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Victoria Stilwell: How to Deal with Out-of-Control Barking
You have questions, she has answers

You’ve no doubt seen Victoria Stilwell in action on It’s Me or the Dog, where, using positive reinforcement, she shows wayward pups and their sometimes equally wayward guardians how to get along. Now, Victoria joins our roster of training experts in offering sound and practical advice on a variety of, shall we say, behavior faux pas. Please join us in welcoming Victoria to The Bark.

 

Q: My dog’s barking is driving me (and my neighbors) crazy. He’s a healthy, two-year-old Sheltie mix, and I’ve been told that it’s impossible to train him not to bark—that I should have him surgically debarked, something I find completely appalling. Please tell me there’s a way to teach my dog to control his noisy self.

A: Dogs who bark excessively can cause big problems for owners, but even though it may seem completely out of control, this behavior can be modified to a bearable level. Sometimes barking dogs can cause such distress that people resort to having the dog’s vocal chords surgically removed, but I’m glad that you find that idea appalling, because most trainers and veterinarians would advise against taking such a drastic measure. Debarking can cause immense anxiety, as it takes away an important part of the dog’s ability to communicate. I do recommend, however, that you take your dog to the veterinarian for a thorough medical check up, since any extreme behavior can be exacerbated by a medical condition. 

 

Shelties are working dogs and are known to be vocal. These days, most dogs who were once bred to do a certain job find domestic life boring, and barking relieves that boredom. If this is the case, increased exercise and mental stimulation will refocus your dog’s mind onto something more positive and help tire him out.

 

Dogs bark for many reasons—to get attention, as a warning, in response to other barking dogs, out of anxiety or when excited—and it is important to identify the triggers before training.

 

If your Sheltie barks to get attention, don’t reward his demands. Telling your dog off is inadvertently rewarding him for barking even if the communication is negative. In this case, it is best to ignore the barking, wait for five seconds of quiet and then reward him with attention. This way, the dog learns that he gets nothing from you when he barks but gets everything when he’s quiet.

 

A dog who barks when excited (i.e., before going for a walk or being fed) is harder to work with because an owner’s pre-departure or pre-food cues are usually highly ritualized. Again, do not reward your dog with the things he wants until he is calm. For example, if the barking happens as soon as you go for the leash, drop the leash and sit down. Keep repeating this until your dog is quiet. If you successfully attach the leash but he barks as soon as he gets outside, immediately go back inside. This technique requires patience, but if you are diligent, your dog will quickly learn that quiet equals a walk.& Dogs who suffer anxiety when left alone will often bark a lot during the first 30 minutes after departure, while others continue until their person comes home. If this is the case, you must get a trainer in to help, as separation anxiety can be a very difficult behavior to modify.

 

Shelties tend to be particularly sound-sensitive, responding to noises that the human ear cannot hear. Also, because they were bred for herding, some Shelties have a high chase and/or prey drive and are easily stimulated by fast-moving objects such as squirrels or birds. If your dog barks excitedly in the back yard, for example, immediately take him back into the house and only allow him out again when he is quiet. Keep repeating if necessary and never leave him in the back yard unattended. If your Sheltie reacts and barks at other dogs or people in or outside of the home, it might be because he hasn’t received adequate socialization and feels uncomfortable. In this case, he needs to go on a desensitization program so he can gain the confidence he needs to cope in a social situation.

 

As you can see, there are many reasons why dogs bark, but please don’t listen to those who say that extreme barking can’t be modified, because there are lots of ways to reduce what is a very normal but sometimes annoying behavior.

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 58: Feb/Mar 2010
Victoria Stilwell, star of Animal Planet's popular "It's Me or the Dog," is the author of two books and active with international rescue groups. positively.com

 Photos: Leesia Teh, Leesia Teh Photography

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Sara | February 17 2010 |

can you tell me how to stop a dog from pulling? i have a lab/border collie mix named cheyanne who's almost an angel until it's walk time. she goes insane when she sees another dog or person or car. (thats the only disadvantage about loving the car) i try to turn her around when she pulls, but cheyanne is completely happy with that and resumes her pulling in the other direction. I've tried vocal distractions, too. sometimes, we have to walk blocks in the opposite direction before she chills out enough to head back home when we see another dog in the street. any suggestions? we REALLY need your help!!!

