It can be hard to be the person with the barky dog in training class. With most problem behaviors, a good tactic is to manage the situation so that the behavior doesn’t pop up and then train the dog something else to do instead. So rather than barking at others, he could be staring adoringly at you, for example… We can’t expect that behavior while he’s surrounded by several new dogs, so one thing you can do is put up a visual barrier and then over time, make life more realistic by removing the barrier, bit by bit.
Here is a list of some of the things that we’ve found to help with barking. You don’t have to do all of them, but the more, the better.
- Teach your dog a Focus Trick, like Spin or Touch. When you see your dog getting antsy – staring at other dogs, ignoring you, etc., you can cue the Focus Trick. Reward with praise some times, other times with treats.
- Lots of exercise before class can help your barky dog calm down. A nice long walk is better than a ton of fetch.
- No food before class. (For the dog, that is. You might want to eat if it helps you feel calm!)
- We have the barriers that were mentioned above at the training center. The back section by the windows is somewhat easier on the dogs who like to bark at the other dogs in the class. Arriving first will help you get set up in the best spot.
- Busy dogs are quiet! Dogs will often stare at each other, and then bark, when the instructor is speaking to the class, because they’re not getting as much attention from their humans. Kongs with peanut butter, bully sticks, Bouncy Bones, and other food-based toys can make a big difference. Bring a variety of chew toys to distract your dog in class. Try to give her the toy before she starts barking. If she barks, get her attention back using her name or a tap on the behind, ask for a sit, then give the toy. Tug toys may also work for some active tuggers, but that can get too loud, too, so use tug in moderation during class.
- If the dog is little, you might scoop him up to sit on your lap during the explanations. There’s no point in getting him all worked up if we can help it. Calm, relaxed massage can help small and big dogs alike. As with the toys, try this approach before the barking starts.
- There’s a Dog Appeasing Pheromone collar that can keep them calm around town and in class. Many vets sell them.
- “Doggie Calm” is aromatherapy that can help with barking. We sell that at the training center and online.
- In class (and elsewhere), click/treat for calm behavior, mostly attention to you, but catch all of those good decisions where he was thinking about barking, but doesn’t. When you see him thinking of barking, which happens often when a new dog walks in the room, say his name or “shhhh” and click/treat for the one second of silence that produces.
- Teach a cue to signal quiet time. This takes time, so you’ll need to do the other things on this list in the meantime. Say “shhh” with your finger to your lips. When your dog is silent for one second, click and treat. Over time, start to require two, three, ten, or more seconds before clicking. At home, if the dog returns to barking, say “Too Bad!” and give her a time out in another room or a crate (if she’s fine with her crate). After one minute of silence, bring her back out. We have a big crate at the training center that you are welcome to use for time outs.
- Bringing a rug for them to sit on can make dogs feel more at ease. Of course, that’s what human laps are for if your dog fits. ????
- Bring two people, so one can work on keeping your dog quiet and the other can listen to the instructor.
- If you’re alone, learn to multi-task in class. Ask your dog for behaviors he already knows well, like lying down, targeting your hand, or tricks. Please use hand signals instead of words, though, or your voice will distract others, instead of your dog’s barking!
- Recommended Reading: “Help, I’m Barking & I Can’t Be Quiet!“
- If all else fails, you can put your dog in the car and come back to class to get the instruction. Work on “shhh” and attention to you for another week and your dog should be able to come back the next time!