How do I reset this dog?
July 19, 2023 5:24 AM   Subscribe

Freddy (dog tax) is a 5-year old miniature schnauzer with a deep passion for barking. We are moving to a new house soon, and I feel like the change of venue might be an opportunity to teach him that the new house is a safe place that he doesn't need to vociferously defend, with the added benefit that our new neighbors will like us better with a quiet dog than a loud one. Help me come up with a strategy to reset the dog!

Possibly relevant details:
--Freddy barks at pretty much everything: people walking by, neighbors in their own yards, people coming into the house, other dogs on walks, etc.
--He's actually quite friendly with dogs and people when he gets done barking at them.
--We don't let him out in the yard alone to bark endlessly, fence-fight, etc., and won't be starting in the new place. He goes out unattended in a fenced area for about 5' before bed to pee, and gets pulled back in when/if he finds something to bark at.
--He's fairly clicker-trained, and knows the command "focus" to look at us instead of barking at dogs while on leash. It helps, but he still loses his mind pretty often.
posted by juliapangolin to Pets & Animals (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
gets pulled back in when/if he finds something to bark at.
Try the opposite approach. Put him in the yard and leave him in the yard without company and just water. Go away for a while--long enough for him to get tired of being alone in the back yard--and come back. He will begin barking the instant he sees you approach the house. Ignore. Go into the house and stand by the door to the back yard. Bring a book. When he stops barking for an instant, open the door. He will resume barking. Close the door. Repeat 6,000 times until he stops barking for more than an instant, then let him inside and have a small party with treats and skritchins. Repeat this exercise 6,000 times and make the "more than an instant" last longer and longer until he learns "o, no, barking in yard is no good! ANY barking means stay in yard forever nooooo! NO BARKING IN YARD!" After this, it's time for Advanced No Barking class, in which you begin putting him in the yard whenever he barks in the house. Repeat 9,000 times until he learns "All barking anywhere means alone time in yard... no treats... no frens :( :( :("
posted by Don Pepino at 6:40 AM on July 19 [5 favorites]

We use privacy film on our windows. Otherwise it's Bark City. My little dude is better behaved when he's on a leash, so we have done a lot of training where we sit next to the window or on the balcony and I have high value treats. We just sit there and chill. When I see a stimulus (squirrel, neighbor with dog, anyone on a bike) I try to get him to pay attention to me and the treat instead, and if he doesn't bark, he gets a treat. When he barks I ignore him completely and wait until he's silent even for a moment and then he gets a treat and I say Good Quiet! And then we are done with trying.

One thing a dog trainer taught me is that once the dog is over their threshold, the training session is over. So removing him from the situation, and this is where the leash is also helpful, and asking him to do something really easy that he knows how to do once he's inside and a bit more calm, like sit and stay for example, helps bring him back down to baseline. But once a dog is upset and barking and over their threshold, you can't do any more training with them in that moment. They are just over stimulated and no one can learn when they are freaking out.

These window training sessions have helped a bit but dog training is very slow, so I anticipate doing these little training sessions on the leash by the window or on the balcony for the next 10 to 12 years.
posted by twelve cent archie at 6:56 AM on July 19 [6 favorites]

You need to train Freddy not to *not bark*, but to *be quiet*. Subtle but crucial difference. You can go the punishment route that Don Pepino describes, but people like Zak George, whose advice never failed when I was training our insane Australian cattle dog, advocates for a different approach (although he doesn't call it this): brainwashing your dog with treats.

This technique rests on a few key concepts:

1) Teach Freddy that being quiet brings rewards. Prepare for the times Freddy likes to bark by having rewards ready. Make up a big batch of really yummy, smelly stuff. Chopped-up hot dogs work nicely. The instant he starts to bark, say "Freddy, look!" and when he looks at you, hit the clicker and give him a small handful of treats, along the most overjoyed "Good boy!" and a brief pet. At first, reward him just for looking at you, whether he stops barking or not. But do it a dozen or so times that day if you can.

2) Build upon each step of the process, setting Freddy up for success each time. So at first, it's treats just for looking at you. Next day, next step: when Freddy looks, distract him momentarily by jumping around, waving your arms, whatever it takes. The instant he pauses his barking: clicker, lots of love, lots of treats. Next day, next step: same thing, but wait two seconds between the pause in barking and the click/rewards. And so on each day, with a longer and longer period of time between pausing the barking and the click/rewards.

3) Once you get the behavior you want—Freddy doesn't bark unnecessarily—you can stop with the treats. Just give him the verbal praise and a little pet. Soon, his brainwashed mind will forget that barking was ever fun, and will remember only that staying quiet is the norm.

Very important: be patient during this process: some days he'll do better than others, and if you have to revert a step back sometimes to get him back on track, do that. If it's just not working some days, give him a break and hope for a better training day tomorrow. If you get him trained all the way and one day something random really sets him off, get him distracted, pull out a treat, and chalk it up to a one-off screwup on his part.
posted by Rykey at 7:58 AM on July 19 [15 favorites]

Rykey's is much better. Mine is ungood because it will make the yard unpleasant, which it shouldn't be. A yard should be a glorious dogplace! But do stop pulling him inside at the first yip because that irons in "I bark to come inside," whereas it's much better not to bark to come inside.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:35 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]

i had a very barky dog and over the years i have tried EVERYTHING to train him out of it. the only thing that worked was an offhand suggestion by a friend of mine (who can't believe she hadn't suggested earlier) for this compressed air pet corrector.

it only took two presses to shut my goob right up. now, just me holding it in my hand is enough for him to immediately stop barking.

it is truly a miracle worker.
posted by violetk at 11:05 AM on July 19

Working on theory that barking was trying to alert the pack to danger and protect the house, when our doggo barked, I was call him to me ("doggo, here!") and then when he came, I would praise him and then ask him to tell me what was going on. If he was still wound up, I would say "show me what's going on" and then I would stand up and walk over to the window/door and look out and then tell him that I saw it, it was OK and he didn't need to worry about it. (Obviously he didn't understand the words but he got the tone of voice) I think the willingness to get up and walk over and look was important - trying to get him to quiet while still sitting on the couch would not send the message that that I saw the problem and he could trust me to take care of it.

If he was still wound up then I would move away from the window and have do a couple of other commands to help him refocus on me instead of whatever is outside ending up with a down/stay. I rewarded the commands (Here, sit etc) as appropriate. Over time, he would pretty much come to me when called and stop barking but then again maybe he was a more mellow dog than yours.
posted by metahawk at 7:31 PM on July 19 [2 favorites]

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