Submitted by Erin | February 22 2010 |

Sara, obviously this is no answer to the root of the problem, but something that at least would make walking easier for you might be a gentle leader harness (gentle walker, they might be called?) or the harnesses that Victoria uses on her show (though I haven't figured what brand they are yet, when the dog pulls it feels like their front legs are going a bit up in the air.) At least you'll have a little more control and be able to keep Cheyanne safe.

Good question though - does Victoria actually read comments here and reply to them?

Submitted by Cindy | April 21 2010 |

Sara, your problem is two problems: 1. pulling on the leash 2. over-reactive to other dogs and movements

1. Go to YouTube and search for videos on teaching "Loose Leash Walking." There are quite a few. Practice it at home, alot, then "take it on the road," to not very distracting places, then build up to where your dog will walk with the leash hanging in a loop, not stretched tight between you.

2. There is a book, dvd and protocol called "Control Unleashed" by Leslie McDevitt. It is just for this "reactivity" problem. You teach the dog it's more rewarding to pay attention to you than the distractions. You teach them another dog is a cue to look at you. It can be very useful and very powerful.

Submitted by laurie | June 30 2011 |

Have you tried clicker / treat training in conjunction with turning in the other direction ? Dogs love treats for good behavior and work very well with clickers. Walk the dog in the other direction until calm. When calm, click and treat. Do this SEVERAL times. The dog will begin better behavior closer and closer to the car; you won't have to walk so far away. DO NOT click and treat until you get calm behavior. Let me know how it goes.

laurie

Submitted by laurie | June 30 2011 |

Hi.... I responded a moment ago. Remembered an episode which might help . Same idea ... click / treat: walk back to the door as if you were going back inside the house. Click/ treat when dog is calm for 5 seconds. Walk back to the car. Continue until the dog is calm at the car for 5 seconds... then click/ treat before alowing inside the car. Then click/ treat inside. *** Please have a doggie harness that clicks to seat belt inside the car. Click/ treat when secure inside the car.

Laurie

**I think this will be a faster and more beneficial approach for both you and the dog

Submitted by stacey | March 1 2014 |

Id use a controll head collar works fab with my dog weimarana as he used to pull alot x :-)

Submitted by Donna | June 29 2014 |

Walk your dog with 2 leads 1 on the collar and the second one attach to collar wrap the lead around the belly area and guide the dog with the first lead second one is the one you will correct the dog with as the dog pulls you take the second lead and pull with Little pressure for correction. A few times of feeling the pressure on the belly area the dog should stop pulling. Hope this works for you.let me know if I can help you or if it works.
Donna

Submitted by Lisa Wogan | February 23 2010 |

Thanks for your comments. Victoria will be reading all the comments posted for her on TheBark.com, but because of her busy schedule she will not be able to reply. That said, it is possible she may address reader questions in a future Bark column.

Submitted by Jay | March 28 2010 |

Recently I started watching Victoria Stilwell's show. I like her common sense approach to dealing with mis-behaved dogs. Barking, can be a serious issue for dog owners and the neighbors. I too would much rather see someone follow the sound advice offered rather than remove the voice box of a vocal dog.

Submitted by Leslie | April 17 2010 |

Stillwell's advice for stopping barking does work....it certainly helped me with one of my Bostons who barked at (to me) unknown sounds. Bringing him inside when he did that did alter his behavior. The only hitch was me being consistent with the training.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 20 2010 |

My sister in law has 4 small dogs, 2 poodles and 2 chihuahas. When someone enters the home, knocks on the door etc. They go crazy! My sister in laws solution is to pick the dogs up and carry them, tell them to shut up, spank on the butt. If they are let go to continue they will get nippy. How can I get through to my sister in law that this method of training is not working and give her some better ways of training her dogs?

