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Excessive Barking - part 7
Training your dog is all about association for them. They think based solely on the result of their actions. “When I do this, A happens. When I do that, B happens.” Plain and simple. So if A is pleasing to them, they will obviously want to keep doing A. If B is displeasing, they will learn that they don’t want to do B. If the results of their actions are drilled regularly, it takes about a week for this to hit home in your dog’s mind. So, the plan is to respond to everything your dog does with either positive or negative reinforcement – a kind, happy “Good boy!” when he is quiet, a harsh, low-pitched “Bad!” when he barks, for example.
To begin teaching him to not bark excessively, trick him into thinking you’re around even when you’re not. Just like a child, a dog will behave even if he only “thinks” you’re around – because there’s always the chance of you walking in and catching him misbehaving, and as you taught him first with positive and negative reinforcement, he knows that means B result will happen, and he doesn’t want that. If he thinks you’re there, he also won’t feel he is alone and neglected.
Some people try the tape recording technique. They record their voices scolding the dog, “No!” “Bad!” “Stop!” etc. They leave intervals of time between the shouts, say ten or fifteen minutes. They play the tape when they are not at home, the intention being that if the dog is acting up, he will hear the reprimand he is used to and will stop. However, this method could actually hurt the training process. Your dog isn’t acting up all the time while you are gone. So, he could be taking a nap or playing with a toy, and hear your negative commands. He now will lose that powerful association between that scolding and his bad behavior. Your “No!”s will lose all meaning, and you won’t be able to control his behavior with reprimands and warnings any more.
So what can you do? As one successful owner did, train him to be calm while you are gone. Leave the house, and make sure he sees you leaving. But leave something so you can hear him, like a walkie talkie, or you can call your house phone from your cell phone and leave the house phone behind without hanging up. Don’t go too far, and the second he starts to bark, run back and give him that reprimand he knows means he was misbehaving. Do this a number of times, and your dog will learn A, to behave while you’re away, and B, that you’re not as far gone as he may think.
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