Excerpt from The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think, by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods. Published by Dutton, a Member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. © 2013 Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods. Excerpted with permission from the publisher. All Rights Reserved.
Mystique is a dog who lives at Lola ya Bonobo, [the wildlife sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] where Vanessa and I study bonobos. During the day, she is sweet and demure, but at night she becomes a different animal. She guards our house, barking ferociously every time someone comes within earshot. Usually in Congo, a little extra security is appreciated. The only problem is that our house is on the main trail where the night staff walk back and forth after dark. Mystique dutifully barks at all passersby whether she has known them for a day or all her life. Eventually, we just learned to sleep through it. But if there was really a cause for concern, like a strange man with a gun, I wonder if Mystique would bark in a way that would alert me that there was something dangerous and different about the person approaching the house.
Dog vocalizations may not sound very sophisticated. Raymond Coppinger pointed out that most dog vocalizations consist of barking, and that barking seems to occur indiscriminately. Coppinger reported on a dog whose duty was to guard free- ranging livestock. The dog barked continuously for seven hours, even though no other dogs were within miles. If barking is communicative, dogs would not bark when no one could hear them. It seemed to Coppinger that the dog was simply relieving some inner state of arousal. The arousal model is that dogs do not have much control over their barking. They are not taking into account their audience, and their barks carry little information other than the emotional state of the barking dog.
Perhaps barking is another by-product of domestication. Unlike dogs, wolves rarely bark. Barks make up as little as 3 percent of wolf vocalizations. Meanwhile, the experimental foxes in Russia [that have been bred to be docile] bark when they see people, while the control foxes do not. Frequent barking when aroused is probably another consequence of selecting against aggression.
However, more recent research indicates that there might be more to barking than we first thought. Dogs have fairly plastic vocal cords, or a “modifiable vocal tract.” Dogs might be able to subtly alter their voices to produce a wide variety of different sounds that could have different meanings. Dogs might even be altering their voices in ways that are clear to other dogs but not to humans. When scientists have taken spectrograms, or pictures, of dog barks, it turns out that not all barks are the same—even from the same dog. Depending on the context, a dog’s barks can vary in timing, pitch, and amplitude. Perhaps they have different meanings.
I know two Australian dogs, Chocolate and Cina, who love to play fetch on the beach. Each throw sends them plunging through the waves, racing for that magic orb of rubber. When Chocolate retrieves the ball, inevitably Cina wrestles the ball from Chocolate’s mouth, even while Chocolate growls loudly. The girls also eat together, but when Cina tries the same trick with Chocolate’s food, the result is very different. A quiet growl from Chocolate warns Cina away.
It is difficult to see how Cina knows when it is okay to take something from Chocolate’s mouth, since both growls are made when Chocolate is aggravated and unwilling to share. If anything, Chocolate’s growl seems louder and scarier when she is playing than when she is eating.
Experiments have now shown that dogs use different barks and growls to communicate different things. In one experiment, researchers recorded a “food growl” where a dog was growling over food, and a “stranger growl” where a dog was growling at the approach of a stranger. The researchers played these different growls to a dog who was approaching a juicy bone. The dogs were more hesitant to approach if they heard the food growl rather than the stranger growl.
In another experiment, researchers recorded “alone barks” of dogs when they were alone, and “stranger barks” when a stranger was approaching. When researchers played three “alone barks” to different dogs, these dogs showed less attention to each bark. But when they played the fourth bark, the “stranger bark,” the dogs quickly jumped to attention. They did the same thing when the barks were reversed, showing that dogs could clearly distinguish between the two types of barks. Using a similar test, the dogs also distinguished between the barks of different dogs.
How well do people understand what dogs are saying? Researchers played a collection of barks to a group of people. Regardless of whether they owned a dog or not, most people could tell from a bark whether a dog was alone or being approached by a stranger, playing or being aggressive. Unlike dogs, people were not very skilled at discriminating between different dogs. The only time people could tell between different dogs was when they heard the “stranger bark.” This is the exact moment a dog owner would be most likely to want to understand the meaning of a dog bark, since strangers can mean trouble.
These initial studies show that growls and barks do carry meaning that other dogs and, in some cases, people can recognize. This complexity comes as a surprise. Of course, our dogs have known all along—just ask Chocolate and Cina. Still, we know very little about the vocal behavior of dogs.
Brian Hare is an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, where he founded the Duke Canine Cognition Center. Vanessa Woods is a research scientist at the center as well as an award-winning journalist and the author of Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo (Gotham, 2010). Hare and Woods are married and live in North Carolina.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Brian Hare is a professor of evolutionary anthropology, psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. Credit: Nick Higgins
It was only after several owners pointed out to me that I never say “No” to their dogs, that I even considered that fact.
“Is it okay that I say ‘No’?” they ask.
“Does it work when you say it?” I ask.
“Um … No.”
“Well … ?”
There is a school of philosophy about dog training that says owners should never say “No” to their dogs – the so-called “purely positive” philosophy. That’s not what I believe. To raise a respectful, balanced, social, and peaceful dog, we as leaders have to tell them clearly and repeatedly which behaviors are inappropriate, unbalanced, and antisocial.
But that doesn’t mean it will help to say the word “No.” Dogs aren’t born speaking English (or any other human language). In fact, the word “No” has a low, long, calming sound that means precisely the opposite to dogs! The only times I’ve ever seen an owner’s use of “No!” be effective is when they’ve shouted it – like barking – and it really didn’t matter what they said, it was the sharp loud tone of voice that created the desired response.
In my experience there are three main ways to effectively and immediately communicate disapproval to a dog about their behavior.
1. Audio (clap, snap, stomp, “Tschhh!”, “Hey!”, etc.)
2. Visual (blocking, coming quickly toward the dog, rising to a position above the dog)
3. Physical (tug of leash, tap to the ribs/hindquarters)
There are ways of doing each of these that will be entirely ineffective – with every dog. As a matter of fact, most ways of doing them will be ineffective. To give an effective correction requires precise timing, technique, and practice.
Effective versions share qualities of being sharp, sudden, dramatic, and most importantly backed by a no-nonsense energy and intention.
That said, a correction should never cause fear, pain, or intimidation. Think of a well-executed correction as snapping your dog out of a fixated, obsessive, distracted, aggressive, fearful, or disobedient mindset. Much like tapping your distracted friend on the shoulder; it should snap them back to reality, to what’s going on with you. You don’t punch your friend on the shoulder, after all! You simply tap them. A well-executed correction can be performed entirely calmly, and can be extremely mild, gentle, and subtle. Although in general, the more intense the dog’s state of mind that you’re correcting, the more intense the correction needs to be.
i. Throw in “the kitchen sink” – do a bunch of corrections all together.
ii. If it isn’t working, change it. Step up the intensity, change the timing, or try something altogether different.
iii. Trial and error – practice. There’s no such thing as “failure” in learning a new skill, only the discovery of one more way not to go.
iv. Wait to give a correction until you can enforce your intention. Don’t shout from across the room; that’s wasted barjubg. Instead take a deep breath, walk over to your dog; only then, when you can correct physically and visually if you need to, as well as audibly, state your case.
v. Remain calm. An effective, confident leader is neither frustrated nor angry. If you come from a place of stress, your dog will feel it and not want to follow. You might scare him into submission temporarily…but the result will not stick, nor will it foster happier, more obedient behavior.
Dogs are all different. Some are more auditorily-focused; some more visually, some physically. Get to know your dog, what works for you and what works for them.
Finally, saying “No!” (in dog language) is only one part of creating a calm, peaceful, submissive, trusting and obedient dog. As I’ve mentioned, unlike many trainers I believe that corrections are essential in raising a balanced dog; but I know that much more is required as well. In particular, every time you correct your dog, you need to then follow the correction with an obedience assignment, and finally with revitalizing rewards for their doing the right thing.
There is nothing wrong with using the word “no” properly when training your dog.
The word “no” has a lot of meanings to us humans, but mostly we just use it to express denial or refusal in response to a question. When we use it to train our dogs, it means whatever we define it to mean. Some people use “no” to startle or scare their dogs. After the dog hears this a few times, they begin to become desensitized to it. “No”, doesn’t have to be a scary word at all.
“No”, is sometimes used as a “pre-punishment” cue. The trainer would ask the dog for a behavior or say a command, if the dog didn’t respond to the behavior, the trainer would say “no” in a firm voice. In training, dogs would hear the word “no” and then do the behavior previously asked as an appeasement behavior. Remember all those times we’ve read and heard to always say “no” in a stern, authoritative voice. Seems like whenever I was told that, it was by a person with a stern voice. “No” should never mean that your dog is going to be hurt or in trouble.
Some trainers don’t like to use the word “no” at all. They have told people to NEVER say “no” to their dog. It’s just too negative. Dogs have no definition of the word “no” unless we give them one. So how could “no” be too negative?
You can use whatever word you want as a negative marker. When I worked with service dogs, we didn’t use the word “no” because in public, people don’t want to hear a service dog told “no.” We used the phrase “uh oh” and it was just as effective as “no.” Any word can be a negative marker.
There is nothing wrong with using the word “no” properly when training your dog. “No” should be said calmly and should mean, “That is not a behavior that I want.” “No” can also be a “no reward marker.” It can just mean that the dog will not get a reward for that behavior.
I use “no” whenever I walk away from my dogs to ignore them if they have done something I don’t want them to do again. To them, that is the worst consequence in the world. It is a great way to get rid of behavior that I don’t want.
Enough on “no.” The most under used and one of the most important words in dog training is the word “good” or whatever word you are using for a positive marker or motivating word. It means, “keep doing what you are doing, I like that.”
