Tuesday Time-out

One of my projects for the summer – along with perfecting the handstand and finding a place in town that sells orange slushies – is teaching Shiva not to bark when dogs pass by the front of our house.

She is drawn like a magnet to the front door when we leave it open. She just can’t resist the lure of looking outside. The Cat is much the same. Unfortunately, even on the warmest days, we’ve had to keep it closed. Shiva just gets much too excited when people pass by with their dogs. She also has a very loud bark. Her reputation is bad enough as it is! We can’t let her practice such a negative and self-rewarding behaviour. The only way to stop her is to make sure the door is firmly shut.

It’s a very lazy way of training, I admit. In fact, it’s not training at all, because that implies learning. By keeping the door closed we are not teaching her how to relax when dogs walk by, we are just managing her vociferous barking.

A wise dog trainer once said, “irritation is motivation.” Up until now, I guess I just wasn’t bothered enough by the situation to work on fixing it. Now that we’ve only had about three days of sunshine all spring, I am desperate for as much light as I can get. No longer does keeping the door shut seem like an ideal solution.

I think we’re all going to be a lot happier once I finally do something about this gaping hole in our training. Maybe it will even make her friendlier towards the pizza guy. One can dream…

46 thoughts on “Tuesday Time-out

    • We’ve made some progress over the last few months and she no longer barks at cars or people, just dogs. I think I just need to sit at the door with her every day for a few minutes and reward her for not-barking. We shall see how it goes!

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  1. Kristine – I have the same problem with Jasper. He likes to bark out the window though. He stands with his front legs on the arm of the ouch and looks out the bay window and barks if he sees a dog, a human, a rabbit… you get the point.
    I have been lazy too. I do address it when I am home, but not consistently. Perhaps your decision to work with Shiva will motivate me! (BTW – we haven’t had a lot of sun here either this spring. Yuck!)

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    • LOL. That’s so funny. I am not laughing at your misfortune, just as Jasper’s complete lack of manners. It’s cute in a really obnoxious way.

      We don’t address is properly either. Usually when she starts barking and jumping around at the door, I just call her away and then close it. Not really teaching her anything.

      I’m sorry to hear that. Booo. I hope your first day of summer was bright!

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  2. If you fix it, TELL ME HOW YOU DO IT. Our Best Friend has destroyed the screens in the living room going nuts when his nemesis Buster goes by. And he attacks the windows when he sees a squirrel, too. Plus, he barks like a crazy dog whenever someone comes into the building, and we have a terrible time getting him to STOP.

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    • That’s right! I remember you mentioning you had to replace the door. I feel better now about Shiva’s barking. At least she hasn’t destroyed anything. Though if we weren’t around, I wouldn’t put it past her. This is why she goes in the crate. 😛

      I’m sorry you are struggling with this too. No fun.

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  3. We don’t leave our front door open for similar reasons, I have no doubt our dogs would break it down for a passing dog or squirrel. Good luck!

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  4. Gwynn barks when people come to the door… but I don’t really want to stop (or further) that behaviour…it’s a good warning for us, and a warning to anyone coming to the door that if they’re looking for mischief, they might want to look elsewhere. his bark is impressive, despite the fact that he also backs away from the door while doing this impressive bark 😛
    He hasn’t gotten into the habit of barking at passing dogs/squirrels/life yet, thankfully. A dog trainer told me that she solved this problem by basically telling her dog “Great, you told us”, and that acknowledging the ‘alert’ was enough to calm her border collie right down. She barks once or twice at everything, though, before being told ‘great, you told us’, so that might not be the ideal type of solution for you.

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    • Yes, that’s kind of what we’ve tried. Rewarding her as soon as she barks, basically saying “okay, thanks for letting us know. We will take it from here.” It’s helped when dealing with passing people but not with dogs. I think it’s mostly due to frustration at not being able to greet them.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  5. Yes, this is a great project. You need your sun! I can totally relate.

    I managed to do this with Shadow thanks to the advice of a trainer at the SPCA. First off, you need to see the dog before Shiva does (that’s the hard part). Maybe you can create a barrier that will keep her away from the front door when you’re not able to train. (hahahaha, what am I thinking? This is Shiva the agile pup, I’m talking about.)

    Anyway,the instant Shiva notices a dog and before she starts barking, say “dog” in a happy voice and click and treat during that silent fraction of a second. If you start with dogs way off in the distance, you’ll have more success. Once they get too close, Shiva’s probably going to go ballistic and your opportunity is gone.

    I started with Shadow on a leash. Whenever I saw a dog a block away, I’d do my “dog” and treat bit. We worked up to closer distance on leash and eventually to being on the porch when a dog walked by.

