barking @ people

Posted by kay-r
Feb 18, 2010
I adopted a sheltie a year ago. She has turned into a wonderful family member. She came with a few issues which we have been working on through the use of the books and doggie classes. The problem I can not correct is her barking at people. She is dog friendly but will ignore playing with other dogs just to bark at the dogs owner(s). People come to the house and they will be here for hours and she will just start barking at them. She barks when they leave. If they try to talk to her... she barks, if they try to pet her... she barks, if they look at her... she barks. I have socialized her in every way possible. Please help!
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Feb 18, 2010
Hi Kay,

It’s great that you have been socializing your dog so much. Aggression in dogs is common in puppies that missed out on that ‘socialization window’, and so you have done very well to get her used to as many dogs and people as possible. The more varied the environments that you can expose her to the better, because in this way you will find that nothing will faze her and she will become a more relaxed dog.

It sounds like her barking actually stems from a different problem though. Inappropriate barking is commonly an attention seeking behavior, and so you will need to take a completely different approach to training her.

The most important thing to remember when dealing with problem barking is never to reward the barking. You will need to ignore her completely when she barks. Although this will be very hard initially, you must be very strict as by telling her to ‘be quiet’, you are giving her the attention that she is looking for. Even by looking at her and making eye contact, you will have succumbed to her wishes. You may find it easier to leave the room for a while if the barking becomes intolerable. The moment she is quiet, say 'Quiet' to her and then give her lots of attention and a treat. This gives her something to strive towards, so that she knows what you want as well as what is considered bad behavior.

If she continues to bark incessantly, you may need to use either a rattle-can (few coins in a can) or a water-gun to surprise her and stop her barking. It is important to make sure you only rattle/spray when she is barking. The moment that she is distracted, give the 'quiet' command and reward her for her silence. You should then follow this up with another command, such as such as 'sit-stay', which will give her something else to focus on.

Making a big fuss of her when she is quiet is vital, but to ensure maximum efficacy you must not generally give her attention whenever she asks for it. Instead, she has to learn to work for it, for example, only playing with her after she has obeyed a command. This will make your attention all the more valuable and worthwhile in her eyes.

Do let her have a few barks, as moderation is the key. More importantly is that she does not bark excessively and is quiet when you tell her to be. If she continues to bark, as a last resort you could try a citronella collar, which emits a powerful smell when the dog barks, which they find extremely unpleasant. The problem with these collars is that they will address the barking but do nothing to treat the cause of it. All other methods should be tried first before resorting to them.

If refuses to stop barking at your visitors, take her by the collar and lead her away to a 'time-out zone'. Don't speak to her or make eye contact when taking her away, so that she is getting absolutely no attention from anyone at all. This place should be quiet and free of distractions, away from other people and dogs so that she can be left completely alone. Leave her there until she calms down and then make her obey a command, such as 'sit-stay', before releasing her from the 'time-out zone'. If she misbehaves again, do exactly the same. She will soon learn that that is not the way to get attention, in fact it will lead to complete isolation instead, which is the opposite of what she wants.

You should also incorporate into your training some reinforcement of your alpha dog status. She will not only become a much more relaxed dog if she is confident that you are the leader of the pack, the barking for attention will also improve immensely as sub-ordinate dogs only receive attention from the alpha dog when they want to give it, not any time that it is asked for. Some training tips that you could incorporate into your daily routine includes insisting that you walk ahead of her through doorways and when walking on the leash, and feeding her after you have finished your own meal. Before you pat her or play with her in general, give her a command, such as 'sit-stay' so that she will see that your attention is a reward for good behavior. If you are playing a game with her, make sure it is you that chooses the toy and when you decide that you have had enough, take the toy away with you so that she realizes that it is you that controls playtime. When you first come home, you should greet the rest of the household first before saying hello to her.

It is a good idea to set aside some time each day for a bit of obedience training, which will not only improve her obedience levels but also the relationship between you.

I hope this helps and all the best with the training!