Your dog should hear “good” at least ten times for every “no.” If this ratio isn’t there, train your dog so that you don’t have to tell them “no” and then you CAN tell them “good.”
It’s a word that we all understand. But what, if anything, does “no” mean to your dog? Here’s why dog trainers prefer to find alternatives to the word “no”.
Which words do dogs understand?
We all know that dogs don’t use words to tell us what they need. They have their own ways of putting their point across. However, they do understand quite a few of the sounds we make.
Given the opportunity, a dog will happily learn a great number of behaviour cues and can even recognise the names of their toys eg “find pink elephant”. We know how clever they are – just look what an assistance dog can do for example.
How does a dog learn to understand our words?
Dogs learn by association. They might not be able to make sense of a full sentence, but it doesn’t take them long to recognise words like “sit”, “here”, “walk” or “dinner”. Those words are all related to objects or activities and carry with them the promise of something positive (praise, treats, fun or food).
But what about the word “no”? It’s not a thing, it’s not a place, it’s not an activity and it’s not a cue for any specific behaviour. So what does “no” mean to a dog?
What does the word “no” mean to a dog?
To a human, “no” is a negative. It means you can’t do/have what you want. When we say “no” to a toddler or a dog, it usually means “stop what you’re doing right now” but a dog doesn’t know that. It knows you’re not happy – your body language and tone of voice will convey that. But as far as we know, it doesn’t realise why and it certainly doesn’t know how to respond. The word “no” only causes confusion.
Have you ever watched a pre-school teacher at work? Trust me, there are a lot of similarities between pre-schoolers and dogs. The toddlers can speak a little but their brains are not mature enough to use words effectively. Neither is the child able to tell what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. Yet they are curious little souls, who learn by touching, tasting, climbing and exploring with no regard to personal safety, etiquette or the feelings of others. Ditto for dogs. They want to explore and learn. They learn pretty quickly that pleasing you will make them happy but they don’t automatically understand the rules for living with humans.
Going back to those amazing pre-school teachers, nursery nurses and parents. When a young child behaves inappropriately, their first reaction is not to shout “no” but to try and distract the child, to give them something different to do. Instead of punishing them for the wrong behaviour, they praise the child for doing the right thing. A good dog trainer will use exactly the same principals.
For example if you spot your dog sneaking up on a plate of cookies, rather than yell “no”, you could ask for a “sit”, a recall or even just eye contact. Praise and reward your dog for doing the right thing – and then move the cookies out of temptations way.
Where to use training techniques instead of “no”
A recall or an emergency stop cue will make more sense to your dog than “No…..don’t jump on that lady”. And rewarding your dog for loose lead walking is far more effective than shouting “no” to the tugging tank at the other end of the lead.
Meeting other dogs:
Put the lead on and ask for a “sit”, a “heel” or a “look-at-me” to discourage inappropriate behaviours
When visitors arrive:
If your dog is either an over-enthusiastic greeter or an unwelcoming host, how about training an alternative behaviour? “On your bed” is a useful cue for either situation.
Begging for scraps:
Nobody wants a drooling dog begrudging them every mouthful of a meal. “No” isn’t going to stop the behaviour so why not ask for a “lie down” or an “on your bed”. A settle mat is a useful tool that can be deployed at home, in the pub, the café, the picnic site – anywhere
Here’s Bibi who isn’t comfortable with strangers and will lunge and bark at them. In this video he’s learning a better way to behave
Bibi you are incredible!! 💙💙💙Bibi will bark, growl and lunge at strangers when being road walked if they come too close. This was his first training session working on this and what an amazing job he did! This is the first time he has never barked at this man here in the video. And how lovely to have such good neighbours that are happy to help train your dog 😁😁 Well done Nicci! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼
Posted by CK9 Training on Thursday, 29 August 2019
Need help and ideas with training techniques?
Why not take a look at CK9 Training’s doggy lifeskills classes and workshops? They are especially designed to prevent those awkward situations where you want to say no to your dog, but know it really won’t help the situation.
Does your dog understand you better than you understand him? Or do you have a good grasp of what your dog is trying to say? Dog owners spend a great deal of time and effort training their dogs to understand humans, but they don’t always put the same energy into learning the language of their canine companions. Dogs communicate in many ways, including body language, scent, and of course barks, whines, and growls, but barks are likely the first thing you think of when you consider dog communication. And according to Dr. Stanley Coren‘s book, “How to Speak Dog: Mastering the Art of Dog-Human Communication,” there is far more complexity involved than you might realize.
Barks made in different situations sound different and likely have different meanings. They are not a one-size-fits-all vocal signal, and they definitely serve a greater purpose than simply saying “hey” or “look out.” They are also emotionally complex. Dogs don’t just bark when they are excited, although it can seem that way when they are trying to get your attention. They bark when they are frightened, lonely, surprised, irritated, and more. That means there are different barks for different moods, as well.
A dog can vary the pitch of his bark, the number of barks in a row, and the space between barks in order to change the bark’s meaning. In terms of pitch, the lower the bark, the more serious the dog. For example, a dog enjoying playtime will tend to have a higher-pitched bark than one that is warning off intruders or disciplining a rude companion. Consider the barks your dog makes when a stranger is coming up the front walk compared to those he makes when you walk in the door. The first is alerting the house to a possible intruder, whereas the second is saying welcome home” and is likely higher in tone. A lonely dog will also make higher-pitched barks to request companionship, sometimes rising in tone to sound almost like a plaintive yelp.
In addition, the more barks in a row, the more aroused the dog is. A single bark may be given when a dog is surprised or annoyed, as if to say, “huh?” or “knock it off.” On the other hand, a long string of barks likely indicates the dog is far more worked up, such as the prolonged sound of alarm barking.
The space between barks is also worth consideration. The quicker the succession of barks, the more aggressive the dog is probably feeling. For example, when a dog is on the attack, his vocalizations will have the shortest pause between barks of any other barking sound. By comparison, the lonely “don’t leave me alone” bark has far longer pauses between sounds.
According to Hungarian research, humans, even those who don’t own dogs, are better at classifying dog barks than you might think. Prerecorded dog barks were played to human listeners, then the listeners were asked to categorize the barks. They were given a list of possible situations that could have elicited the barking and asked to choose the most appropriate one. In addition, they rated the emotion the barking dog was feeling. The results showed that people can match the bark to the situation with accuracy far higher than chance and can identify the dog’s emotion using the pitch of the bark and the pause between barks.
If you would like to assess your own bark interpretation skills, check out the bark test available here. No matter how well you fare on the test, you can always improve your understanding of dog language by paying more attention to what your dog is telling you when he barks.
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Jumping on people. Counter surfing. Chewing up shoes. We love our dogs, but not so much when they’re exhibiting these unwanted behaviors. Any dog, whether they’re puppies or adults, may develop habits we find unacceptable. Here are some strategies to help you curb unwanted behaviors.
Strategies for Success
- Training is key. Teaching your dog to sit, come, or lie down may not seem related to a barking, jumping, or chewing problem, but it is. Positive reward-based training teaches your dog that good things happen when he does what you ask, strengthens your bond, and provides mental stimulation that will help tire him out, making him less likely to misbehave. Try introducing a new command each week and continue to practice the old ones.
- Exercise helps release energy. A tired dog is a good dog. If you’re gone 12 hours a day, and your dog’s walk consists of a quick dash into the backyard, you’re not providing your pet with adequate exercise. Excess energy may be channeled into chewing your shoes, or dragging you on the leash. Puppies generally have more energy than adult dogs and require more exercise. Also, your dog’s breed influences the level of physical activity he needs.
- Prevent your pup from learning bad behaviors.Puppy-proof your house. Put shoes and toys away. Pick houseplants up off the floor. Supervise the puppy, even in your fenced-in yard. It’s easier to prevent bad habits from being learned than it is to correct them.
- Reward desired behaviors. If your dog is lying quietly instead of jumping or barking, praise and pet him. If your dog walks beside you on the leash, tell him what a good dog he is. Telling him what you want him to do is easier for him to understand – for example “sit” rather than “don’t jump” or “heel” rather than “don’t pull.”
- Consistency makes the difference. If you don’t feed the dog from the table but your spouse or children slip him treats, he’ll learn to beg. Or if you ignore him for jumping on you, but others pet him when he does, guess what he’ll do. Everyone has to follow the same rules when it comes to setting standards for dog behavior.
Tactical Tips for Unwanted Dog Behaviors
- The first step is to greet your dog calmly, so you’re not getting him over-excited.
- Since the objective of jumping up is attention, refusing to give your attention is the best way to discourage jumping. Stand like a statue or turn your back.
- If you’ve taught the “sit” command, ask for a sit — a sitting dog can’t jump. Then get down on your dog’s level and give him the attention he wants. Eventually, the dog should initiate the sit without being asked.
- To prevent your dog from jumping on people who visit, use a crate, a “place” command, a baby gate, or keep him on leash until he calms down.
is a necessary and normal behavior for dogs, especially when they’re teething. The most effective way to save your possessions from destruction is to keep them out of your dog’s reach.
- Offer your dog objects he can chew on that are appropriate for his age and size — but never old socks or shoes.
- Give him lots of exercise and mental stimulation.
- Teach him the “leave it”
3. Counter surfing
- Once rewarded, counter surfing may take a long time to stop. If you can make sure that they never, ever find anything good there, then maybe they will give up.
- Put your dog in her crate or teach her to keep her “place” on her mat when you’re preparing food.
- Teach the “leave it” command.
- Never feed your dog scraps from the counter when you’re preparing food or cleaning up.