    Pretty soon, Shadow responded to all dogs by looking at me for a treat. On the porch (our biggest problem), she was able to be calm as long as the dog walking by was calm too. If he climbed up the steps or started acting poorly, I had no hope of controlling Shadow.

    But it was nice to have her learn to look calmly at nice dogs walking by while we’re eating on our front porch.

    Good luck with Shiva. She’s a smart girl and I know you’ll be able to do this. The consistency (as with everything) is the hard part.

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    • Good advice! the only thing i’d mention (and only because it makes life jsut a little easier) is that if Shiva is really going over threshold and sort of loosing it at the sight of another dog, she’s not really in an operant frame of mind (ie: her brain is too riled up to respond to a clicker or cues). If that is the case, in the beginning, that first step, you really don’t need the clicker because you aren’t going to be marking the calm but instead classically conditioning a new response to the sight of dogs instead of DOG=REACT (as a habitual response), you will work on a new connection DOG=FOOD. So as soon as she notices the dog you just shovel food into her face.. when the dog is out of sight the food goes away.

      This process is about changing her emotional response (the eruption of barking) at the sight of another dog…for most dogs that reaction isn’t a choice…. it’s a conditioned response to a stimulus–it’s like a compulsion that they don’t even think about, they just react. We want to CHANGE that response from an escalation in anxiety and barking to instead a human-seeking desire for food. Once you change the emotional response from out of control barking to to a desire for food (and thus attention to the human) then you can start clicking for an alternate behavior and rewarding for a desired behavior not conditioning a new response.

      You have to prevent any reactions when you aren’t there to work her (bar open at the sight of the dog, bar closed when its’ out of sight) while also having regular practices (so knowing when dogs are likely to be walking outside is handy)

      Like Pamela said, it’s really ALL about consistency. You can do it!

      My goal for the summer is to curb the fence fighting of the dogs… Bandit is the worst with this and Shayne has picked up the behavior and Rio is on his way to picking up the behavior so it’s one of our summer projects.

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      • Thank you so much for adding your reply! As I type this I am actually sitting at the top of the stairs and periodically tossing Shiva a treat for calm behaviour. Sometimes there is someone passing, sometimes not. I am trying to make it so she never knows when a treat is coming. If I do see a dog I will jackpot the treats, hopefully cutting her off after one or two barks. I would totally be okay if she barked once and then ran to use looking for a reward. That’s kind of my goal right now.

        This time of night, the after dinner calm eveing hour is usually quite busy. If I try this every night on nice days, hopefully we will see some results!

        If we had a fenced yard, I have no doubt the fence would become just as big of an issue. I guess that’s one bonus… Lots of luck to you as well!

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    • Thanks for the great advice! I think what I need to do is sit down by the door with her, even with a book. I tried that briefly before and we had some success. It’s part of why I think she’s okay with people without dogs passing now.

      We don’t have a porch as such, so that’s not an issue. But when we go camping, her barking can definitely be a problem when people pass by with their dogs in tow. Understandably, they don’t know she is only barking because she just really wants to say hello.

      Consistency is definitely the hard part. But within a little time I know it will pay off!

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  6. My thoughts are similar to Alex. When the guys bark we usually walk over to the window and see whatever it is that they are barking at, we then say, “oh it’s just a dog, thank you for letting me know” and calmly walk away. I have better luck with say the garbage truck or UPS guy then I do with an animal.

    I do see how Pamela’s suggestion would work and think I may try this with my guys. 🙂

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    • The garbage truck is cool. The UPS guy? Not so much. Teaching her to be calm when someone actually knocks on the door is a whole different matter.

      I agree. It’s worth a shot, right?

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  7. I’d love to know your training plan! I’m trying to work on the same thing with Lucas and Cooper, but this one is by far the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced…

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    • It is really difficult, I agree. But I think if I actually put the effort in, it won’t take too long to fix. Of course, it could be wishful thinking…

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    • Shiva also loves looking out the back window and barking. But since she has to jump on the furniture to do so, it is much easier to prevent!

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  8. wow, looks like many have this problem. I will also say consistency is key in this area. Luna is a great watch dog, sometimes too great, but it’s all about her stopping when I ask her to. I am okay with an alert, but when i decide there is no threat i want her to be okay with that. And the whole keeping the door shut is not a horrible thing. At least it prevents the behavior a bit… training dogs is not all about training and rules/boundaries/commands.. prevention is a part of that too.
    Good luck with your project, let us know how to the training goes. I know she will figure it out quickly, then it’ll just be breaking that mental habit for her.
    Anna
    http://www.akginspiration.com

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    • Right exactly. Alert barking is fine, even beneficial. But they shoudl stop when we make it clear we have the situation handled.

      I’ve decided we are going to keep the door shut unless we are able to work with her. It will only be open when in training mode for now. Hopefully within a few weeks we will see some real results and be able to keep it open for longer periods.

