Inappropriate barking in the house (a bit long) - German Shepherd Dog Forums
 
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-27-2009, 02:45 PM Thread Starter
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Inappropriate barking in the house (a bit long)

Vinny is a Mali rather than a GSD but he thinks ya'll are the coolest so we're hanging out here... Over the past few months he has developed a bad habit of barking and whining at seemingly anything that moves outside the front window. Usually dogs, the UPS truck, or the trash truck, but other things too. One of my other dogs does this, and he picked up the habit from him, I believe, because he did not do it for the first few months we had him.

Some background... He's a teenage boy (14 months) still, so I also know he's got some maturing to do. He was neutered at 9 months. He is out of high-drive German lines, and we are planning on starting Sch lessons soon, with the goal of getting at least his Sch1. I work from home and also have a mildly autistic son and an elderly mother who live with us and I help out daily, so my time is somewhat limited but not horribly.

He is one of 4 dogs here... a male Aussie, a male beagle, and a female Mali. The Aussie is the other one with barking issues which we have worked on extensively with our trainer. He's a little better but not good. He's a rescue and came with his own set of problems... another story in itself there though.

I know he's not getting enough exercise and I'm working on increasing that. He was originally my daughter's dog but her situation has changed and she'll be living in an apartment rather than a house as planned, so Grandma has now become Mom. Details on what he is getting now are below.

Anyway, I would like to work with Vinny so that he is not so reactive to things he sees or hears outside the window/house. My main concern is that I don't inadvertently do anything in trying to shut this down that will hamper his Sch work later on. I have multiple training aids I can work with depending on which may give the best results for this issue (e-collar, prong collar, and clicker). He does seem to have some component of anxiety or nervousness going on when he is doing this, as the hairs on his neck/back do go up when he's listening/whining/barking at whatever the thing is. His prey drive is pretty high, so that also could be playing a part. I have considered using a bite pillow and an agitation collar and working with that with him and my husband. He has done a few sessions with one at the trainer's just to see his drive level when we were deciding what sport route to go with him. Good idea/bad idea? (Yes, this will be discussed at the trainer's too next time I get them on the phone.)

Right now he gets about 20 minutes a day of solid frisbee retrieval -- I plan on adding another 20 of bike riding and/or treadmill work, but he's still working on learning his treadmill skills and is only up to about 5 minutes so far. Aside from getting him more exercise, what suggestions do ya'll have for us to work with?

Running is out, as I had back surgery and it is not advised. Rollerblading isn't my thing either. He does love retrieve games, both with his frisbee and with a ball, so I could add more minutes to that. He is running back and forth 95% of the time we are playing, with the only slowdown coming when he is outing the object. I am buying a bike soon, so that is one planned activity I have in mind.

Thanks!
Sandi

~Sandi
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-27-2009, 06:55 PM
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Re: Inappropriate barking in the house (a bit long)

Can you close the blinds/draperies at the front window? I know that can be inconvenient, but sometimes, management is the first and easiest step.

As for barking, I've found that "Quiet" is probably one of the most difficult commands to teach a young dog.

I use redirection. I ask for a behavior that is incompatible with barking. "Come" is my favorite (as long as the dog has a reasonably good recall). It especially works well in a house full of dogs because the dog that arrives first gets the treat first (and the biggest treat).

When we're out in the front yard, if I glimpse someone way down the street, I tell my dogs "come," trying to get them redirected before they notice the stimulus. (Sometimes, I notice it first, sometimes, I don't. But as soon as I hear a tiny peep, I call them to me). I can then hold their attention by giving them itty bitty pieces of treats, or by pulling out a favorite toy (a frisbee or tug toy). The point is that I make myself more interesting than what's passing by.

Once it's gone, then we play. Since you're in the house, you should be able to redirect them more quickly. I used to have a dog that liked to bark in the house, but I was able to train her to stop that using this method. I tossed the toy down the hallway AWAY from the front of the house where she could easily see/hear the stimulus. With a dog that you plan on doing SchH with, playing tug seems like a good fit.

