Puff's barking -- any training suggestions?
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Thread: Puff's barking -- any training suggestions?

  1. #1
    Bob Pr. is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultPuff's barking -- any training suggestions?

    Puff is a "wuss" dog.* Almost any other dog will be more dominant than she is.

    She's fairly well trained for the things we do EXCEPT for her barking at people.*

    In some ways it's nice and sometimes it's not.

    Every day when the mail comes and she hears the mail box on the side of the house being opened, she sounds like World War III has started.* A knock on the door produces the same.* THAT'S good, I don't mind it and would like to keep it.

    But strangely, my next door neighbors to my right lived there for 3 years and every time they drove in (even several times a day) whenever Puff was outside, she'd run over towards them and bark at them.* Often when she got near, she'd quickly jump up and give a face a lick.* Then they moved and she did the same thing a few weeks with the new ones but no longer does as much -- unless an unfamiliar car pulls in their driveway and unfamiliar people get out.

    She did the same barking with my neighbors on the left for a couple years until they began having kids, then she stopped.

    When we meet a birder (bird watcher) in the nature preserve, she runs toward them and barks at them.* One gentleman we often meet, I've handed him a few kibbles to give to Puff from his hand and that seems to eliminate it when we see him regularly.

    Yesterday a UPS truck pulled up to leave a book from Amazon at my door.* I'd climbed a stepladder and was 8 feet off the ground working on the deck of my boat while Puff was lying on the ground, supervising.

    The UPS driver tried to get to the door and Puff was acting ferocious. He looked very worried and I told him to just leave it at the curb and I'd get it.

    My reaction to Puff at each bark is a loud, stern "NO!!"* That's almost always enough to keep her from doing what she wants to do -- roll in something stinky, chase a cat, etc.

    But not for the barking.

    Any suggestions on how to retain useful barks and eliminate bothersome ones?

    Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]

    Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
    http://forum.justlabradors.com/showt...?p=748#post748

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    TimC. is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Puff's barking -- any training suggestions?

    Bob I don't know if this will work for you but this is what I've done. I live in an upstairs apartment and when Oona hears the kids downstairs or someone knocking on their door she goes off. The first thing I do is thank her and then say no. Then I put my hand on top of her muzzle and just hold it there. Usually at this point she has stopped the loud barking but their might be a little huff, huff left. If there is I make her sit or laydown, this always seems to do the trick.
    Olie

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    Trickster is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Puff's barking -- any training suggestions?

    Just to clarify, you are trying to stop her from barking at people while out on walks and at the door?

    I'm probably stating the obvious, but have you tried teaching 'NO BARK' or 'QUIET'? rather then just say 'NO!' for every bad behavior, I find assigning a command name to the behavior helps the dog understand. 'NO!' becomes meaningless if it is used too much and too often.

    Personally, I found positive rewards helped immensely with correcting nuisance barking. My dogs (well, Trick, my GSD/Collie cross) used to hate the postmen with passion. A year ago, the local postmen in my area starting carrying treats. Simple dog treats. After a couple of rewards from Mr. Postman, the dogs were the guy's best friend. Now they adore the postman...I swear they like him more than I do!

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  6. #4
    Bob Pr. is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Puff's barking -- any training suggestions?

    Yes, it's when we're outdoors and Puff is off leash that it occurs.
    Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]

    Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
    http://forum.justlabradors.com/showt...?p=748#post748

  7. #5
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    Fallriver is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Puff's barking -- any training suggestions?

    Hi Bob
    My best guess is Puff is trying to drive people away with her alarm barking.* As long as she is permitted to bark at the mail man, she will continue to learn that barking does in fact drive people away!!* Mail man appears, Puff barks, mail man goes away*
    If you want to work on this behaviour outdoors, you will have better success if you also work on it indoors.* Your best bet is management and just close the blinds while you work on this.

    As for outdoors, 85% of the time, this behaviour is driven by fear.* Often, we further condition it by giving strangers cookies to feed our dogs.* If you think about it, here is the behaviour chain that you can inadvertently shape:* Puff barks at strange man, you produce cookies, Puff approaches man to get cookies.* If this is the approach you want to take, the strange man has to have the cookies before you see him and before she starts barking, which is nearly impossible.* Even then, she will often get rewarded for approaching the stranger with her hackles up and with mixed emotions, and we dont want to do that.

    Now, because this behaviour is driven by emotion, we will have limited success unless we change the emotion that drives the behaviour.* If somebody called you and said a close relative was very ill in the hospital and then asked you to do long-division, you would have a great deal of dificulty doing it!* It is hard to concentrate when emotions are high, so you can't expect Puff to change her behaviour while her emotions are high.* So, we need to use Classical Conditioning to create a different association with novel people.* Yelling NO will certainly not do that, and will only assure her that she was right in being suspicious of the stranger because you are also worked up about it.* So, we work on desensitization.* This means getting her more comfortable with novel greetings.* In order to to that, we need to change the association to something positive.* So, if every single time she meets a stranger or one comes onto her property you make a big happy fuss and feed her constantly, and then ignore her as soon as the stranger is gone, she will learn that strangers are now a cue for really terific things for Puff.* This is how we change the association.* Now, we are working on Classical Conditioning, not Operant, and that means that you are going to feed her no matter what her reaction is.* Preferably, you are going to feed her before she reacts though.* If you can feed her before she reacts and can keep her engaged on you the whole time, then what you will see is an auto-watch...as soon as a stranger appears, she will look at you and say Oooh, where are my cookies?* Then, the association will have changed and she will be feeling much better about strangers.