Submitted by Anonymous | August 22 2011 |

A good way i have found to stop my dogs getting exitable when someone knocks on the door is to door train them, this incudes asking the dogs to wait when the door is opened and when someone walks in untill released, it takes a lot of patience but is so worth it! If the dogs are biting/nipping people it proberly means they are a little uneasy about guests, maybe even scared so a dog's natural way is to get defensive and hitting the dog can only make that sort of responce get worse, because they will feel even more under threat. The dogs have proberly now learned that when people come into the house they end up getting smacked, this imediatly gives the dog a negative association with the guest causeing a more intence sence of un-ease around new people in the house. instead of this urge your sister in law to get the dogs to have a more positive experience around guests in the house this could be done buy the guest haveing the dogs faveriout treat or toy and just throwing it on the ground otherwise ignoring the dog. this makes the dog realise that guests are no threat because they do not interact with the dogs puting the dogs under pressure to greet guests; and the dog gets something it loves when a guest comes in the house!
If the dogs still feel the need to nip or snap just take them out of the situation into another part of the house.
I think over all just encourage your sister in law to make the dogs feel happy around guests other than stressed and un-easy.
I hope this helps and i hope the dogs start to feel happier and behave better with guests.

Submitted by fiona leader | October 21 2013 |

HI,my name is fiona.and i have a 4year old chauchaua dog,he has always barked at guests coming in my house ans people knocking the door,but he seem's to be getting worse now,he chases and barkes and tries to nip them and us when we go to the toilet,it has got so bad and to a stage now that we dont know what to do,we love him so much but just cannot cope with it much more.please advice me to how you have got on with your dogs.many thanks.

Submitted by Debbie | April 6 2011 |

My dogs are making absolutely crazy ihave 3 dogs I have one that is 13 he well start barking about one in the afternoon and well not stop until my husband walks through the door please please help me. If I don't get any help I'm going to run away from home. Oh he is a weeny dog

Submitted by Anonymous | August 22 2011 |

Debbie I hope this may help

He could be suffereing from seperation anxiety in which case try and use a Stilwell technique by getting you or your husband preferably both to leave the house in different ways breacking the usual leaving pattern you or your husband going out of the house.
If it is not anxiety based and it is only at one in the afternoon it starts your dog has proberly learned that if he barks long enough your husband will come back to him as he wants to try and break the pattern take it on a walk at one in the afternoon to take him mind off barking hopefully after a walk he will be more tired less likely to bark. if this does not work after a few trys try and take him on a walk just before your husband gets home. if when he gets back from his walk and your husband is back home your dog will realise your husband gets back home anyway and he does not have to bark to get him back he can do other things like go on a walk or play with a ball.
I think it sounds like the dog needs something else more stimulating to focus on and i think that breaking the pattern of behaviour is proberly key
I hope this helps i am not an expert but i hope my understnading helps in some way. Good luck

Submitted by Chris | June 16 2011 |

Re "debarking" - The usual procedure is to take a snippet from each vocal cord just as a biopsy would be performed. It does not "take away their voice" - it decreases the volume - it sounds like a dog barking far away. Thus, when your dog is barking in your house, your neighbor will not will not be bothered. The dog can still communicate. You can hear them bark, whine and growl, and so can other dogs - just observe the reaction of one dog to a growling "debarked" dog. I have owned and do own both "debarked" and dogs who haven't been. The ones I have "debarked" I have done out of consideration of my neighbors in the urban environment I live in. Yes, just like any surgical procedure, no matter how simple it is, there are still risks, just as there are surgical risks (greater) when you spay or neuter your pet. There are barking problems that are easily solved, such as the attention getters or bored dogs. Take the time to do training such as tricks with your dog every day and your dog will be happier and calmer. Some dogs bark for recreation, and that is big problem. Barking is self reinforcing. What reinforcer are you going to find that is more rewarding than an intrinsic reinforcer? I challenge you to solve the excitement barking problem some dogs have for going on the walk (amongst other instances) - with the 'solution' for training the dog not to do that, urban apartment dwellers would never get their dog outside for the potty walk (and don't forget to scoop the poop!). Quit passing along the myth that "debarking" takes their ability to communicate away! Yes, you can have the surgery done where the voice box is removed, but that, if not medically necessary, does take away the voice and is cruel. Again, the normal and usual "debarking" surgery is similar to taking a biopsy of the vocal cords, and results in decreasing the decibel level.