4. Leash pulling
- Try not to pull your dog — if you pull on the leash, it’s instinctive for your dog to pull back.
- Reinforce your dog for walking nicely on the leash when he walks by your side by praising, clicking, or offering treats.
- He must learn to pay attention to you no matter how exciting he finds the environment, so it’s a good idea to first practice where there are few distractions.
- If he pulls, you stop. You can also redirect by quickly doing a 180 and calling him back to your side. Be consistent – don’t let him pull you, and make sure others who walk him also won’t let him pull.
- It’s a given — dogs bark, but barking can quickly become a nuisance. Teach a “quiet” or “enough” command. Then as soon as your dog starts to bark, you calmly say “quiet.” He should stop barking and come to you – and you can praise him or give him a treat.
- Remember, the more excited you get the more likely your dog thinks there’s something to bark about.
- It’s a good idea to consider why he’s barking – he’s bored, needs exercise, or is afraid of other dogs and people and needs additional socialization.
- If he’s barking at you for attention, don’t give it unless he’s quiet.
Dogs are creatures of habit, and once habits form it can take lots of effort for you to change them. Your dog wants to understand what you want him to do, but it will take time and patience to make your objectives clear and guide your pup away from unwanted behaviors to better ones. Consulting a qualified dog trainer can help you get started.
Ask just about any dog trainer or veterinarian and they’ll tell you reward-based training is best for canines. It makes sense. Treats are better incentives than a pat on the head (or nothing at all). Of course, all dogs are unique and it’s wise to explore a variety of methods to see which ones your pet responds to best. Either way, establishing healthy obedience practices and firm commands early on is critical to lifelong good behavior. Unfortunately, there are some words and phrases that come naturally to us as people but are ineffective for dogs. We rounded up five things not to say to your dog, according to real trainers and veterinarians.
Remember: Your dog is not a person. Remind yourself of this as often as possible. (Psst: Your dog is not a person.) She might seem like she’s a person! She can certainly be your favorite companion! But she is not a person. She is a dog. This means you need to communicate in a way that allows her to absorb the information and practice what you preach.
Why it’s problematic: Saying, “No,” to your dog is too vague. Which behavior are you trying to stop? Urban Dog Training in Brisbane uses the example of a dog quietly chewing a shoe. “No” could be referring to the lack of barking, the chewing or the spot where your dog is sitting. It’s impossible for your dog to distinguish which one you mean. More importantly, the word “no” doesn’t tell your dog what you want her to do instead. Alternatively, commands like “drop it,” or “sit,” identify a specific behavior your dog can exhibit instead of what she’s doing. Urban Dog Training adds that saying “no” can reinforce bad behavior because you are giving the dog attention—even if it’s bad attention.
2. Yelling (in general)
Why it’s problematic: Animal Behavior College notes dogs do not have the same logic and reasoning capabilities that humans do. Shouting or yelling at your dog can fill them with fear—of you, of their environment, of certain behaviors—and even lead to reactive behavior. Again, yelling and scolding in an angry tone is too vague. Screaming at your dog won’t prevent her from chewing the shoe next time. She’ll simply do it where you can’t see her. Studies have shown canines can actually become pessimistic when treated this way.
3. “Come!” (When it’s bad news)
Why it’s problematic: Calling your dog to “come” when it’s time for a bath, a trip to the vet or any other unpleasant experience links that command with, well, an unpleasant experience. It’s like the boy who cried wolf: If you trick your dog too many times into thinking she’s getting a treat when really she’s about to have her anal glands expressed, she’ll stop coming when she’s called. She may not even trust other commands you throw around. Instead, use reward-based training when establishing these practices. Vet trips can be associated with a special treat, like doggy ice cream. Baths can become an opportunity for a peanut butter-filled Kong toy. But don’t trick her.
4. “Down” (When your dog learned “drop”)
Why it’s problematic: So you’re trying to communicate to Roxy to drop the matchbox from her mouth. But in the chaos of the moment, you say “down,” as in, “put it down!” Even it’s not intentional, sending mixed signals isn’t great practice. Canine Perspectives, a notable dog training and daycare facility in Chicago, says providing structure and consistency is key to building good habits. Canines thrive on routine and enjoy having guidelines to know what to do in new situations. Once you teach a command, use it regularly and in as many different locations as possible. This is called proofing; it ensures your dog remembers and obeys commands in any situation and can be lifesaving. If your dog eats something poisonous on a walk, she better be able to obey “drop it!” outside the home. Because of their affinity for rules, don’t mix up commands on them. Sure, to us the words “down” and “drop” mean pretty much the same thing. To dogs? It’s very confusing.
Why it’s problematic: On the flip side, ignoring problem behavior is equally detrimental. It may work at home in a controlled environment, but Dr. Jennifer L. Summerville, DVM, says the instant your dog receives any type of reward for that behavior, ignoring it no longer proves effective. Plus, in the real world, other people probably won’t be able to ignore behavior like jumping, chewing or whining. Teaching your dog specific commands (sit, stay, drop it, down) will help you redirect problem behavior and help your dog understand what it is you’d like them to do.
Dogs jump for all kinds of reasons: attention, excitement or not knowing what else to do when they see a person.
Does your dog jump on you as if they’ve got springs on their feet? Like it or not, we humans are to blame. We not only permit this behavior, we encourage it. We know we shouldn’t encourage jumping, but a fuzzy puppy is just too cute to resist. We forget that cute behavior in a puppy can become a real nuisance when they grow up.
Allowing your dog to jump on people can be dangerous too. You can end up scratched and bruised. A child or frail adult can be knocked down and seriously injured.
Solving a behavior problem like jumping requires both management of the situation and training your dog.
Management means you must control the situation so your dog doesn’t have the opportunity to jump up. Use management techniques until your dog is adequately trained not to jump.
As an example, let’s take the dog who jumps on visitors. To manage your dog’s behavior, you could do one of the following before your guest arrives:
- Put your dog in their crate.
- Confine them in another room.
- Restrain your dog on a leash and ask them to sit while the guest enters. Be sure to reward good behavior.
This will prevent jumping while they are learning proper behavior.
Teach your dog that they receive no attention for jumping on you or anyone else. You can turn your back and only pet your dog when all four paws are on the floor.
Teach your dog to do something that is incompatible with jumping up, such as sitting. They can’t sit and jump up at the same time. If they are not sitting, they get no attention.
It is important to be consistent. Everyone in your family must follow the training program all the time. You can’t let your dog jump on people in some circumstances, but not others.
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Barking is a form of communication, and it’s completely normal dog behaviour. However, if the amount your dog barks increases or becomes excessive, it can be a sign that something isn’t right – and it may cause problems for other people as well as for you.
If this happens, it’s important to address any underlying problems that could be causing your dog to bark more. Let’s take a look at why dogs bark and what you can do if it becomes a problem.
Why do dogs bark?
Dogs bark for many different reasons. It might be to express how they are feeling – for example, when they’re excited, frustrated, bored or scared. If a dog feels threatened, they may bark to tell somebody to stay away or leave.
Other times, dogs may bark because they want something in particular, such as their favourite toy. Dogs may also bark when they’re in distress, for example when they’re left alone.
If your dog is barking excessively or more than usual, you need to figure out the cause. There may be an underlying health issue – such as problems with your dog’s hearing – that could be causing the barking. If you suspect your dog’s hearing is suffering, or that they may have another health problem, speak to your vet.
If your vet doesn’t find anything wrong, they may refer you to a clinical animal behaviourist, who’ll be able to put a treatment plan together for you and your dog.
How to stop your dog barking excessively
Here are some things you can do to help stop your dog from barking too much.
- Prevent boredom – dogs are intelligent, active and social animals, so they need lots of exercise, things to do and company to keep them happy and healthy. If your dog is bored, they might spend more time barking. Make sure your dog has enough to do every day to stop them from getting bored.
- Get them into a good routine – your dog may be barking to communicate they want to play, or that they want food or attention. Make sure that you have a daily routine in place for your dog that includes meal times, play and exercise, at around the same time each day. A good routine can help your dog to know what and when activities are going to happen and may help stop them barking for activities at other times!
If your dog barks when left alone
If your dog is barking when you’re not around, they may be in distress. Separation-related behaviour, known as separation anxiety, can show itself in a number of ways, including barking. The good news is that there are things you can do to help, which would also help reduce the barking.
If your dog barks at visitors or passers-by
Some dogs bark at people passing by your house or garden. You can try preventing your dog from seeing anybody passing the house by reducing their access to windows or gardens.
It’s a good idea to have tasty treats and exciting toys to hand, as you can use these to distract your dog should they hear somebody. Start to feed or play with your dog once they’ve become quiet. It’s best to seek the help of a dog trainer or behaviour expert if your dog is behaving in this way – they can put a training plan in place to reduce the behaviour.
If you’re concerned about a barking dog
The occasional bark or ‘woof’ is usually not a problem for neighbours and others in the community, but when barking becomes disruptive, it’s often considered unacceptable and unpleasant to many people. If you’re concerned about a dog barking excessively near you, here’s what to do:
Training partner, cuddle companion and best friend: there are many reasons why we love our dogs. But what is the best way to show it? For Valentine’s Day, we will show you eight ways to express your love.
We like to kiss and hug a loved one. Sometimes chocolates also help to convey the message of love. However, you should not simply transfer these things to your dog. Some dogs feel constricted and trapped when you hug them. It is best to approach slowly and observe your dog’s signals.
In contrast, dogs naturally like treats. However, you should use them mainly as motivation and in dog training. Securing your dog’s love with treats alone is unhealthy in the long run – and fleeting: after all, within seconds anyone can steal your dog’s loyalty by spoiling him with treats.
