What’s important to understand is that barking is a normal, natural canine behavior. Dogs can bark for many different reasons including boredom, frustration, alerting to noises, fear, reactivity and more. In that moment the dog is attempting to communicate something, similar to when a young child cries. As the dog’s guardian and advocate, it is up to us to listen and see how we can help or intervene.
Determining the “why” behind the barking and addressing it is very important. If your dog is fearful of something or someone and barks to indicate this, yelling at or punishing them will never fix this issue. Your dog will likely become more fearful due to your reaction and you will both repeat the exact cycle the next time he encounters this trigger.
If your dog barks because he is bored and frustrated from being ignored all day, you must find ways to provide the physical exercise and mental enrichment he is pleading for. These are fundamental needs which most dogs do not receive regularly.
Almost all dogs will bark to alert others in their family when they hear or see something outside. In moderation, this is barking that many humans accept as it instills a sense of safety. However, some dogs don’t understand that just a handful of barks is enough to notify the family. This is where a positive interrupt cue can be used.
The positive interrupt cue does exactly what it says…it interrupts the dog’s barking in a positive way and allows you to redirect the dog’s focus onto something else. You are basically saying “Thanks for the warning. Now let’s go do something else.” The dog learns that it’s acceptable to bark at something a few times and then he is reinforced for stopping and looking at you.
The key to success with this cue is to first teach and practice it in a low distraction environment when your dog is NOT barking. You must build a solid foundation before expecting it to work when your dog is reacting towards something. You want your dog’s head whipping in your direction nine out of ten times after hearing your cue BEFORE you attempt to use it in a barking situation.
Using patience, consistency and high value treats, you too can have a powerful positive interrupt cue which works to redirect your dog from barking and helps to bring peace to your household once again.
Next months article will be Moving with a Dog Tips: How to help your dog adjust.
Tiffany Lovell, CSAT, CPDT–KA, AAI, operates Cold Nose College, Space Coast in Brevard County, Florida
and offers force-free training and behavior consulting. She specializes in private in-home coaching &
training, separation-anxiety training (local & remote to anywhere in the U.S. & internationally) and
behavior consults. (321) 757-2059; coldnosecollege.com