Submitted by Anonymous | August 12 2011 |

I've had biopsies, and they're painful. Why the hell would you put a dog through that kind of pain just because you're too lazy to train properly?? That's disgusting. You have serious problems.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 9 2011 |

interesting though, that you have had painful biopsies and you're still alive, healthy and not in pain right now. I scraped my knees up pretty badly learning to ride a bike, but I wanted to learn somehow and knowing how much that hurt doesn't mean I wouldn't do it again. Beating your dog because you're ignorant is different from trying to be a responsible dog loving person living in a city. I love Victoria and her methods, but lets be realistic: the consistency and time required for success are not always realistic. I've been using her methods for three years to train my schnauzer and now the only person who can walk her without her going barking mad is me. This does not help me or save me embarrassment when I have to ask a neighbor to watch her or my husband to walk her. And it still requires a lot of work on my part to be effective three years later (god forbid I leave the house without treats) because every time someone other than me walks her it sets back my training again.

Submitted by Laura | December 29 2011 |

The risk of complications is very real; I've seen them happen. So out of consideration for the readers (protecting them from reading a justification for a surgery that can cause severe lifetime medical issues and death), it's okay to cut your fingers off then, right? Since we're so worried about being considerate?

Submitted by onyxpony | June 30 2013 |

If you live in an urban area and are concerned for your neighbors, why would you have a dog at all? Of course a dog is going to bark! I'm appalled that you would debark a dog just for the sake of your neighbors. If barking was an issue, you should have given your dog to a family that lives in a rural area where the dog can bark to his heart's content and not bother anyone. Or, if keeping your dog was so important to you, you could have moved to a rural area yourself. Owning and caring for any pet requires sacrifices from YOU, not your pet. Your selfishness proves you don't deserve to own a dog.

Submitted by CT | October 11 2013 |

Most dogs who have been "debarked" suffer the rest of their lives with swallowing and breathing difficulties. Dogs bark! It's a fact, just like people are stupid. If you don't want to deal with barking, DON'T GET A DOG! It is the most ignorant selfish thing in the world to physically modify another living being to fit your own stupid desires.
You are an ignorant person who doesn't deserve the priviledge of owning a dog. YOU should be debarked, see how you like it.

Submitted by heisy | June 28 2011 |

"debarking " is not the way to go ...all this that Victoria mention works it takes lots lots of patience ! is sad there are a lot of owners out there who are just plain lazy and choose this option ..

Submitted by sofie bear | August 24 2013 |

Please think before becoming so judgmental. I have a rescue dog with terrible separation anxiety. We go to a vet/trainer ($400 a month) once a week, I have gotten her every toy, game, food-dispenser, etc. that I can find. It's been 2 years, and even with training and medication, those plug-in hormone things, walks, a bubble machine that keeps her busy for a few minutes, she barks just as much as when I brought her home.
I am not going to stop working with her. Honestly, some people would have returned her to the pound, but I will never do that. I would debark as a last resort. Since I got her, my social life has been greatly reduced. I come and go without her according to my upstairs neighbor's schedule, so she doesn't drive them crazy. -- i work at home, thank goodness -- but every day is about training, figuring out new ways to teach her to calm herself. I spend more money and time on Sofie, whom I adore, than on myself.
Would you rather I dump her in the pound than debark her?