It’s better to show your dog’s love with these tips:
Dogs communicate a lot through eye contact. When they look into your eyes for a long time, it’s a way of saying “I love you”. Conversely, you also trigger this feeling in dogs when you look lovingly into their eyes for a long time. This has even been scientifically proven.
According to the magazine “The Dog People”, researchers have found that friendly looks between humans and dogs release the “love hormone” oxytocin in both. But be careful: it makes a difference whether you look your dog lovingly or angrily in the eye.
Not sure if your affection is getting through to your dog? Then just watch his body language. Does he wag his tail, make eye contact or raise an eyebrow? Then your dog is showing you his love. Conversely, a tucked tail, wide eyes and constant licking of the lips are signs that your dog is uncomfortable.
Do you feel strange talking to your dog? There’s no reason for that: studies have shown that dogs understand the language of humans better than you think. They also found out that dogs like the high-pitched voice that many automatically fall into. The four-legged friends are particularly happy when they hear typical “dog words” like “treat”, “walk” or “fine”. The human voice has such a calming effect on dogs that some shelters read to stressed, shy, anxious or overexcited dogs to calm them down.
Our facial expressions tell pretty quickly how we are feeling – even to dogs. Scientific studies have shown this. By greeting your dog with a friendly, relaxed expression on your face, you show him that you’re not angry with him.
The herding and hunting instincts are still dormant in dogs. That’s why dogs love to play and move around. Also typical for a pack: relaxing together after work. A nap together on the sofa or in the garden in summer strengthens the bond between you and your dog. Dogs love physical closeness and therefore like to cuddle up to their owners.
Another sign of the need for closeness: Your dog leans against you. You can gently imitate this posture and show your dog that you like him.
Just like affectionate looks, touch releases oxytocin – in both humans and animals. A light massage, strokes and gentle brush strokes are therefore a real delight for your dog. Your dog loves gentle touches, especially on the ears, through which numerous nerves run.
Dogs love routine, so a daily walk coupled with a few training sessions is the perfect way to show your dog your love. The shared experiences build trust and a sense of togetherness – just like in a real pack.
Woof woof! Your dog may bark to alert you to danger or to just say hi. But constant barking can be a problem. Here’s how to keep the peace.
Dogs bark to communicate with each other and with their owners, but sometimes all that barking can get out of hand. Constant barking can fray a family’s nerves and create turmoil in a neighborhood.
But keep in mind that your dog is trying to tell you something by barking. Before you quiet him down, you will first need to figure out what he’s trying to say.
What’s Behind the Barking?
These are some of the reasons dogs bark:
- To protect their territory. Dogs guard their territory from people, other dogs, and animals. That territory includes your property, but it can also include other places where the dog has spent a lot of time.
- Because they sense danger. The dog could be reacting to an alarming situation.
- To communicate. Sometimes dogs bark to get attention from people.
- Out of frustration. Barking can result from becoming frustrated by a situation, such as being in a confined space or being unable to locate an owner or playmate.
- Because they’re anxious. A dog’s anxiety can be caused by separation from the dog’s owner.
- Because they’re in pain. Barking can communicate pain caused by injury or illness.
- To say hello. A friendly bark could be how a dog greets people or other dogs.
Tips to Get Your Dog to Stop Barking
There are a lot of stop-barking devices available on the market. The most commonly known are bark collars that deliver an electric shock, high-pitched squeal, or stinging spray of citronella mist whenever a pet dog barks. Other devices include ultrasonic emitters that are placed in a room and activated by barking and muzzles that keep the dog’s jaws held shut.
These devices may offer a short-term fix, but they do nothing to address the underlying cause of your dog’s barking. Eventually, the problem may surface through other behavioral problems, as your dog continues to try to communicate his need or problem to you. A dog prevented from barking caused by separation anxiety may instead take to destroying furniture or urinating indoors when his owner is away.
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The devices also can be inhumane. Any dog’s bark can set off a bark collar or ultrasonic device, meaning your dog may end up receiving punishment for another dog’s behavior. Also, a muzzle will keep a dog from being able to eat, drink, and cool off through panting.
For these reasons, an owner frustrated by his dog’s barking is better off using some simple tricks to head off the behavior or taking the time to train the dog out of the behavior. Try these tips:
- Offer distractions. Bored dogs will be less inclined to bark if they are given plenty of toys to play with. If your dog is barking due to outside noises, playing the TV or radio while you’re away can drown out those sounds. A TV or radio also can help soothe separation anxiety.
- Keep your dog active. A pooped pooch is less likely to overreact with a barking fit. Take your dog on regular walks or play fitness games like fetch or Frisbee.
- Work your dog’s brain. Obedience training, either in a class or at home, can improve your dog’s ability to discern threats. It also can lay the groundwork for other anti-barking solutions that require more intensive training.
- Desensitize your pet. If the barking fits are being caused by an outside stimulus, you can try to desensitize your dog. For example, ask friends to walk by your house while you work with your dog inside, encouraging your pet to be quiet.
- Teach the “quiet” command. Train your dog to respond to the word “quiet” by allowing three or four barks, then saying “quiet” in a calm, clear voice. When you say “quiet,” break the barking jag by holding his muzzle gently, dropping a loud object that distracts him or squirting him in the face with a spray bottle of water. In this instance, you could use a manually-controlled bark collar as a distraction method. Eventually your dog will learn that “quiet” means he should stop barking.
- Change up his routine. A dog barking compulsively or out of boredom might stop if you make some changes. If he is being kept in a backyard and barking there, bring the dog indoors and place him in a crate. If the dog is barking because he’s confined in a crate, try leaving him free in one room of your house.
- Teach her how to meet and greet. A dog that barks when greeting can be trained to meet people and other dogs more gently. Be sure to keep greetings at your front door very low-key and calm. Keep a toy near the door and encourage your dog to pick it up and hold it in his mouth before opening the door. On walks, distract your dog when passing other people or dogs by offering a tasty treat.
- Don’t reward barking. Above everything else, don’t inadvertently encourage barking through your own behavior. Don’t reward barking by giving the dog a treat after he has barked. Only treat when the dog has been quiet. Also, don’t encourage barking at outside noises by asking, “Who’s there?”
Training can be a lengthy process, but in the end you will improve your relationship with your dog and be better able to make sure his needs are met.
By knowing the signs that a dog may be dying you can prepare in advance to help ensure that your dog’s last days with you are full of love and light.
Posted February 01, 2022
Saying goodbye to your dog is one of the hardest things a pet owner has to do. We all want as much time as possible with our beloved pups and it can be difficult to know when to let them go.
Learning how to assess your dog’s quality of life can help you determine when it is time to say goodbye and help make sure you provide greater comfort before a pet passes away. However, before you make your final decision, talk to your veterinarian and look for these six symptoms that your dog’s journey could be coming to an end.
6 Signs a Dog May Be Dying
1. The Dog is in Pain and Discomfort
Unfortunately, pain and discomfort are common symptoms at the end of a dog’s life. 1 You may notice signs of pain, such as: 2
- Loss of mobility
- Reluctance to interact with family
Your dog may struggle to get comfortable and may be unable to settle down and rest. Some dogs may sleep more than usual or seek out new resting places for comfort, which they may then be reluctant to leave.
2. The Dog Has a Loss of Appetite
It is common for a dog to lose their appetite in their final days, particularly if they are experiencing nausea or pain. Even a general feeling of malaise can make your pup less inclined to get up and eat. 3 You may also notice that your dog seems to be losing weight rapidly, which can occur from not eating or from changes in metabolism due to certain disease conditions. 4 In some cases, your dog’s loss of appetite may be accompanied by other gastrointestinal symptoms, like vomiting and diarrhea.
3. The Dog is Showing Lack of Interest in Favorite Activities
As a dog’s health declines you may notice that they no longer show interest in their favorite activities. Some dogs may withdraw and stop interacting with their family, while others may become more clingy and seek out extra attention. You may also notice that your dog seems lethargic, depressed, or just not like themself.
4. Incontinence and Decreased Grooming
Some pets become incontinent at the end of their lives and lose control over their bladder and bowels. Others may be unable to get up to go outside to relieve themselves and may need some extra help from their owners or family members to stay clean. 5 Your dog’s coat may also look dull or unkempt due to decreased hygiene and grooming behavior.
5. The Dog Has a Loss of Mobility
Unlike a young puppy, many dogs may experience pain and stiffness in their senior years. This can be exacerbated as your dog grows weaker in his final days. They may struggle to keep up with daily routines or they may be unable to get up to participate in their usual activities. Many dogs need assistance from their owners during this time in order to access essential resources like food and water, taking medicine, or to make trips outside to relieve themselves. 6
6. There are More Bad Days Than Good Days
It can be tough to know when to say goodbye to your dog, especially if your dog’s symptoms come on gradually. Some pet owners find it helpful to monitor their dog’s quality of life by keeping a journal of their dog’s good days and bad days. When the bad days start to outnumber the good, it may be time to speak to your veterinarian about the right time to say goodbye. 6
Preparing to Say Goodbye to Your Dog
It is important to remember that while the symptoms above can be signs that a dog is dying, they can also be signs of treatable medical conditions. If you are concerned about your dog’s health or think your dog is dying, it is best to visit your veterinarian for an examination. This will also give you a chance to discuss end-of-life care for your beloved pet, if necessary.
Consider asking your veterinarian about your options for palliative care, which can help make your dog’s final days more comfortable. This also may be a good time to discuss the process of euthanasia with your vet and to determine whether this is the right choice for you and your pet at this time. Know that if euthanasia is needed, your veterinarian can provide that service, but also there are providers, such as Lap of Love, that can perform the service in your own home, and also handle aftercare needs.
