When fence, gate and door barking is making your life difficult
This is a tricky one because we don’t want a dog to stop alerting completely. However, we can reduce the length of time of the barking or ask the dog to cease.
I use a couple of strategies with my dogs, once I have assessed that the barking isn’t necessary. Read that again then ask 'how am I going to make that assessment? How many barks are sufficient? At what point will I interrupt?' These are all questions that only you can answer. Every dog and every living situation is completely unique and what works for one dog home may not work for the next.
My preference is to take the dog seriously and work with the rule of 3, by the third bark I am responding. Dogs were selected for their ability to alert us to potential danger, these alerts kept us, our homes and livestock safe. We wanted dogs to perform this task for us and many people still feel safer in their home with a dog that will bark.
Get to know your dog’s bark. Dogs have different types of barks for different emotions. Very fast rapid urgent barking, high pitched excited barking, lower, softer barking when unsure or worried.
Get up and check what your dog is barking at. We tend to look for something ‘out there’ that causes concern, but our dogs may be responding to smells or sounds as well as sights. The tinkle of a dog collar tag can prompt one of my dogs to bark.
If you feel there is no reason for your dog to continue, encourage your dog away from the boundary and back towards the house.
Keep a pot of food or favourite toy(s) prepared and easy to grab.
Give your ‘that’ll do’ cue then run with the dog to the reward station. Reward your dog generously.
Practice running to the reward station from various point regularly without your dog needing to bark first. You want to avoid teaching your dog to bark at the fence in order to make you say ‘that’ll do’ and deliver rewards – dogs are smart!!
If your dog finds it difficult to disconnect, try making a scattering of food, that lands on the floor close by the dog. Then break the behaviour down by rewarding your dog for making one step back towards the house. As the dog gets better at disconnecting the scatter of food happens closer and closer to the house. Some dogs will disconnect for a noise, a squeak from a dog toy interrupted my Beagles from barking, adapt the protocol to suit your dog.
If you cannot interrupt your dog at all when they are barking outside, then they could be getting overwhelmed. If this happens do not leave your dog outside unattended, give them supervised access until you have rebuilt the ‘come away’ behaviour. If your dog is so overwhelmed that they may bite, a long line will also help you and keep your hands safe, they may bite. The long line is there to prevent the dog moving back towards the boundary and encouraging them to take a step towards you, it is not a tool for hauling your dog into the house.
Avoid asking your dog to sit. Dogs sit naturally when they are fairly relaxed and not too much is going on, sitting allows them to watch and survey the environment, moving into down or stand if something changes and they might need to react. Dogs that are barking at boundaries or reacting on lead are rarely in this emotional state, therefore sit becomes an emotionally incompatible behaviour, putting your dog under conflict and adding to the overwhelm. Be flexible and prepared to change your response and strategies. Just like us dogs change as they mature, the next-door neighbour that has been ignored for months suddenly needs to be barked at! Behaviour can be affected by dietary changes, pain or other veterinary conditions, hormones, weather or time of year.
Can I help?
Think your dog might be struggling with their emotions, a 1:1 session would give us time to talk about what is happening and put some tailored strategies into place. work-with-me
Not sure if a 1:1 is for you, get in touch to discuss further firstname.lastname@example.org