Dog Training 101?
Earlier today I had a caller ask if it was wrong that when her dog barks, she gets annoyed and yells at the dog to “Hush!”. The caller loves her dog very much, but sometimes the seemingly random barking just pushes her buttons. So she became frustrated. When she was talking to me about it, she became upset that she was angry with her dog.
I explained to her that most dogs use barking as an alert. It could be “Hey! I heard a big truck go by! Did you hear that truck go by!” or “That darned squirrel is here again, can you believe it!” or “I’m craving attention, I bet this will make you look!” Regardless of the reasoning at any given moment, if you want to replace it with another reaction first, you have to emphasize that you like something else more, and are willing to give it attention. Until you have spent enough time to really show and reward your dog for alternate behaviors, it is unfair to expect them to show you different responses.
If the dog barks to alert to an occurrence and the human yells, this opens the door to misinterpretation. On one level, if the alert was due to a stressor (loud noise, energetic new dog arriving etc.) and the human yells, the dogs sees the human following it’s lead to shout as a reaction. This can exacerbate the barking.
The irritation the human projects to the dog changes that human slightly, the hormones and body language. We may gesture with bolder, faster movements. The chemical change in the body (adrenaline, catecholamines, blood pressure change) is completely detectable to your dog. It knows you are stressed too, which can compound and intensify the situation.
So take a deep breath caller! If you are unhappy with your results, the easiest way to find relief is to change your approach. During quiet calm times, take a few moments to re-train a simple command such as sit, or down. When the dog performs, be sure to reward with plenty of attention. The more often a behavior is rewarded, the more likely the dog is to repeat it! So the next time you hear that bark, go back to the simple command. The calmer you stay about it, the easier it is to convey the message to your dog- “I’d rather you do THIS.”
I saw a post the other day online that was intended for child care but I think it is applicable here: “The more words you use when a [dog] is incorrect or acting out, the less effective you become.”
As always, if you have any questions, please contact me . Happy training!