posted by randomnity at 7:43 AM on March 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I trained a dog to stop barking on command using a mix of methods #5 and #6 from this excellent article by PatriciaMcConnell. She has some recommendations for other methods and books linked in the article as well.

What I did with my dog was:
1. Taught him to bark on command by saying the command and giving him treats when he barked. I used "speak" but any word would do. Now he REALLY loved barking.
2. I trained him to look at me on command (again with treats and the word "look") when he was not barking.
3. I began telling him to "look" when I wanted him to stop barking. He got it pretty quickly and finally there was peace in the land.

I might skip step 1 if I ever have to (please no) do this again.

So dealing with barking is actually pretty tricky, but it can be done. Good luck!
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 7:44 AM on March 20, 2021 [25 favorites]

What does Jill do? Any chance she will correct the annoying barking herself?
posted by Zumbador at 7:44 AM on March 20, 2021

Best answer: Work with Jill on “leave it.”

She’s getting a ride out of Dixie and she knows it.

In the meantime,
duplicate high value items, given separately for now.
Teach Dixie to “speak” on command as that is the first step to a “quiet” command.
Give Dixie more jobs.
posted by bilabial at 8:35 AM on March 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I would reframe this from "stop Dixie barking" to "prevent Jill from developing a resource guarding issue." The way to prevent resource guarding between dogs is to always give high-value items with the dogs separated, and never to leave them lying around. This should have the collateral benefit of stopping the barking too.
posted by HotToddy at 8:47 AM on March 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: P.S. Dixie, omg, what a beautiful face on that dog. I love her!
posted by HotToddy at 8:48 AM on March 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If I treat one of my dogs, I always treat the other. They are in the same room but I place the treats in the dog's bowls which are as far apart from each other as possible while still allowing the dogs to recognize that if one of them is be-treated so is the other one. Always. Same thing for feeding meals. This kept them from reasource guarding because the reasources only show up when both of them are together. They don't regard each other as a potential reasource stealer but rather as a catalyst to nummy treats appearing. When my second dog was first adopted I made sure to be close at hand, observing all through meal times so I could stop any dog that finished their food first and tried to hone in on the dog who was still eating. It only took a little while and now, 9 years later they are still eating/playing together with no issues. PS I would consider new toys as treats so if one dog gets a toy, the other dog gets the same, at the same time, in front of each other.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:54 PM on March 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Dixie is an adolescent with tons of energy and impulsiveness. Jill is dealing with a big disruption in her life. They are both doing dominance testing of each other. I agree about duplicate toys. I'd probably work on teaching both dogs to go to crates or beds when there is barking or teasing. Be extra careful not to reward Dixie with attention for the barking. Dixie, go lie down and walk to her bed and summon her to lie down, with a reward. and also Jill.

Rewards work better when they are a bit unpredictable, so use tiny bits of treat, 1 - 4 pieces, and occasionally none.
posted by theora55 at 5:53 PM on March 20, 2021

Best answer: Time outs were excellent for teaching my very excitable then-puppy not to demand-bark like this. You tell the dog “enough” and then if they bark again, you say “too bad” (you can use your own words, obviously “time out” also works). You then lead the dog to a designated time out place (I used to use the bathroom) and leave them in there for a very short period of time. Literally no more than a minute.

It’s shocking how well it works, though it takes consistency. You’ll know it’s starting to work when the dog goes into the time out spot without protest - soon after my dog started doing that, the barking lessened a lot. I haven’t had to give him a time out in years (he’s eight now) but he still knows that “that’s enough” means to chill out.
posted by lunasol at 9:26 AM on March 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

When my golden retriever puppy had this habit, I would physically intervene (he never barks now). Pull her away from whatever she is barking at, grasp her snout to hold it closed, and firmly in a deep commanding voice say, "No." None of that physical intervention is violent, just calm and firm. And yes, don't yell, because then you are just joining the barking party in her mind. Then immediately give her an alternative command -- in the case of the barking at the other dog, I would command my dog to lay in his own bed or at an acceptable distance from the other dog (treats and praise when he does it) and then give him a toy of his own to play with (treats and praise and tug when he takes it).

Then, with incredible patience, just repeat over and over and over again, without escalating or yelling or losing control. Just the same thing until she gets it. Once she finally settles into the alternative behavior (lying down wherever you want her) for a few minutes without returning to barking, BIG treat party.

Also, treat and praise her regularly whenever you notice her NOT barking at something she wants, entertaining herself, looking like she is about to bark but then quietly walking away or lying down, etc.
posted by amaire at 10:46 AM on March 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

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