Submitted by Christine | September 11 2011 |

Hi - My 6 month old black lab barks at my 5 year old mixed breed. How do I discourage that? He barks at us too and we are working on ignoring him them praising him when he is calm - but we don't know how to train our older dog to train our younger dog! The best I have come up with is to give our lab a 'time-out' when he barks - I will put him in a separate room for 20 seconds or so, but I am not sure he gets the connection. Thoughts? Thanks!

Submitted by emma | September 29 2011 |

I have 2 miniture smooth hair black and tan Dachshunds Molly is 5 and Trevor is 1.Molly is very dominant and rash and trevor was nervous when we got him and has since gained confidence.molly eats like a pig and Trevor takes one piece at a time and walks around the kitchen with it,i just need a few tips on how to stop mollys need for gulping down her food (with out chewing)and get Trevor to really want to eat his food.I know with this breed i have to becareful they dont put on weight because of theyre spines,i dont let them up stairs because of this also.Please help ;)

Submitted by Natalie lawrence | December 31 2011 |

What I did to have my dog stop gulping her food was I put a tennis ball in her food dish, (my local shelter taught me this trick) get an adequate size food bowl where they can still manage to eat around the ball, I use this technique every time. It stops her gulping and slows her down. Otherwise I feed her with a food ball, they are interactive feeding toys where she has to roll it around so the food falls out the hole, the good thing about it is that the food only falls out a few at a time. First you have to show them and teach them how the food ball works or else they can't figure it out on their own. Good luck!

Submitted by melissa | March 16 2012 |

Hi there,
I'm no expert but I have a dog that sounds just like Trevor; I've had her for close to 4 yrs. It would frustrate me to see my mom's dog finish their food in 5 minutes (she gives them a combination of table scrap and dog food). Unfortunately, mine is allergic to chicken and fish and I've chosen to give her a kibble's diet as opposed to human food. How old is your dog? Because mine was finicky (she would almost nothing!) until she turned 3. She grew up is one factor that improved her appetite but other factors contributed as well. For one thing, if you decide to give her kibbles (or dry food mixed with wet food) you need to make sure you find the one she likes. By doing this, I really mean find a dry dog food which has a smell that agrees very well with your dog. My dog loves fish and I noticed when I used to cook for her: the smell of fish would drive her crazy and she would wolf it down in no time. I had been trying different dog foods until I finally found one, Fish4dogs (I used the ocean fish and salmon). She loved it right away but due to her picky nature, there were days she sniffed it off. But with other efforts, she now loves this food so much, she can even have it alone (no wet food mixed in).Amazing for my picky lil critter! I also started taking her for longer daily walks and played fetch with her more often. So, picking the right food and giving exercise to your dog should help.

Submitted by Lindsey | November 4 2011 |

I thought debarking was now illegal. If not, it should be, just like cutting the dog's ears to make them stand up, or cutting the tail. Why do people have to alter everything to the exact way they want things? When are people going to learn to be humane?

Submitted by Sara | November 21 2011 |

Thanks for posting this article!
I didn't realize stopping my dog's barking issues could be so simple. Victoria gives some very good tips, she is definitely my favorite dog trainer and behaviorist.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 7 2011 |

Its not about being humane.. if you live in a close housing community which most people do then your neighbors can report you. The dog can be barking at any time of day and if the neighbor reports your dog for having constant barking problems then the humane society comes to your house and warn you. They can go as far as fining you and taking your animal so figure it out what would you want something to silence the barking or some humane society guy smacking you with a fine.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 9 2012 |

Shouldn't you worry more about having your dog taken away than being slapped with a fine?

Submitted by Anonymous | May 15 2012 |

the humane society cannot take your dog away because it barks a lot. However, they can educate you on ways to help curb the problem. contrary to pupular belief, Animal Control Officers do not take pleasure in taking dogs away from their families if the living situation is a good one. they only want to help the owner and the dog so the behavior does not become an even larger problem.

