In This Chapter
- Teaching your dog to bark and stop barking on cue
- Sounding the alarm, singing, counting, and more
- Redeeming the problem barker
Does your dog love to make noise? Does he bark when he’s happy, excited, when he doesn’t get his way? Is your biggest question not how to train him to vocalize but how to turn him off? Actually, it’s easier than you think. First you encourage your dog to do something he already likes to do — bark! Once he learns how to bark on cue, you can direct his passions to completing complex math equations and counting the candles on the birthday cake! Next you can teach him perhaps an even more miraculous trick — to stop barking with one cleverly positioned finger to your lips. Bark–stop barking; bark–stop barking. When your dog catches onto this “trick,” you’ll be in the driver’s seat. Not only will you be able to shape your dog’s barking habits, but the world of talking tricks will also be yours to explore!
Barking and Not Barking on Cue
– Make eye contact: Look at your dog alertly when you want him to bark. Break your stare when you want him to quiet down.
– Use voice commands: You need two: “Speak” and “Shhh.” Enunciate clearly when you give your commands.
– Give hand signals: Use snappy signals to both encourage barking and discourage it.
• To signal “Speak,” try snapping your fingers near your mouth.
• To signal “Shhh,” put your index finger to your lips as if shushing a child.
Getting your dog to speak up
Stay within your dog’s sight if he’s stressed by being physically separated from you.
The moment he barks, give it to him and praise, praise, praise!
Snap your fingers near your mouth.
Encourage him to “Speak,” using the command and hand signal, throughout the day for positive things, such as a meal or a walk. If he speaks out of turn, just ignore him.
To encourage a puzzled or submissive barker to speak up, try baiting him with an enticing toy or treat, prompting him with a sound cue like the doorbell ringing, or tossing a toy and not releasing him to chase it until after he has sounded off!
Commanding “Shhh” for peace and quiet
The moment your dog stops barking, reward his silence.
Practice your commands throughout the day, varying which ones you reinforce based on the situation. Sometimes reward the “Speak,” other times the “Shhh.” Have your dog “Speak” and “Shhh” two or three times before rewarding him. He’ll be so proud of his new trick, and so will you!
If your dog is not connecting the “Shhh” command to being silent, see the section on remedying problem barkers at the end of this chapter.
From Counting to Calculus
Before you start asking your dog to count anything, you must polish his “Speak” and “Shhh” skills so that he can do them with hand signals alone. If you use voice commands, some doubters may think your dog isn’t really counting. Check out the earlier section, “Barking and Not Barking on Cue,” for more on reinforcing the “Speak” and “Shhh” skills.
After you have the commands down pat, you can begin asking your dog some basic questions. Just follow this sequence:
- How much is two plus two?
- How old are you?
- How many eggs are in a half dozen?
- How many stars make up the Big Dipper? (The answer is seven.)
- What’s the square root of 64? (Hint: It comes after 7.)
Doing a Doggone Duet
Choosing your instrument
Howling the blues
While few dogs will howl in unison to a melodious sax, the arctic breeds, shepherds, and hound dogs are notorious for letting out a howl when they hear music or get excited. “Monkey see, monkey do” applies here. To see whether you can get your dog to howl, follow these steps:
1. Play some soulful music, and let out a good howl yourself.
2. When your dog joins in, congratulate him and keep on howling.
3. End by playing your dog’s favorite game.
Once your dog gets the hang of howling, you can signal him to howl sans music. To signal a howl, lean your head back, face to the moon, and purse those lips. Now you can think of clever questions to ask your dog. “What does a werewolf do when he sees a full moon?” “What do you say when you see your girlfriend/boyfriend?” Clever dog!
Barking to the beat
If it’s new, let your dog sniff it.
Blow a few short warm-up notes as you continue to signal him to stay quiet.
Teaching Your Dog to Sound an Alarm
Alerting you to visitors or strangers
1. Put your dog on a “Sit–Stay” and stand at the open door.
2. Ring the bell (or have an assistant ring it) and command “Speak.” Click/praise and reward the inevitable bark.
3. Ring the bell and give the “Speak” command again, but this time, after three barks, instruct your dog to “Shhh.” Wait until he quiets before you reward him.
4. Ask a neighbor to come by and ring the bell or knock when your dog isn’t expecting company.
Reinforce “Speak” or “Shhh” — whichever happens to be your dog’s weak suit.
Warning you of fire and other dangers
1. Gather a book of matches, treats, and a clicker if you use one, as well as a toy for good measure.
See Chapter Prepping for Training — Mentally and Physically for more information about using a clicker.
2. Put your dog on a “Sit–Stay,” and light a match at least 4 feet away. 3. When the flame rises, say and signal “Speak.”
4. Blow the flame out when your dog barks, then quiet him with the signal and command “Shhh.”
Reward and praise him.
5. Repeat and repeat, increasing your focus on a quick response.
If you’re big into candles and fireplaces, you’ll need to think through this one. You can teach your dog to differentiate between a fire that’s contained in a pit or fireplace versus a fire outside such confines, but it will take some cajoling. First, work with the match as described in the preceding steps. When building a fire or lighting a match, keep your dog on a leash to hold him back from the flame as you direct him to “Stay” and remind him to “Shhh.”
