Callie's Question Corner

Barking

Some people think "barkingdog" is one word! It's not! Besides "speaking" dog -- you also have to "listen"!!!

I got to play with my neighbor's black lab puppy again, because he pushed a plank of wood on the fence so it swung open. He's a hassle, though, since he's growing older and they don't discipline him at all (they're training him to become a watch dog).
"Not disciplining" a dog so they will 'become a watch dog' is THE silliest thing on the planet Sarah. Don't rush over and tell them, but just for your OWN information, know that it is QUITE the opposite!!! A dog that just barks all the time is NO kind of watch dog. The trick is to have a dog that barks ONLY when you need them to. Do you remember the story about the "little boy who cried wolf"??? The first time he yelled Wolf! Wolf! everyone listened ... but then every time after people "heard" him less and less -- they just ignored him? Then when the real wolf came and ate the boy nobody paid the slightest bit of attention! Same thing happens with barking dogs! And the dogs know it. They don't even know WHAT they are barking at most of the time. Years ago, I was gone on a business trip. Mike was just a puppy then, but I did have a dog named Prissy who was pretty old! People often think of small dogs as "yappy" but again, I'd trained Pris that she only barked when there was SOMETHING to bark AT! My ex-husband heard the neighbor's dogs bark and thought nothing of it. They ALWAYS did. But then, he heard Prissy barking furiously in our back yard. He got up and went to the door to find out what was up. As he had his hand on the doorknob, he looked through the door only to see some huge man on the other side of the door coming IN!!!! It was a break-in in progress. However, Prissy's barking had gotten the attention of the police officers who were already on this guy's trail and before my ex could react, our backyard was FULL of Orlando's finest cops!!!

So how do you train a dog like this? It's really not hard. Simply, the first thing is to train them NOT to bark all the time!!! My dogs KNOW they are NOT to bark in the house -- not in play, not when the doorbell rings .. when they bark I simply tell them NO. But .. when they run to a window or door barking .. like they hear something .. THAT is not the time to correct them. That is the time to GO to the door yourself. I always say "Mike -- show Mommy!!" They will. If they see you are interested in what they have found, they'll lead you right to it. If it's night time and we can't see out, we snap the leash on one's collar and take them out so they can sniff the perimeter of the property and see what's up. Then you pat them and tell them how GOOD they were to show you! When a dog knows he can GET YOUR ATTENTION he'll come to YOU with his concerns. That's actually his JOB .. what a dog perceives he is supposed to do. When you pay attention to that .. he remembers it.. TRUST me!! Now, if they are just barking willy nilly .. you tell them NO.

That puppy tried to dig a hole under the fence. I blocked it up just in time, though. He could stick his head out, but couldn't come all the way through. He's such a stubborn puppy since they don't train him at all. The bigger dog has grown protective over the little one, and nearly chewed my head off since the little dog was whining. Twelve years and the big dog still doesn't recognize that I'm not a robber. The story you told me about your old dog sounded really scary! being face to face with a robber would have been terrifying. Your dog was a hero!
Barking CAN be something that you make a big priority in training. For example, right from the time you get this puppy, DON'T "teach" it to "speak" -- don't reward barking behavior! When the puppy barks you have to go see what it's barking "at" and deal with that right away. You don't have to hit -- in fact that's NEVER necessary -- just a disapproving look from you and a strong, firm "NO" right from the start will help you teach your pup that there are better ways to communicate. This isn't meant to teach you all the "hows" of training -- just what can be done!

Obedience training doesn't cost much, but it's best to start it when they are young! Here you can go through PetSmart and a number of other organizations (even local high schools and colleges offer it!) for about $30 for an 8 week course (just one evening a week!). It's THE best investment in the world!!! It will train YOU to train the dog at the same time training the dog to know what IT needs to know. You'll have to work on it at home too!!!


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