Submitted by Anonymous | May 8 2012 |

i have a 85 pound old english sheepdog who is a wonderful dog in every way except i cannot control his barking at the next door neighbor. I live in suburbia and the lots are small with chainlink fences. My dog goes to the dog park daily and goes for at least one walk in the mornings. My dog Rufus goes crazy when my next door neighbor plays fetch with his three dogs. Rufus stares at their back door and pants until he comes out of his house and barks until he is ready to collapse. He looks like he is going to have a heart attack. My house has a deck and it is diffcult to get downstairs and try to bring him in. I have tried the citronella anti-bark collar without success. Also, these 3 dogs next door live outside in a kennel at the end of their yard so they are always there. I am at my wits end and I don't know what to do, any suggestions?

Submitted by Dorothy | May 17 2012 |

It sounds like Rufus either wants to join in the game of fetch or at least run around with the dogs next door (maybe he wants to round them up!). Can they be safely introduced so he can join in future games. Some neighbours have gates between adjoining properties so the dogs can visit with each other during the day at alloted times.

Submitted by Anonymous | May 16 2012 |

bringing the dog in definately fixes the problem. thats what Ive done. but as with any good training method, patience is critical.

Submitted by stacey | June 1 2012 |

My 1 yr old male yorkie x chihuahua played really nice with a 1 yr old male Pomeranian in the communal garden,but once inside the flats they started growling and barking at eachother.is this because of territory or could it be that neither of them have been neutered.when on the lead they play nicely for 5 minutes and then start,but in the garden they played for ages.is it because we brought them back indoors carrying them as we couldn't get them to stop playing?

Submitted by Betsey | June 8 2012 |

We have a maltepoo, Molly who is 1 1/2 yrs old. She is obsessed when she goes out in our backyard. She immediately runs to the wall trying to smell/see the dog on the other side. It is a high block wall. She runs through the yard on the same exact path back and forth. She seems like it's an obsessive behavior, she does not respond to calling her, just keeps running as fast as she can. She will stop sometimes at the wall and sniff.
We have tried showing her the dog on the other side but that did not help.
Anyone have any ideas for Molly's OCD? It is driving us crazy too.
Thanks! :)

Submitted by PJ | July 27 2012 |

I would like to know if Victoria might be able to come to my home and help me with my 2 dogs, they bark at any thing that moves. They are bad when people come to visit. PLEASE HELP ME!

Submitted by Anonymous | August 5 2012 |

Hi. I have adopted my moms corgi mix..not by choice..anyways..when hes outside all he does is stands under trees & barks. Ive tried everything to get him to shut up..ive been thinking of getting a muzzle but dont want to leave it on 24/7. I know that if hes driving me this crazy, he has to be driving my neighbors crazy. I dont know what else to do. Ive really thought about calling animal control or taking him to the pound. I have a 1yr old lab & she never barks. Collars, treats, nothing works.

Submitted by Anonymous | September 2 2012 |

I have a two-year old Maltese we inherited from my best friend when she had a baby. We've been working with him over the last year and he is really becoming a member of the family. However we are at our wits end trying to figure out how to stop his excessive barking. He is extremely anxious and barks frantically every time he goes out in the backyard and hears the dogs next door, every time the doorbell rings, and every time he sees an animal on the tv. We tried the Treat for Quiet method, which only seemed to teach him to bark for a treat; I tried leashing him when company comes over, which worked well but is hard to keep him on the leash all the time and doesn't give either of us any freedom. I'm considering the citronella route, but wanted to ask if anyone has had success with that method or has other advice. He's so well behaved in all other areas, but the barking is not getting any better.

Submitted by Venessa | July 31 2013 |

Hello..I was reading your comments and we have a 1 year old male maltese with the exact same issue. He is a good dog in all other areas, but the barking is out of control and excessive. Did you have any luck? It is so embarrasing taking him for walks and when guests come over. He barks loud and frantically. I have taken him to a training class with other dogs and private training sessions. Nothing seems to work.