Before you say goodbye to your furry family member, you may want to take some time to consider how you’d like to remember them. You may wish to consider creating a bucket list for your pet or revisit some of your pet’s favorite places and activities during their final days.
Consider whether you’d like to memorialize your pet in some way, such as by taking ink or clay imprints of their paws. Finally, you’ll need to consider how you’d like to handle your pet’s remains. You may choose to bury your pet or have them cremated. Your veterinarian can help you decide which option is the best fit for you and your family’s needs.
Saying Farewell to Your Dog
Pet loss is difficult, but knowing the signs that a dog may be dying can help ensure you’ll know when the time comes. Remember that these signs can occur with many health conditions, so it is important to have your dog evaluated by your veterinarian to determine the severity of your dog’s illness. By knowing the signs, you can prepare in advance to help ensure that your dog’s last days with you are full of love and light.
At CareCredit, we know that veterinary and pet care costs should be the last thing on your mind when saying goodbye to your pet. That’s why the CareCredit credit card can help you manage the costs of veterinary visits, and some providers may include costs of euthanasia and aftercare. Use our Acceptance Locator or download the CareCredit Mobile App to find a veterinarian near you who accepts the CareCredit credit card.
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One of the very first, if not THE very first thing you will train your puppy is to respond to their name!
Your puppy’s name helps establish initial communication between the two of you, gains their attention when you need to, and helps facilitate teaching your puppy obedience commands and coming to you when called.
Hi! My Name is ______
Whatever name you picked for your puppy, start using it from day one!
Puppies can learn their names quickly (most can pick it up within 1-3 days!) but generally, you’ll want to practice using their name regularly. A good way to start teaching your puppy their name is to use it to gain their attention by saying their name and rewarding them when they look at you!.
By creating a positive association for your puppy responding whenever you say their name, you’re reinforcing that behavior, establishing this good habit, and getting your puppy used to their new name!
Tip: Nicknames are cute but in those first few days, refrain from using anything other than your puppy’s proper name to avoid any confusion!
Use food as a motivator
Use food as a reinforcer and reward!
Food rewards and using a food lure work wonders to speed up the name-learning process! Not only are they excellent puppy motivators, but they also reward and reinforce the behaviors your want to see more of.
In the beginning, when you say your puppy’s name the first few times, they may just look at you out of curiosity. But if you say their name and give a quick reward when they look at you, it will help establish that this sound has a good — and delicious — outcome.
To practice, take your puppy to a spot in your home with minimal or no distractions. A harness and leash can be super helpful in this process too, so your pup doesn’t wander off! With your puppy in front of you, gain their attention by saying your puppy’s name clearly, then put a treat in front of their nose and guide that same piece of food up to your eyes (which will draw their eyes up to yours to establish eye contact). Next, say “Good!” when they look at you and reward them with the treat! Check out our video later in this blog for s step-by-step on how to do this!
We recommend our students’ parents to do training sessions like these at their mealtime, and use a portion of that food for training. Puppies love to work (especially for their food!) and it’s a great way to combine mental and physical activity, while you speed up the process of teaching them their name.
As they get better, you can start adding obedience commands to these training sessions to ensure they respond consistently to their given name when said out loud This can sound like, “Puppy, Sit. Good!” and then give them food reward for listening!
Tip: If your puppy isn’t that food-motivated, you can try using a higher value treat or their favorite toy instead!
Practice using your puppy’s name regularly
Repeat this name exercise daily for about three to five minutes a session. You can split up practice sessions by keeping some of their food on you and saying their name throughout the day anytime you are seeking to gain your puppy’s attention and rewarding them when they respond.
Shorter training sessions are better in the beginning as young puppies don’t have very long attention spans and can get tired and start tuning out.
New owners sometimes make the mistake of trying to get their puppy to learn too much too soon. And the same goes for learning their name! If you notice your pup’s attention starts to fade during the training session, switch it up and finish up with some playtime. Always end training with fun to keep your puppy wanting to do more of it and looking forward to the next time.
Once your puppy starts to look at you when you say their name, you can start practicing in other spots in your home and slowly adding more distractions.
Tip: Don’t repeat your puppy’s name over and over again. It will lose value, they’ll start to tune you out, and they won’t respond to it! (The same goes when saying verbal obedience commands!)
Did you ever want to say something to your dog? This app will allow you to translate your exact human words to dog language.
Simply use voice recognition or type your message using the keyboard. The app will convert your text input to “woofs” so your dog will understand exactly what you’re saying.
Woof, woof! (Try it now!)
App intended for entertainment purposes only. App does not guarantee the accuracy of the translations offered. No animals were harmed in the making of this app.
Bug fixes and performance improvements.
Ratings and Reviews
It does work a little😂🙂
So I thought this app would be fun for my dog named Rylee so I got the app and it did work a little so when I said do u want a treat I was by the door were we keep the dog treats so I could help a little I also called her name to help so I did it a couple times and finally she came up to me to get her treat is was so cute also I said do u want to go outside I played the barks over and over so when i was about to do it again she was right there at the door waiting for me to open it (but I didn’t because she went outside a few minutes before that)😂😂😂😂so it does work for some people it is fun too I love this app it’s so fun +funny and cute I recommend it it’s just so fun and cute🤪🤩but there is too much adds but good over all😂🙂
Good app but didn’t work for me
I love the idea of the app and how you choose what you want to say to your dog. Before this app I found another that you could only press buttons with little pictures on. Some of those pictures didn’t even make sense though, well, at least I couldn’t understand it.😄
When I first got this app,I obviously tried it on my dog but she didn’t respond or anything. I saw some reviews that said they would type sit and their dog would sit, so I tried that and my dog didn’t do anything. She would just tilt her head. So definitely only works on some dogs, not all. But I think my dog already REALLY understand me just talking to her normally so that may be why she doesn’t respond to the app, but who knows cause we got her only 5 months ago.😔
When I saw that you could change the sound of the dogs’ voice I clicked it to see what it sounded like and realized that you have to pay to get a different dog voice? Which I think is a little unnecessary, but okay. 😕
Overall I think it’s a good app to have if your dog responds to the voice, if they don’t then there really is no point to have it.👏👍
Do you know little puppies they don’t listen oh my God does that I literally went crazy with my free four-year-old dog she came to me when I said in the dog dog out Lucy come here girl and she didn’t like this is a winter but sometimes it doesn’t work but she still listens I mean yeah you can just download a different game but that is it’s a prank don’t really do that OK my dog is crazy so she never listens Lucy I called her with the dog out and I’m like complete silent and I’m like oh my God this this out it’s something so if you want it you can download it but I say you do because if you have a dog like puppy you might want to download it.
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Dog attacks are rare, but can happen. (Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images) This article is more than 2 years old.
A 9-year-old girl died this week when three dogs attacked her in an alley behind her house. Police say the owner of the dogs was arrested.
It’s a reminder that dog attacks do happen, and although rare, they can be fatal.
From 2005 to 2018, 471 Americans suffered death due to a dog bite injury, according to DogsBite.org, a national dog bite victims’ group.
The group found that 66% of those fatalities were caused by pit bulls. But Marjie Alonso, a professional dog trainer and executive director of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABCT), says one breed isn’t more aggressive than another.
She says one study found that golden retrievers were responsible for more bites on children than any other breed.
“We could then easily say, ‘Well, golden retrievers are dangerous,’ and that’s not true,” she says.
So what causes dogs to become aggressive?
“What we can observe is that dogs that are highly aroused in terms of excitation, in terms of prey drive [or] in terms of protection will then kind of ramp up and the switch just flips and that’s when dogs are really dangerous, especially in groups,” Alonso says.
She says dogs tend to feed off each other’s excitement. “I don’t know if you ever been to a concert and you see large groups of people lose their minds — that happens with dogs too,” she says.
Alonso says the first safety step is making sure you take preventive measures within your neighborhood.
“This is a community issue. Get to know your neighbors if you can. Talk to delivery people. See if there are places that they know that there are problematic dogs. Your animal control officer is your friend,” she says. “And then we should avoid things if we can, even if it’s not fair. If you can’t walk by that house because this dog is always barking and it bugs you, don’t walk by that house.”
If a dog is quickly approaching you, there’s two things you can do. First, Alonso suggests standing still, looking down and breaking eye contact — but only if you’re able to keep from screaming. Another method is standing your ground and walking directly toward the dog. She says this shows the canine that you’re nothing to chase and your presence is threatening to the advances.
If a dog is actively attacking you, then the main objective should be keeping yourself, your loved one or your pet alive. You might have to get physical or use a citronella spray against an aggressive dog in order to be safe. “Don’t worry about the other dog even though that’s very hard,” she says.
Below are International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants’ tips for what to do if you find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation with a dog.
Tips For Avoiding Dog Attacks
If an off-leash dog approaches you on a walk:
- Call out to the owner. “Come get your dog, mine is contagious!” often works.
- Remove visual stimulus, get something between you (umbrella, car, garbage pail, blanket, etc.).
- Try firmly telling the approaching dog a familiar cue, such as “sit” or “stay.”
- Toss a large handful of treats on top of their head to startle them. The bigger the “treat bomb,” the more time you have to walk away.
- If there is a dragging leash you can grab, loop the leash around an object like a fence or pole, and pull on the handle. Do not put your face near the dog’s face while doing so.
If a frightening off-leash dog approaches, do not:
- Flail limbs
- Make eye contact
- Jump up and down
If a frightening off-leash dog approaches, do:
- Stay as calm as you can.