    At that point, you are working on an Operant level, because she is learning a replacement behaviour in the company of strangers.* Instead of barking or lunging, she is now offering you eye contact.* If you are consistent, the stranger now becomes a cue for eye contact, the same as a Sit cue would be a cue to sit.* Now, we're making progress...as soon as she sees a stranger, she offers you eye contact.

    If you want to take it one step further and have her meet the stranger with no fuss, I would work on targeting.* Do not work on this until you have the barking under control though.* Have you ever shaped your dog to touch a target?* If so, shape her to touch familiar people.* Once you have 'touch' under stimulus control, then you can ask her to touch strangers and then reward her for doing so.* This works very well and I have had a great deal of success with the touch method with students' dogs who are nervous about the obedience stand for exam or the conformation judge.* The down-side is, she will 'goose' everyone she meets* * I used this method with my one girl when she went through a funky-teenage-girl stage, and now she thinks she needs to touch the stewards every time we do a figure eight!!!* Much better than running from the judge though* 8)

    Many people forget that we can actually shape emotion the same way we can shape behaviour.* Clicker training is surely a wonderful thing!* You will have much more success with this method than if you just focus on the behaviour because as long as there is that unsettled feeling in her, she is bound to act upon it.
    Good luck* ;D
    Dana


    To err is human:To forgive, canine."
    - Anonymous

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    Labsrme is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Puff's barking -- any training suggestions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Pr.
    Every day when the mail comes and she hears the mail box on the side of the house being opened, she sounds like World War III has started.* A knock on the door produces the same.* THAT'S good, I don't mind it and would like to keep it.
    Why would you want to keep this behavior? How is Puff supposed to know when it is okay to bark and act aggressive and when it is inappropriate? You are reinforcing her barking behavior every time you allow it to go on. It's always interesting to me that many people want their dog to bark and act aggressive for protection, but then don't like it when the dog displays the same behavior in other areas, such as a more social setting. Think back on how many posts you have read about dogs acting aggressively or fearful on meeting new people or dogs (and Puff is barking either out of aggression or fear), and then the poster mentions that they like the dog to bark and act protective in certain situations. It's like allowing your child to smart mouth you at home but then being embarrassed when he smarts off to his teacher.

    Labs are not supposed to be guard dogs, they are supposed to be big, goofy, friendly dogs who love everybody. If you feel the need for protection in your home you'd be better off with a good alarm system.

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    imported_queenofthedogs is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Puff's barking -- any training suggestions?

    1. the barking at transient visitors [UPS guy, postman, etc.] is completely self-reinforcing because, obviously, it works! [''the stranger went away as a result of my barking! whee, i'm powerful & effective!'']
    2. your adding a loud 'remark' such as 'no' is, to the dog, your way of joining in the barking...thus gives your stamp of approval to the behavior! [''look, Dad's assisting me! what fun!'']
    your best bet is training alternative behavior, such as sitting near you for a treat, whenever things occurthat result in barking. you could speed this up by setting up situations you can control [pay a teenage to knock on your door?]
    and i doubt you CAN be successful in eliminating all of it. 'watchful alerting' is pretty deep-seated behavior, and probably the reason we domesticated dogs in the first place.
    to completely extinguish this, it would be necessary to be sure she was NEVER allowed to bark, otherwise you are asking for a 'grey area' judgement on the part of Puff, which as we know, dogs don't do 'grey areas' very well.

  10. #8
    Bob Pr. is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Puff's barking -- any training suggestions?

    Thank you, all of you, for your suggestions.

    Re: the postman, it reminds me of my first Lab, Bess (BF, 1967-81).* Bess liked to lie on a cushioned bench just under a picture window and look out at the front yard and street.* Everytime the postman walked by, Bess would bark non-stop until he disappeared.* It embarassed me and I apologised to the postman.* He said, "That's quite alright.* But you know, she never barks when you're NOT here."

    I figure it's probably exactly the same with Puff.

    And I DO like it.* She's saved me many hours from door to door salespeople, politicians, missionaries, etc.

    Puff does wear a Dogtra NCP-200 e-collar when we're walking in the nature preserve each morning.* That's to guarantee a recall under ALL circumstances (skunk, park dept. moving vehicle, strange dog, etc.) It's been weeks or months since I've used the "Nick" or 5 sec. "Continuous".* *The Pager (a vibrating buzz) is always enough to overcome her ADD.

    I'll just have to be more alert and ready to use it at her first bark and then recall her to me as soon as I hear the bark.

    Most of the time when Puff is outside at home, she doesn't have ANY collar on.* Maybe I'll try having her wear it whenever we're outside for awhile.

    It seems to me that Puff's "attitude" is that she's my scout dog and anyone within a 75 foot radius from me is in our territory when we're out in the park or at home.* So her job is to be sure that I've been properly alerted and the intruder has been served notice.

    But when she's on leash outside of a supermarket, or waiting in the car, she's completely peaceful.* As a matter of fact, when she is in the car with the window all the way down, her chin resting on the windowsill waiting to see me return, once I'm near her, when people stop to admire or speak to her, she usually wags her tail.* And when we're waiting in WalMart's waiting room for our van to be lubed, oiled, etc., she's very kissy-friendly with anyone else waiting there.
    Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]

    Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
    http://forum.justlabradors.com/showt...?p=748#post748

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