Submitted by UNNONE | September 18 2012 |

Hey, I have two german short haired pointers and their brother and sister both 6 months and Charlie the boy barks at all of the birds! I'm sure they mock him by flying over him because they know he cant get them he barks for hours 24-7! The girl Roxie did not, but now when there is finally peace and quiet she goes off barking at people she here's passing by in my backyard!(Skateboards,bikes,loud motors,ECT!
Please help me anyone!

( I CAN BARELY KEEP MY EYES OPEN WHEN WRITING THIS PLEASE HELP!)

Submitted by Willow | November 14 2012 |

please help! i have two (what we think are) chihuahua mutts, both females, sofi and lexi, have been together over a year and love eachother to death. only problem is lexi is terrified of people and, in turn, barks at every noise, every sight that seems the slightest unfamiliar. her barking is riving my whole family insane and my parents (im only 14) say that if i (on my own) cannot get her barking under control by january 1st 2013 that they will surrender her to the local shelter. i wont let this happen and i want to help her learn that barking isnt okay but i have absolutely no idea where to start. any help is much appreciated! thank you so much!!!

Submitted by Eleanor | January 10 2013 |

I'm sorry to hear about the deadline. I hope you have been allowed to keep your dog. I have a Pomchi. A chihuahua mix. Pooky is adorable. I love her to bits but she loves to bark like there's no tomorrow. I have been working with her for just a few months trying to get her to stop barking. It's working terrifically.

I had to teach her words: quiet, no, stop, as well as she already learned I'd snap my fingers or I'd say Oi! when she did things I didn't like. I thought her the words by giving her a treat when she was quiet and I'd say Quiet. Then I'd say to her as she ate the treat Good job being quiet.

I did the treats for "catching" each behavior. So she began to think about what I wanted when I said the word. I'd also say Quiet, or No in an assertive tone. Not an angry one. You're firm but not mad.

After she learned those words I began to teach her the sentence "No barking". I'd say it to her firmly. She wasn't barking when I said it. And then I gave her a treat and exclaimed happily "Good job for not barking!" So she connected things. When she barked but my other dog didn't bark I'd praise the other dog and give him a treat saying "Good job not barking".

I introduced Pooky to situations that made her bark and instruct her "Quiet." In a firm voice. If she stayed quiet I'd give her a treat. If she barked I said loud and firm "No!" Sometimes she'd bark and bark and bark, but I didn't let that make me feel bad. I just took a deep breath and keep teaching her.

I started just after Thanksgiving. Today was my best day ever. I am introducing "heel". I figured that teaching her to heel now will move her forward. Right now when I say Quiet and No Barking Pooky will usually sit waiting for a treat. Now I want her to walk past what made her bark.

Chihuahua's are really very smart. They just want to know what you want from them.

It really helps to "Catch" the behavior. When your dog is not barking say "quiet" then as you give the treat repeat happily "quiet". It will take only a few weeks for this to really work. When you feel she can understand Quiet. Then introduce her to what makes her bark. For Pooky it's someone knocking on the door. We are still working on that one but it was good for me to teach her that she'll get a treat if while she's barking I say "quiet" and she stops barking. When she caught on to how to stop barking that's when I began to train her outside.

I use Beggin' Strips. I give just little pieces. I hope that its not too late and you still have your little dog. Good luck.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 6 2013 |

Would love some advice:
My 6 year old mastif-terrier mix is a crazy barker at other dogs, I cannot take her in the car or on a walk, if she sees another dog it is if we are under attack. It is a highly defensive situation and she won't let down her guard! She is very sensative, I think she gets traumatized easily and has ptsd. We've have had some nasty situations with other dogs and it ends up that I am also yelling at her, dragging her away as she either cowers or she plain won't stop. She gets exercise but is not socialized well. How can I begin to socialize her, I have tried taking her on midnight walks, she hates the leash, if I raise my voice she cowers and if a dog comes by she is relentless.
Please help!