- Use a firm voice. This isn’t to “assert dominance,” but to maintain as much control of yourself and the situation as possible, and to make any commands or cues you give the dog as understandable as possible.
- Stand or stay upright.
- Stay quiet and don’t scream.
- Get on top of something.
- Feed something to the dog by throwing the food away from yourself.
- Back into a corner or against a wall so dog cannot get behind you.
- If you have a stroller and can’t get away, yell at the dog, throw everything you have at him, from your shoes to toys to your diaper bag to distract them so you can get some space.
If a dog attacks:
- Keep your hands and arms in front of your body to protect them.
- Don’t put your hand near the fighting or attacking dogs’ mouths, or touch the dogs where they could easily turn around and bite you.
- Do not grab collars.
- If the dog bites you and isn’t letting go, move your arm or body part into the dog’s mouth, rather than trying to pull it out. This will prevent more damage to you through tearing.
- Keep the dog from shaking its head or your body if they do not release.
- Children should curl themselves into as tight a ball as possible and be as still as possible.
- As hard as it is, teach children to not squeal or cry if at all possible – that only increases the excitement of the attacking dog.
- If the very worst is happening, curl yourself over your child.
- If the dog attacks your dog, do not put any part of your body between the two dogs.
- Find objects to put in between the two dogs (chair, umbrella, garbage can lid, etc.).
- Picking up your small dog is likely to cause the attacking dog to jump up on you, potentially causing you harm.
- Not picking up your small dog is likely to increase the danger and harm to your dog. You’ll have to decide, given the situation, which is wiser in the moment.
- If you do pick up your dog, don’t swing them back and forth facing the attacking dog. Try to place your dog between a barrier of some kind and yourself. Lean into a wall or even toss your dog into a fenced area if need be. Be aware that the attacking dog might be able to jump that fence.
- Do not kick or punch the dog if at all possible (that might escalate in their arousal).
- Once the attack is over, immediately get yourself, your dog or your child away. Don’t turn around, try to get further control of the situation, or try to find the owner. Just go.
Marcelle Hutchins produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.
This segment aired on August 21, 2019.
Senior Editor, Here & Now
Peter O’Dowd has a hand in most parts of Here & Now — producing and overseeing segments, reporting stories and occasionally filling in as host. He came to Boston from KJZZ in Phoenix.
Amy Bender is a dog training expert and writer with over a decade of experience working professionally with dogs. She owns a dog training business and is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.
Dr. Anna O’Brien, DVM, is an accomplished veterinarian and award-winning writer with more than a decade of experience treating livestock, domestic animals, and exotic animals. She has won the Maxwell Medallion from the Dog Writers Association of America. Dr. O’Brien is part of The Spruce Pets’ veterinary review board.
The Spruce / Kevin Norris
Dogs growl as a way to communicate. Growling indicates pain, fear, possessiveness, aggression, or that a dog is having fun. You have to identify the reason a dog is growling to be able to interpret the vocalization and decide how to respond to the growl. Learn the different reasons a dog would growl so you know how to react appropriately, whether its to engage in play or address a stressor.
Why Do Dogs Growl?
Growling is one way your dog communicates with you. It growls to let you know that it’s afraid, in pain, or needs for you to back away from its possessions or territory. Often your first instinct is to run from a growling dog or to punish it for growling. Because growling can be the first sign of more serious aggression, it’s important to handle a growling dog appropriately.
Your dog is trying to tell you something when it growls. Growling is a sign of an underlying problem. Rather than teaching your dog not to growl, it’s vital that you determine the reason why the dog is growling and address that issue. Once the underlying problem has been dealt with, it’s likely the growling will be reduced or eliminated altogether.
Several situations can cause your dog to growl. If your dog is growling as a reaction to pain or illness, you may notice that it only growls when certain parts of its body are touched. The dog may also show other symptoms of illness or injury, such as decreased appetite, lethargy, weight loss, biting or licking specific areas of its body, or hair loss. The solution to the problem of a dog that growls because of pain or illness is to immediately call your veterinarian. The proper medical treatment should alleviate the pain, which should lessen or stop the growling.
If your dog typically growls at strangers, specific people, such as children or men, or when the dog is in an unfamiliar place, the growls are most likely due to fear. A dog may also growl in situations that trigger fears, such as during thunderstorms or fireworks displays. Some aggressive dogs may be ill and suffering from an anxiety disorder. If you can determine the cause of the fear, the natural course of action is to remove it (if possible) from the dog’s life. If determining the cause or removing the cause seems impossible, reach to a behavior specialist for help.
An example of this is the dog that growls at the mail carrier or delivery person or any other person that the dog thinks doesn’t belong on its property. If a dog growls as a consequence of territorial aggression, you may also notice it growling over other territories, like its place on the couch or its spot on the bed. The dog may growl whenever it senses that someone is encroaching on its perceived territory. This “someone” could be a stranger or even a family member. This type of behavior can be modified and is best determined and helped by a specialist.
This is also referred to as resource guarding. A dog that displays possession aggression may growl when someone approaches it while it’s eating, playing with certain toys, or chewing on a bone or rawhide. This reaction can be avoided with a training program that will help your dog understand appropriate reactions.
Some dogs naturally growl when they’re having a great time. This growling often occurs when two (or more) dogs are playing with one another or if the play is associated with tug toys. This is usually a harmless expression of feelings. It should be monitored closely, though, especially with puppies, since the growling behavior can quickly move toward aggression.
How to Stop Growling
As a dog owner, you probably get upset when your dog growls. Your first reaction may be to suppress the growling by scolding or punishing the dog. This is never a good idea. By teaching your dog that growling isn’t acceptable behavior, you’re taking away its ability to warn you that it may bite. You may have heard stories about dogs that bite with no warning. But, in many cases, this is because the owners trained their dogs not to give a warning growl first.
The key to getting a dog to stop growling is not to suppress the growls, but rather to deal with the underlying problem. Once the pain, fear, possession aggression, or territoriality has been dealt with, the dog will no longer need to growl.
Territoriality, possession aggression, and fear are serious behavior problems. Depending on the degree of the behavioral problem, the dog may respond well to a training program or may need a much more in-depth behavior modification program. A dog trainer or animal behaviorist can help you evaluate the dog, and determine the best course of action for dealing with these issues. As you work with this type of trainer, be as specific as possible as to what you think triggered the growling. The trainer will likely work with the dog to slowly condition it to accept the trigger and not growl in its presence.
While you’re working to determine the cause of the growling, don’t ignore it or it’s likely to get worse. Be careful around your dog until you figure out why it’s growling. Additionally, you may want to help your dog modify its behavior until the situation is under control. For example, if your dog always growls at the mail carrier, close the window shades and eliminate any sightlines while you work on the problem. If possible, eliminate triggers, avoid stressful situations, and caution others (both dogs and humans) to keep their distance in order to prevent a dog bite. For example, you may not want to introduce your dog to new dogs, bring it to a dog park, or host a loud party until you get help.
Let’s start by saying that dogs give the term “public displays of affection” new meaning and aren’t shy about it. Dogs are considered “man’s best friend”, or shall we say “leg’s best friend”. We all know that embarrassing red-faced feeling we have when you have house guests over and your dog takes a humping fancy to one of their legs. Although this can be viewed as a form of flattery, this situation can get out of control very quickly when your dog refuses to loosen his grip.
Instead he or she goes to town like the energizer bunny, that keeps going and going. Perhaps random passerbyers, couch pillows, your new furniture, and your child’s favorite stuffed animal has fallen victim to your dog’s out of control horny, humping, and annoying behavior. Watching your dog get personal with random strangers and household family heirlooms can be quite disturbing, but is not abnormal. So what do you do to curb this unsightly jaw dropping behavior? Unfortunately there is no such thing as Dog Humpers Anonymous. Instead of reaching for the nearest rolled up newspaper to tame your four legged humping friend here are some helpful tips to get your dog to dismount and calm down.
1. Just say “No” -Remember you are the alpha dog and pack leader. So don’t be shy and let your dog know who’s boss. A firm “NO” or “STOP” will make your dog aware that this behavior is not appropriate. In order for a verbal correction to work, your dog has to understand that you are the leader. You can also clap your hands to get your dog’s attention. Never hit your dog to curb bad behavior, this will only evoke fear and resentment towards you.
2. Spritz Away! Spray your dog with a spritz from a water bottle when he or she starts to exhibit humping and mounting behavior. For experienced dog humpers you may want to carry a spray bottle with you at all times. Having a spray bottle on hand is a gentler way of giving your dog a message that this is not proper pettiquette.
3. The Root of the Matter-Learn the causes for dog humping. Just keep in mind that dog humping and mounting is not always sexual in nature but can be to display dominance or admiration by males or females. Humping may have nothing to do with sex or dominance–it may simply be a form of play. Dogs ages 6 months to 2 years are the ones most likely to hump. If they get into the humping habit at that age, it’s much harder to break later on.
4. Re-focus Your Pup-Dog humping is an instinctual response. Change your dog’s focus and he or she will stop the behavior. Distract your dog in mid-hump with his favorite dog toys , a walk and exercise or other sort of playful redirection. If he likes a good game of fetch with a frisbee or ball, toss one across the room and see how he reacts.
5. Ignore & Give silent treatment- Dogs love attention so perhaps as simple as it may sound, ignoring the behavior may do the trick. Leave the room suddenly. Ignoring your dog’s performance will let him know that his humping is not gaining your approval. Your dog may stop humping if you stop paying attention to him.