Turning Off the Bothersome Barker
Dogs who bark at everything often fall into one of the following categories: Some perceive themselves as your leader; others haven’t been socialized well and are freaking out; still others are submissive but assume you don’t have a handle on the situation and they must do their best to control it. One of the leader’s duties is to guard his territory and pack from intruders. All the other training and interaction you’re doing will help your dog focus on and respect you as the leader of the pack. Without that “leadership” lesson, you’ll be hard-pressed to make any impression.
Silencing a door barker
2. When your dog starts barking, say “Speak.” Approach the end of his leash calmly, and pick it up. Praise him for alerting you — “Good dog!” — and click/reward.
If your dog ignores you, discretely shake the can behind him or spritz over his head. When he stops barking, praise/click and reward.
Don’t interact or socialize with your dog until he has calmed down. Give him a toy to play with or simply ignore him until he’s calm.
Never hold your dog back while you open the door. Like holding a frantic child, doing so will only make him wilder. Also, approach the door calmly. Running to the door and screaming at your dog will create a frenzy.
Then you can try it with a real guest.
If your dog is too excitable at the door, work in an enclosed, distant room. Move progressively closer until your new game’s the best game in town!
Dogs like to keep busy. One activity many dogs enjoy is playing the gatekeeper — watching the periphery of your home to make sure everything is safe. If you’ve got a barker, discourage furniture perching (sitting and keeping watch) in favor of other games like “Fetch” and “Follow Me.” If your dog watches you instead of the window, you’ll find the silence shattering!
Shhh-ing a motion detector
– Avoid leaving your dog alone outdoors for long stretches of time. Confinement often breeds boredom and territorial behavior. Put those two together and you’re likely to end up with a barkaholic.
– Don’t yell. Screaming is barking to a dog: Instead of training him, you’re egging him on.
– Any time you see (or hear) your dog start to perk up, praise him initially (“good boy”), then quiet him by encouraging “Shhh” and calling him back to your side: “Come tell me!”
– Use your clicker or treat cup to encourage your dog to check in with you. If he ignores you, leave him on a drag leash when supervised or attach a short leash (see Chapter Prepping for Training — Mentally and Physically) to enable calm but clear handling: “Come tell me” means just that.
If necessary, use a penny can or spray deterrent (see the preceding section) to help break your dog’s focus.
– If your fellow is a night watchman, station or crate him in your room. Give him a bed and a bone, and secure his lead to something stationary. Bedtime!
– Give your dog an outlet for barking by teaching the noisy tricks outlined in this chapter.
Curbing a car barker
– Instruct “Wait” before you let your dog enter or exit the car, and give permission with “Okay.” It’s your car, your territory; don’t let him forget that.
– Enforce stillness while you drive. Secure your dog in the backseat of the car with a crate or other car safety device. Give your dog a chew toy to keep him happily occupied while you drive.
– Ignore the barking if your car is moving. Driving is a job all by itself.
– Whenever your dog is quiet, reward him with your clicker and/or treats.
– If your dog barks at people who approach the car, ask a friend to help set up the situation by approaching the car when you’re not actually driving. If your dog barks, correct him (see the earlier section, “Silencing a door barker”). When/if your dog stops barking and settles down, ask your friend to toss a piece of cheese into the car window. The idea is to give your dog a more positive association with people who approach the car.
Dealing with an attention hound
Imagine this: You’re sitting reading the Sunday paper when suddenly your dog comes out of nowhere and starts barking for a pat. Cute, huh? Not really. So what should you do? Giving in makes you look like a servant. Yelling is counterproductive.
– Teach your dog a good way to get your attention, such as by sitting or bringing you a toy. Whenever possible, ask your dog to “Sit” before giving him attention, and add a cue word to your fetching games, such as “Ball” or “Toy.”
– If your dog has mastered the on–off trick (see the earlier section “Barking and Not Barking on Cue”), turn to your dog and instruct “Speak!” Let him bark a couple of times, then say “Shhh” and ignore him. Walk away if you need to, but don’t give in and pay attention.
– If your dog barks at you for attention, ignore it. Wear your headset, use earplugs, or walk away — just don’t give in. When your dog stops, ignore him another three minutes, and then ask him to sit or fetch his toy. When he cooperates, give him a pat. Otherwise, you’re teaching him that barking is a very effective tool.
Quieting a protest barker
– Ignore the barking if you can. Never yell.
– Avoid grand departures and arrivals; they’re too stimulating.
– Let the dog be with you when you’re home. He likes that. (See Chapters Prepping for Training — Mentally and Physically and Minding Manners and Trying Out Some Tricks for more on leading and stationing your dog.)
– Place peanut butter in a hollow rubber toy or bone, and give it to your dog as you leave. That’s a tasty way to keep him busy!
– Return to your dog only after he has calmed down. If you must interfere with his barking tantrum, go to him quietly without making eye contact or comments, place him on a Teaching Lead tied around your waist (see Chapter 2 for more on this device), and ignore him for half an hour while you lead him around.
by Sarah Hodgson