Submitted by Renee | January 16 2013 |

I have a hound/lab mix who seems to share similar socialization experience(i.e., some bad early experiences) and reactive behaviors toward other dogs. Lucy's dog-reactivity issues did not really emerge until she was 2 years old. She's 3 1/2 now, and I've been working with our trainer on these and other fear-related issues since she was a year old.

Our trainer practices positive reinforcement methods, much like Victoria's method. Anyway, so maybe our experience will help you a bit:

First, take a moment to observe your dog's behavior -- and maybe find a trainer who can help you decipher her signals -- but, what I think you'll find is that your dog is exhibiting fear-based aggression. It's an anxiety attack, basically. Once it triggers, your dog's brain is fully engaged in that fear response. It took a long time for me to understand and accept that my dog, when she is triggered, is basically afraid for her life. She's not rational anymore when she's triggered. Obedience doesn't work. (i.e.,You can't say "Sit, Fido!" and expect that your dog is even HEARING your voice in that moment.)

The only thing we can do -- at least, this is my trainer's advice in our specific situation -- is to actually reprogram her brain. We do this with classical conditioning. So, I'll take Lucy out with some EXTREMELY high value treats. We position ourselves someplace where she can see other dogs -- but outside the radius where her full reactivity is triggered (this is called her safe zone). Then, every time she looks at another dog (and, I mean, it can be a sideways glance, a fleeting glimpse, a full stare-- any shift in her body language that shows she's noticing the dog), I click and treat. Click and treat. Even if she's barking or reacting in a way that I don't necessarily like: thing is, I'm not rewarding bad behavior -- because there is no obedience going on at this stage -- I'm simply working to build an association between dog and fantastic treat.

Here's the depressing news: it can take up to 2000 repetitions in real-world conditions to establish the connection. But you will -- if you're consistent and you've been out there practicing -- eventually establish the connection.

Another thing to try (because we had issues with people coming in to the house) is to reward the choice of "flight" vs. "fight." Again, high value treats: every time your dog looks at the trigger, throw the treat behind her -- basically, encourage her to flee into her safe zone.

Last, I would mention that our trainer gives me lots of strategies that help me understand Lucy, anticipate triggers, and recognize her "safe zone." So, I don't force her -- even inadvertently -- into situations where she experiences fear. In fact, I become a safe zone unto myself, really. If we're walking down the street and I see someone walking toward us, and I recognize that the street isn't wide enough for Lucy to pass without feeling fear, then I have a verbal cue I issue as we do kind of an emergency u-turn. So, I don't put her in stressful situations-- and that has really helped a lot, too.

Anyway, I don't know exactly what's going on with your dog. I encourage you to look for a good trainer. It's amazing what you'll learn, what your dog has to teach you. Good luck!

Submitted by Anonymous | January 19 2013 |

Hi, have a look at Grisha Stewart and BAT Training. She has a book and DVDs which explain the process. Its a great method for addressing your dog's fear and anxiety in a kind and supportive way. Good luck! Jill

Submitted by Rachael | May 7 2013 |

My dog always barks once my father has finished his dinner and I have no idea why? He doesn't do it with anyone else in the family but my dad! Anyone have any ideas?

Submitted by Jessica | July 19 2013 |

How can you get an entire pack of dogs to be quiet on command, such as at a rescue facility?

Submitted by Deborah Moore | July 8 2014 |

I go to each dog individually and talk with them softly. It helps to calm them down. There is generally one dog who gets the whole group going. If you can figure out who to start with, the other dogs are easier to calm. I have gotten as many of 30 dogs quiet within just a couple minutes. When I get the first dog quiet, I give him a treat, then continue one at a time. I talk to them all quietly. It's just a matter of helping them relieve tension and staying calm yourself.

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