6. Spay & Neuter Your Pet-Spaying and neutering not only helps control the pet population, but will slow down your dog’s urge to hump everything in sight. But spaying and neutering is no sure cure if your dog has firmly established the habit. Male dogs that hump may have increased testosterone levels. Studies have found that neutering stops humping in 60 percent of the cases.
7. Training Day! Enroll your dog in obedience training or what some may call doggie boot camp. Seek help and advice from an experienced trainer or canine behavioral specialist, who can train the dog to stop the humping behavior.
8. Exercise is key-Daily exercise helps release pent up aggression, energy, stress, and desires to hump. In most cases, humping results from stress or aggression, especially if the dog has contact with other canines. Take your dog out for at least one long, strenuous walk and play time each day. Set aside enough time for the dog to tire before you stop the exercise session.
9. Seek vet advice. In some cases, humping is caused by hormone imbalances that may indicate serious conditions, such as hypothyroidism. When in doubt, have your pooch checked out by your veterinarian.
Here are a few things to try, but we suggest contacting a professional dog trainer that can see your dog’s behavior in person and provide a customized plan.
First, bring extra yummy treats when you walk with them. These should be treats that they ONLY get when they see other dogs. As soon as you see the dog, start praising them lavishly and give them a treat. This will help them learn that dog equals treat. If dog equals treat, then there is no reason to bark and lunge. Keep treating them as long as they are calm and try to create enough distance between you and the other dog so they don’t react.
If your dog does react, calmly say “nope,” block them for a moment with your body, then turn and walk away from the other dog. This creates distance between your dog and the other dog and should help to calm your pup.
Try to stay as relaxed as possible when you see a dog or if your dog lunges. If you react when they do, you will only add stress into the situation.
Also, make sure the walks have structure. If your dog is allowed to pull on the leash, stop to sniff every five feet, and pee on all of the trees, then they will think that they are walking you. This means they won’t listen to you when they see another dog. Practice having them walk next to you on a loose leash. Then have them sit multiple times on a walk just because you asked them too. You can also change your walking speed or normal route. All of these things will help your dog learn that you are in control on a walk. If you are in control, then they need to listen when they see another dog.
If you aren’t already using one, a front load harness or head halter can give you more control on a walk, especially when your dog is excited.
Your dog may also need more time off leash! Consider doggie daycare or taking your dog to the dog park.
How do I get my two dogs, who walk well separately, to walk well together?
So you’ve got a dog barking non-stop in the neighbourhood.
Maybe your first instinct is to write an angry anonymous letter and leave it in the offending owner’s mailbox?
Perhaps you’ll just vent on the local community Facebook page, gain the sympathy of others but fail to address the owner of the problem at hand.
On Wednesday, the ABC Brisbane Facebook page asked its followers: “How do you deal with a neighbour when they’ve got an excessively barking dog?” after one Queensland woman shared the unnamed letter she received in her mailbox.
The woman, who wants to remain anonymous, said she wished she had more information to help her solve the apparent problem.
“I would have loved for them to leave their details or at least times of day when they were barking as I was completely unaware that they were doing it,” she said.
“It [the letter] just felt very rude.”
Noise complaints are an issue wherever you go — Brisbane City Council (BCC) receives on average more than 29 noise complaints each day, with nearly two-thirds of those complaints relating to animal noise.
In the past financial year 7,245 animal noise complaints were received, with the most common complaint relating to barking dogs.
We’ve done some digging around and come up with a handy guide on what to do if there’s a problem dog in your street, or what to do if you’ve been told your dog is disrupting the local area and you need help.
My neighbour’s dog won’t shut up — what do I do first?
Try talking to your neighbour first — face-to-face if you can.
Who knows, they may not even be aware of the problem. There may be a couple of reasons for that:
- the dog may only bark a lot when the owner is away
- the owner may not hear the barking from areas inside the house
- the owner may be a very sound sleeper and not be woken up when the dog barks
That angry note you’re thinking about writing might be the first they hear of it.
“Barking dogs negatively impact the wellbeing of your neighbours. However, this can often be resolved by having a friendly conversation with the owner as they may be unaware of the issue,” a BCC spokesman said.
Dog owners may not even be aware their four-legged friends are barking when they’re not around. ( Flickr: Heather Paul )
If you don’t want to chat to your neighbour about it, you can send them a (polite) letter.
BCC has a template to help you guide your correspondence with spaces to list the days and times and when it appears to happen.
Not in Brisbane? Check your local government website. They should have information on procedures to follow as well as information and fact sheets on dealing with barking dogs.
Once you’ve either had that chat with your neighbour or sent them a letter and they’ve (hopefully) agreed to do something about the barking, wait a few weeks to see if they have been successful in their efforts.
I spoke with the neighbour and nothing’s changed – what now?
Now’s the time to get the local council involved – you can call them or report it online.
They’ll need some basic information to get started.
A noise nuisance diary is a handy place to start.
You can use a template from the internet or just keep your own records — information your council will want will be the address where the dog resides, the dates and times they’re barking and for how long.
Check with your local council to see how long you should keep a record for.
Council have been contacted. Now what?
Hopefully, the owner of the dog will hear from council in a timely manner.
BCC say they will send out information about some possible causes of nuisance barking and provide some potential solutions.
“The dog owner will be asked to take action to eliminate the problem and contact council to discuss the matter,” its website says.
“Council and the neighbourhood must allow time for the owner to take action to address the nuisance barking.
“If further complaints are received, council officers will investigate.”
If the local council determines the dog is causing an “ongoing noise nuisance”, a fine may be issues.
In Brisbane that first fine is $252. Further fines can go all the way up to $630.75.
I’ve got a barking dog — what can I do about it?
The RSPCA are the experts here.
They say there are a number of reasons your dog may be barking, such as:
- territorial defence
- fear and anxiety
“In the first instance we recommend that you talk to your veterinarian who can provide advice and may refer you to an animal behaviourist (reward-based) who can help to determine the underlying cause of the barking and then develop a tailor-made humane treatment plan for your dog,” the RSPCA website says.
“You can also contact your local RSPCA for advice.”
Boredom can be one of the causes for excessive dog barking, the RSPCA says. ( Flickr: Virginia State Parks )
It said treatment can usually involve behavioural modification training.
“In some rare cases the use of veterinary medications in combination with behavioural modification may be required.
“Behaviour specialists tend to ask owners a lot of questions and may offer to come out to the house to observe your dog in its own environment in order to identify barking ‘triggers’. Triggers may include seeing or hearing a person walking past or the neighbours dog.”
Some simple tips to reduce excessive barking include:
- exercise—an active dog barks less when it gets regular exercise
- stimulation—a bored dog will bark to attract attention
- fence design—restrict your dog’s view to what’s going on outside the fence
Posted 4 Oct 2017 4 Oct 2017 Wed 4 Oct 2017 at 8:30pm , updated 5 Oct 2017 5 Oct 2017 Thu 5 Oct 2017 at 8:13pm
You put food on the kitchen counter and turn your back for a few minutes. Moments later, the food has vanished and your dog is standing next to the counter. He looks innocent enough, but he’s licking his lips. Has this scenario happened in your house? If so, it doesn’t take a detective to determine that you have a pooch who’s a counter surfer.
What is counter surfing?
It’s called counter surfing when your dog jumps up onto the kitchen counter and steals food. Smaller, more agile dogs may jump up with all four paws on the counter, while other dogs, those who are tall enough, prop just their front legs on the counter tops to reach any food left out.
Why does my dog counter surf?
Dogs counter surf because they have learned that kitchen counters are an easy source of yummy snacks. When a dog (or any animal, for that matter) behaves in a certain way and that behavior is rewarded or reinforced, he’s more likely to repeat that behavior in the future. Finding food on the counter when he jumps up is a great reward. Dogs are optimists and opportunists, so even if your dog has only found food on the counter once or twice, he will keep on jumping up to look for it.
How can I prevent my dog from getting on counters and tables?
The simplest solution, of course, is to manage the situation so that your dog doesn’t have access to food on the counters. Here are some tips:
- Never keep food on your counters. If your dog doesn’t find any food when he jumps up, he’s not getting rewarded for counter surfing.
- Wipe the counter tops thoroughly when you are done cooking so that there’s no delicious residue for the dog to lick up. Licking something tasty on a counter can be just as rewarding as finding a piece of food to snack on.
- Crate your dog during meal preparation. The process of cooking tends to involve food spread out on the counters, making it easy for your dog to snag a morsel when you’re not looking. If you don’t have a crate, you can use a baby gate in the doorway to restrict access to the kitchen or put the dog in another room while you cook.
The main objective here is to arrange your environment (the kitchen and counter tops) so that the dog does not have the opportunity for reinforcement (finding food), which makes him more likely to jump up on the counter in the future.
Steps to teach a dog not to get on the counter
To discourage counter surfing, there are a couple behaviors you can teach your dog. “Leave it” is a useful cue for many situations, not the least of which is managing counter surfing. To start training your dog to leave it, go somewhere quiet and less exciting to the dog than the kitchen. Here are the steps to follow:
- With a treat in both hands, place your hands behind your back.
- Make a fist with one hand and offer that hand to your dog, letting him sniff your fist.
- Say “Leave it” and wait until he is done sniffing. As soon as he’s done sniffing, say “Yes,” or click with a clicker, and offer him the treat from the other hand.
- Keep doing this until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand when you say “Leave it.” When this happens consistently, you are ready to move on to the next step.
- Start by leashing the dog and then toss a treat outside of his reach. Say “Leave it” and wait until he stops sniffing and pulling toward the treat.
