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It’s patio season at Casa de Kolchak.
It’s hot. Really hot. Here in BC, we’re in week three of a heat wave. We’re spending a lot of time out on our deck. We’ve made ourselves a cozy little space out there – small, but just perfect for the dogs and I.
Well, almost perfect. Perfect, except the barking.
If you’ve been hanging around Casa de Kolchak a while, you know that sweet, fluffy damaged Fe has some anxiety issues. We’ve talked about how we addressed Fe’s leash anxiety, how we dealt with his noise anxiety in the house and how we overcame his bad habit of barking at the door. Despite the fact that he is totally cool with noise in the house these days, turns out that noise out on the deck is still totally a trigger for his high pitched, insistent bark.
I know I’m not the only one. Judging by the number of pups we hear on our walk, dogs barking at people outside is a dog training epidemic.
On our walk tonight we went 1.5 miles and we were barked at 12 times. Twelve. A mile and a half isn’t very far! Constant dog barking isn’t pleasant to listen to and I want to be a good apartment neighbour. The problem is that I’ve always struggled with barking outside. Whether we’re on the deck at home, the patio at the lake or hanging out in the yard, my gut reaction is always to shout HUSH or KNOCK IT OFF. Um, talk about an ineffective strategy! All your dog hears when you shout in reaction to his barking is you joining in!
Barking is rarely the problem, it’s actually the symptom of a problem. The real problem is that your dog is anxious about unfamiliar sounds and the presence of strangers. You can sometimes tell that your dog is stressed, as they will show signs like yawning, licking their chops, sudden scratching or biting or shaking. Luckily, we have a secret weapon to help combat dog barking outside.
Enter the Treat & Train.
Have you heard of it? The Treat & Train is a treat dispenser that works on a remote, which means you can trigger it to from a distance. I kind of love that Petsafe has taken a technology I don’t like and would never use with my pets (shock collars) and turned it into a positive reinforcement based training tool that actually works to help curb dog barking outdoors.
So, how do you set the Treat & Train up to help your dog stop barking?
- Set Up the Treat & Train in the noisiest area in your yard/deck.
You want to chose the area your dog usually runs to when they are triggered. For Felix, this is the corner of our deck above the visitor parking area.
- Fill the dispenser with high value treats.
Choose something your dog loves and that they will really work for.
- Teach your dog that the beep means treats.
Press the remote button a few times and make sure your dog finds the treats. When they head to the Treat & Train every time they hear the beep, you’re ready to start training.
- Listen for voices or people approaching.
Ideally, you want to trigger the Treat & Train to dispense treats BEFORE your dog starts reacting, but that won’t always be possible. Press the remote as soon as you can.
- The beep and the treats should distract your dog and interrupt the barking cycle.
Make sure you offer lots of praise when they stop barking and then call them back to you for more positive reinforcement, like a quick game of tug of war, a snuggle or another treat – whatever works with your dog.
- Once your dog is consistently being quiet at the sound of the beep, introduce a command, such as “hush” or “quiet”.
Or, if you’re me, recognize your own limitations and choose the ever classic “cram it”.
- Over time, phase out the beep/treat. As your dog becomes more confident and knows the command well, you can offer the treats less and less often.
While our solution works best in a smaller space, like a deck or patio, I can absolutely see it working in a larger space as well, though it may take more patience and practice to really stick. With Felix, it took us about two weeks of practice to get him good and calm out there. It’s not flawless. Every now and then another dog will go on a barking spree and Felix will react, but it’s short and he can be called off with his command. You can actually see a change in him out there – calm, relaxed and at ease. I love seeing him conquering his fears.
How do you help prevent dog barking outdoors?
Do you have any tips or tricks to share?
This post is a part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop. Join Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days in sharing positive pet training stories, encouragement, challenges and triumphs.