The only fallback to this approach is that we want to avoid creating dogs that bark and run to you for a reward after barking (in other words, they feel like they're being rewarded for barking). That's why you have to be sure to use the word "come" (or whatever your recall word is), and not repeat it over and over if he ignores you, but DO get your dog if he doesn't respond the first time. A lightweight drag leash can be very helpful here. Pick up a 6' (or so) lightweight leash at a pet store and let him wear it all the time around the house. It will be a nuisance, but my pups wear them for quite a while, and they never hurt themselves or anyone else.

Dog barks. You: "Fido come." Fido continues to bark. You pick up the leash and reel him in, telling him as he arrives, "good come. "

Often, once dogs start barking, they kind of get into a zone where they don't listen to us, so we have to break into that zone. A drag leash helps with that. Once they realize, "hey, I have to listen to her all the time but there's a benefit for me to do so," then the zone will have less of a hold on him. Soon enough, you'll be able to get rid of the drag leash. At that point, you can move toward using a clicker, or simply, he'll be dashing toward you for his treat (or his toy) and you won't even have time to click.

Teaching Quiet is a whole other ball game. For the most part, it needs to be done when your pup is calm and peaceful. When your dogs are lying around, doing nothing, but hanging out, being good and quiet, walk up to them, and exclaim triumphantly "good quiet" and treat them. Do that over and over and over and over. Eventually, they'll realize that Quiet means quiet. It doesn't mean "barking my fool head off" (which is usually what dogs are doing when their owners are trying to train them to be quiet). Quiet takes lots of time to train it correctly. It's definitely worth doing. But it takes time.

For right now, I think redirection is your best bet.


Good luck.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-27-2009, 08:03 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Inappropriate barking in the house (a bit long)

Thanks. I'll give it a try over the next few weeks and see if I get an improvement out of him. I got him up to 8 minutes on the treadmill today with only one time he hopped off. I used a toy squirrel one day to motivate him and today he was looking for the squirrel after a while. ::sigh:: He's no dummy. haha

We then went outside and played with the squirrel on a leash (his prey drive toy) and the frisbee. He's a little calmer tonight than some evenings, so hopefully increasing his exercise a little each day will help too. He's really almost too thin though, so I've been hesitant to add much, but I think I'm going to have to.

He's eating 5 cups daily of a mixture of Flint River Ranch Salmon/Sweet Potato and Core Wellness grain free, so he can't be hurting for calories. I'm tired of looking at his ribs though!

Thanks again for the suggestions. I'll report back to the thread periodically if I have problems or other questions while we're working on it.

~Sandi
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-27-2009, 08:18 PM
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Re: Inappropriate barking in the house (a bit long)

There are games that you can play to exercise him mentally. These will wear him out as well. "Find it" (where you hide a toy or treats around the house), hide and seek, and similar are easy and low impact for you and fun for him. In addition, there are interactive toys that will use his brain more. (You can google these. There's a whole host of them out there from Buster Cubes to intricate puzzles).

My last GSD was very high energy and high drive (with not much of an off switch). I used interactive games and toys to keep him busy. A tired dog is a good dog. A dog whose brain is worn out is an especially good dog!
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-28-2009, 11:11 AM
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Re: Inappropriate barking in the house (a bit long)

When I have the blinds up, my two are always searching for the area for squirrels. I think that's what works them up most. Luckily, this is a fall thing.

I also recommend more mental stimulation since that is more exhausting than the physical type.

My female is a high drive working Malinois from French Ring lines. She seldom has an off switch, but doing obedience work makes her the happiest.

Also, a good long track is exhausting mental work, too. Get into tracking. You can start 8 week old puppies.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-28-2009, 05:24 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Inappropriate barking in the house (a bit long)

Today was Day 1 of Operation Quiet House. I can't say it was quiet, but it was a start. Thanks to all of you for the suggestions so far. I'm doing recalls when he does start to bark and rewarding for the execution of that. After his attention is back on me I'm saying "quiet" and then treating a second or so later -- which I'll extend the time as we go on.

I'm going to order some Buster Cubes and then the Dog Tornado and the Dog Fighter. The Buster Cubes will be for everyone and then the other two mainly for Vinny. I also am going to try shutting the blinds tonight while I'm working. I can't leave them shut during the day because they're right in the middle of the house and look really bad shut... aside from the fact that that's the main light source in that room. But, we'll work with what we have.

Thanks again!

~Sandi
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