- When he stops sniffing and pulling, say “Yes” (or click) and give him a treat that he likes even more than the one on the floor. Over time, by practicing this exercise, your dog should stop pulling as soon as you give the “Leave it” cue.
Make sure the treats with which you are rewarding him are especially tasty, not just plain old kibble. By doing so, you are teaching him that asking him to leave it doesn’t mean he won’t get anything. (On the contrary, he might get something more delicious instead.) When trying to dissuade a counter surfer, you need to help him learn that leaving the human food alone is more rewarding than counter surfing.
“Off” is another useful cue to teach your counter surfer. Here’s how to do it:
- When he jumps up onto the counter in search of food, put a dog treat in front of his nose. When you have his attention, use the treat as a lure to guide him off the counter and onto the floor, saying “Off.”
- When his feet hit the ground, say “Yes” (or click) and give him the treat.
- After practicing this exercise three or four times, say “Off” instead of placing a treat in front of his nose to lure him off. If he jumps off the counter, praise him, say “Yes” (or click) and give him a treat.
- If he doesn’t jump off, you might need to lure him off the counter with treats a few more times before he figures out that “Off” means that his paws should come off the counter and go back on the floor. Some dogs learn the cue quickly while others take a little more time. Your dog is an individual and will learn at his own pace.
You can also train your dog to go to his bed or special place while you cook or prepare food. This cue is useful when he is hanging out in the kitchen with you and starts getting a little too interested in the food, but your hands are busy so you can’t put him in the crate or relocate him. If you train him to go to his place on cue, he relocates himself. Here are the steps:
- Begin by tossing some treats onto a dog bed or mat and when your dog goes over to investigate, say “Yes” (or click).
- After you do this several times, your dog will probably start going over to his bed without any treats to prompt him. When he starts walking over to his bed, say whatever cue you want to use (for example, “Bed”) and then when he gets there, mark it with a “Yes” or click, and give him some treats.
Obviously, these strategies only work when you are there to give the cue. When you’re not going to be around, make sure you remove temptation either by blocking off access to the kitchen or by keeping the counters clear of food. Remember, dogs are opportunists, so it’s unfair to expect your dog to ignore that delicious loaf of bread you just baked and left cooling on the counter while you run to the grocery store.
Your dog gets you. I mean, he really gets you.
No, really — he actually does. So say scientists in Hungary, who have published a groundbreaking study that found dogs understand both the meaning of words and the intonation used to speak them. Put simply: Even if you use a very excited tone of voice to tell the dog he’s going to the vet, he’ll probably see through you and be bummed about going.
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It had already been established that dogs respond to human voices better than their wolf brethren, are able to match hundreds of objects to words and learn elements of grammar, and can be directed by human speech. But the new findings mean dogs are more like humans than was previously known: They process language using the same regions of the brain as people, according to the researchers, whose paper was published in Science.
This had already been demonstrated in studies that observed dogs, but no one had seen how it works inside the canine brain. To determine this, Attila Andics and colleagues at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest recruited 13 family dogs — mostly golden retrievers and border collies — and trained them to sit totally still for seven minutes in an fMRI scanner that measured their brain activity. (The pups were not restrained, and they “could leave the scanner at any time,” the authors assured.)
A female trainer familiar to the dogs then spoke words of praise that all their owners said they used — “that’s it,” “clever,” and “well done” — and neutral, common words such as “yet” and “if,” which the researchers believed were meaningless to the animals. Each dog heard each word in both a neutral tone and a happy, atta-boy tone.
This is what dog brain activity hearing human speech looks like. The yellow and red areas are a dog’s auditory regions responding to words. The green area is the dog’s “reward center” which is activated when listening to praise words spoken in a praising tone. (Video: Anna Gabor, MRIcron)
Using the brain activity images, the researchers saw that the dogs processed the familiar words regardless of intonation, and they did so using the left hemisphere, just like humans. Tone, or the emotion behind the word, on the other hand, was analyzed in the auditory regions of the right hemisphere — just as it is in people, the study said.
The first study to investigate how dog brains process speech shows that dogs care about both what humans say and how we say it. (Video: Family Dog Project)
In an e-mail, co-author Tamás Faragó acknowledged that the left hemisphere’s response to praise words didn’t prove the dogs were comprehending meaning and not simply reacting to familiarity. But, he said, it’s safe to assume the dogs hear the neutral words in daily human conversation as often as they hear the praise words, “so the main difference will be not familiarity, but whether the word is addressed to the dog or not.” In other words, whether it has meaning for the pooch.
If your dog has been barking when you say no to it, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you a number of possible causes and what you can do to get it to stop.
So, why does my dog bark when I say no? Reasons why your dog barks when you say no are that the behavior often gets rewarded, it thinks that you’re being aggressive or it’s reacting to your emotions.
There are actually a number of reasons why your dog might be doing it and it could be due to a combination of reasons. However, there are some things you can consider when figuring out the main cause and there are a number of things you can do about it.
Why your dog barks when you say no
Below are common reasons why dogs do it and what would make them more likely to be the main reason.
It has been rewarded in the past
The reason why it does it might be that it has been getting rewards for doing it. If you tend to give it things such as treats, toys or other rewards, when it barks, it will likely do it more in order to get more rewards.
Instead, it would help to reward it when it is behaving the way you want, to avoid rewarding it when it does bark and to be consistent when training it.
It thinks you’re being aggressive
It could be the case that it does it because it thinks that you are being aggressive. This would be more likely if you say no by shouting and showing aggressive body language by doing things such as standing over it, staring at it and pointing. Instead, it would help to be calm when interacting with it and to train it to behave the way you want with the use of positive reinforcement training.
It’s reacting to your emotions
Dogs tend to be very aware of their owner’s emotions and it could be the case that it barks because it is reacting to your own emotions. This would be more likely if you tend to say no to it in an emotional way that you normally don’t portray. Again, it would help to be calm with it and to train it consistently.
It is not used to you saying no
The reason why it does it might also be that it is used to getting what it wants and it is not expecting you to say no. In order to stop this, it is important to give it training consistently and not to back down when you do say no so that it does not learn that barking will get it what it wants.
Ineffective training methods
It might also be the case that the training methods that you used were either not effective or not appropriate. If you trained it in an environment with lots of distractions it might not have been fully paying attention to you, it could be the case that you were command nagging by telling it to do things that it has not yet learned or it might not have had any incentives to listen to you.
Generally, the training method I recommend is positive reinforcement training which is where you encourage it to behave a certain way by rewarding it when it shows signs of behaving that way. It would also help to start by training it to do easy things and to slowly build up to getting it to do more challenging things.
Things to consider
Below are some things to consider when figuring out why your dog has been doing it.
What else happened when your dog first started barking at you saying no
If it did not always bark when you say no, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started.
If it started doing it suddenly, it could be because you started saying no to things that it normally is allowed to do or get. In this case, it would help to be consistent and it should eventually learn that it can no longer get what it wants.
What is different when your dog does not bark when you say no
It would also help to consider what is different when it does not bark since the timing might have something to do with it.
For example, if it only does it when it has not gotten exercise, it might be because it is frustrated that it has not been able to get exercise yet.
How to get your dog to stop barking when you say no
Below are some things you can do in order to get your dog to stop barking when you say no.
Avoid rewarding it for barking
As mentioned above, it might be the case that it has learned that it gets what it wants if it barks and makes a fuss. It is important to avoid rewarding the behavior and to wait for it to be calm before rewarding it. By doing so, it should learn that barking does not result in it getting what it wants.
Positive reinforcement training
It would also help to give it positive reinforcement training by starting with the basics in an environment without too many distractions and to build up from there.
Avoid punishing it
It would also help to avoid punishing it for saying no. If you punish it, you will actually be rewarding it since it is a form of attention and it could result in it learning to bark more. Instead, it would help to ignore it, if possible, and to give it positive reinforcement training.
Don’t be too emotional
When interacting with it, it would help to be calm and to not get too emotional since it will likely react to your emotions.
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Dog trainer Kathy Santo explains how to handle a dog that constantly barks whenever you’re on the phone.
Whenever I answer the phone, my dog starts to bark. He refuses to stop until I hang up and play with him. I bought a cordless phone, but he just follows me around. Help!
Dogs are extremely intelligent — illustrated by the fact that they can safely lead blind people through city traffic — so it’s not a stretch to believe that yours could figure out that if he barks at you long enough while you’re on the phone, you’ll reward him with attention. This phenomenon is called a conditioned response. When done correctly, it is the system we trainers use to create desired behaviors, like “sit” and “come.” Done incorrectly, you create undesired behavior — think a dog who barks while you’re on the phone. I know, you’re pulling your hair out because you’re saying to yourself, “What else could I do but hang up and give him attention? He wouldn’t stop barking unless I did.” In this case, as in most cases, thinking like a dog will serve you well. First step is to use (or teach) him “Down” and “Wait” commands. If you’re not confident that he can perform this maneuver, or if he’s never been taught, go back over the steps until the command is airtight. Next, pick up the phone that you normally use and pretend to be answering it. Some dogs won’t start their performance unless the phone actually rings, so you may need to use your cell phone to call your house line for the show to begin. Have a lively conversation with no one, and the minute your dog begins barking, go to him and calmly tell him to “Down” and “Wait.” Be prepared for him to resist or to pop out of it immediately, but hang in there and make it happen. Then continue your conversation. If he pops up, go to him and make him lie down again. Continue talking. At random moments, reward him with an extra-special treat while you talk. It’s important that you reward his silence and his staying down while you’re doing the thing that initially caused the barking to occur. Eventually, your dog will have a canine epiphany — he’ll see that it pays to be quiet and his barking doesn’t have the same effect that it used to have.
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