This section is where we address behavioral questions that you, our customers, have asked us regarding issues that you've had with your dogs.  The topics have ranged from chewing, biting, housetraining, walking, and barking. We sorted through some of the most common questions and our colleague, Susan Greenbaum from Barking Hills Country Club, has thoughtfully responded.

We hope that these are helpful!

Q: My dog is an Aussie, and although she doesn't bark a lot, she goes crazy with the doorbell, or when my children run up the stairs.
Q:  My Schnauzer is a female rescue dog and is very protective of her forever home...if I let her out in the yard, she cannot resist obsessive barking at people on the street, bikes, men with hats...other dogs make her froth at the mouth at the gate...UPS, Post man, etc. My neighbors hate us.

A: We get lots of questions about barking. Dogs bark for different reasons and, with few exceptions like Basenjis, all dogs bark. The type of barking, described in the questions above, is alert barking. We can't fairly ask dogs to never bark but we can have control over how much barking we will permit. Barking is yelling, if you're a dog. And some dogs are noisier than others - think of a bunch of nine year old children on a playground. Some play quietly and others seem to scream all the time! Excessive barking is a problem many people live with.  
There are several things you can do with any behavior your dog exhibits and for barking we're going to limit the behavior. While the dog is permitted to bark we are going to install a cue to stop the barking. Dogs are supposed to alert the leader when a change happens in the environment. We are going to teach the dog that once he or she alerts the leader, by alert barking, the dog is off duty and doesn't need to continue to alert or attempt to control the environment.

One barking dog
A six foot leash
A plain buckle or martingale collar
Lots of high value treats (cheese, chicken, liver and so on)
A small, travel size, spray bottle filled with water
Some cooperative family and friends
STEP ONE: Put a plain or martingale collar and six foot leash on your dog. This collar should not be a slip or pinch collar. You can use a body harness if it fits your dog securely.  Please don't use a head halter to do this training. If indoors, you may let the leash drag on the ground and use it only if needed but remember to never leave a leash on an unattended dog.
STEP TWO: Arrange for a "barking situation." This can be running kids, the doorbell, bicycles, or any other stimulus which starts your dog barking.

STEP THREE: Once your dog starts barking say "Thank you! That's enough." Use a calm voice - otherwise you're yelling back!
STEP FOUR: If your dog pauses in the barking, even for just a second, get excited and remove the dog from the environment. Say "Yea!" or "Yippee" and RUN the dog to another room or location and give the dog several treats. By changing location you should have the opportunity to give several treats and lots of praise to a quiet dog.

If your dog does not pause in the barking when you say "Thank you!  That's enough." ...
Use your spray bottle and spray the dog in the mouth one time as a reminder to stop barking. When the dog pauses, see the step above.
If your dog still does not pause in the barking ...
Fill the spray bottle with ¼ mouthwash, the yellow kind works best, and fill the rest with water and repeat the steps above.
If your dog still does not pause in the barking ...
Use the spray bottle with ¼ mouthwash and repeat the steps above using your leash to remove the dog from the environment.

STEP FIVE: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. With practice your dog should respond promptly and look to you to run to the next place to receive the reward.  
STEP SIX: Once your dog responds promptly to "Thank you! That's enough." you can stand still and reward the dog. If your dog immediately starts barking again; back up one step and remove the dog from the environment and reward and praise. Stay at this step an additional week or two before trying to stand still again.

Some Things to Remember

Dogs bark for lots of different reasons and this technique is used for alert barking only. This training is NOT for reactive dogs. Dogs that are reactive to other dogs and people require a very different approach because that behavior is usually fear based. Fear based behaviors are dealt with differently. Please consult a trainer for help dealing with dog/people reactivity.
The bottle isn't a threat; it's a reminder
Please don't pull out the spray bottle and not use it. The bottle isn't a threat; it is used as a reminder. Otherwise, your dog will look to see if you have the spray bottle and, if the bottle isn't present, will resume barking.
Spray one time only
Please remember to spray one time only. If plain water doesn't work then you will need the ¼ mouthwash / ¾ water mixture.

What's in a pause?
Please remember the dog only has to pause for a moment in order for you to get excited and run the dog to another environment in order to feed and praise him or her.
Cue, move, reward
It is very important that the cue "Thank you!  That's enough." is immediately followed by a change of location and high value reward until the dog is well practiced in the new behavior.
If you are having a great deal of trouble getting your dog under control please consult with a trainer who can help you with other leadership exercises. These exercises will help you be viewed as the person responsible for food, shelter and safety and will help your dog be willing to alert you by barking and then relax as you take over controlling the environment.

How Long Will it Take?

Changing a habit takes time and, depending on how long your dog has been "practicing" the barking behavior, it may take quite a few repetitions. You may find your dog does very well in the house in just a few days but takes longer in the yard. Or maybe your dog does great when the doorbell rings but still needs more work when the kids are running - all of this is normal. If you are 100% consistent (and who is?!) and practice every day, you will have much more control in one to three weeks; which isn't too bad. Remember, your dog has been barking a lot longer than that!

Keep in mind, your dog is SUPPOSED to alert you to changes in the environment. He or she is just doing the job of a pack member. That "Thank you!" is real. Thanks for letting me know about the car in the driveway, the doorbell or the bicycle. I'll take it from here.

And thanks for sharing your question and let us know how you are doing.

Train your dog - enjoy your dog!

Copyright © Susan D. Greenbaum

Check out some of the other topics that we've addressed:

"Car Travel"
"Rawhide: Friend or Foe?"
"Coming when called"
"Gracie pulls constantly on her leash..."
"My husband and I rescued a pitbull..."
"I am trying to get my dog from jumping on people..."