      Thanks for the encouragement!

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  9. Doesn’t your heart melt at that photo of Shiva looking out through the screen door???

    What you need is to get a load of people with dogs to walk past every few minutes and reward Shiva with treats when she doesn’t bark. Hopefully she’ll get the idea before you run out of treats.

    My windows look out onto a public path, so she sees everything that goes on outside. Luckily Song only barks when she wants me to play, or very rarely asking for a treat.

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    • That is precisely what we need! Where can I find these people to do this for free?

      Song is such a sweet dog, I can’t imagine her barking at anyone. Play barking is just cute. I wish Shiva did that more often!

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  10. @Sue, I LOVE the name “Song.” One hears just the type of dog she is or becoming. @Kristine – when you fix this, I need to read, memorize and implement your blog entry. I, too, check the window or door, see NOTHING (usually), say, “OK, you geezers, don’t worry,” and calmly walk away. It is the dogs who only bark in response to a dog in our yard barking but won’t leave their couch or chair who drive me nuts :). If it is worth barking at, go outside and bark at it. Bunch of lazy bums here 🙂 – but love them all.

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  11. Our family dogs are terrible at barking when anyone comes by the house. We keep the front door closed where they can’t see, but they’ll sneak their heads under the blinds in the front window and go crazy. Very frustrating.

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    • It is frustrating, I know! We are so lucky to have understanding neighbours with a yorkie who barks way more than Shiva ever could.

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  12. My dog Cali has a new found love for barking that anyone that walks by. We have lived in other houses, but none of them ever really had a view of the street – this is all new to her. She’s 12, so I don’t see us “training it out of her” 😉

    She also barks at dogs on walks, with her tail wagging enthusiastically . .I think she likes to announce herself – again, something I don’t think we will ever figure out how to stop! Good luck! I enjoy your blog!!

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  13. Not that this applies to Shiva at all, but some dog breeds (i.e. those who have been bred as watch dogs, like mine), are wired to bark at anything that could be “threatening.” Doesn’t mean they can’t be trained to curb their enthusiasm, it’s just that not all dogs are gonna sit quietly by the door and let the world pass by. 🙂 I have to shut the blinds A LOT in my house. If I were in your situation and depended on an open door for sunlight, I’d be blogging on this same topic. Sounds like you have some great tips, though!

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  14. I still have to meet the person that can make a Hovawart queit when somebody would pass the house. After all they are watch dogs. Instead of fighting it, I thank them for bringing the “danger” to my attention. You can use a “thank you” for that, but only reward 5 secs after Shiva stopped barking. We got that far now that even Kenzo & Viva are outside and I am inside they stop barking as soon as they have notice I have acknowledged their alarm call. But that is worst case if there hides a watch dog in Shiva.

    Pamela suggestions should work with most dogs, and I would go with that. It is just one of the most difficult things to train for us no-dog-trainer-mere-mortals! Almost worse than recall!

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  15. When you figure out how to train for that, please let me know! Morgan has the same issue. I give our Schwan’s man tons of credit for still coming back every other Monday night!

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  16. We have the same problem with one of ours, Leah, and we have done the same as you – just manage the situation. I wish I had time to train her, but it is just easier for us to close the door. With all of their combined ‘issues’ that need working on, sometimes you just have to pick your battles. I admit though, if I only had one dog, I’d probably be more motivated to work on it. Good luck with the training!

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  17. Good luck solving this, and I know you will because it’s you and Shiva and you are both far from stupid:) I can’t help because I don’t have this problem, but if someone can help me stop Frankie going berserk sometimes in the car when we see a dog (not all dogs though, go figure) I’d love to hear that:) It’s a similar thing, not aggression, just frustration cos he’s in the car and can’t say hi. You’ve been given some awesome suggestions and I’m going to read them all again and see if I think any of them would work on Frankie in the car.

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  18. TEACH ME OBI-WAN! Our Felix is wretched for this. If I am physically in the room, he won’t do it, but if he is out in the yard and I am up on the porch or if the front door is open and I’m NOT in the room, it’s Woof Time. Drives me nuts.

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    • That is so weird he only barks when you are out of the room. Huh. It makes me think his motivation may be to get your attention. Interesting, regardless. But definitely annoying!

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  19. Oh my gosh, we have a similar problem. Kelly loves to spend her summer days, all day, on the enclosed front porch. She barks at passing dogs, but the real problem is when the mailman comes. She charges to the door and scratches her paws against it and barks like crazy. For this reason we can’t put the screen in the porch door or she’ll shred it, and possibly even break through to get to the mailman. Also, even with the protection of the regular porch door, I’m sure the mailman doesn’t appreciate her welcome. So I try to keep her inside until after the mailman is through. But she wants to be outside on the porch so bad. I know I need to practice some training techniques here too.

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