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Daily Archives: September 1, 2011

Tips for the Emma Dilemma….

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Our one and a half year old Border Collie Emma is a barker….she barks at almost anything. If the kids are upstairs and she hears them drop something….she barks, if someone comes to our door (or she sees someone walk by our house)…..she barks, if you startle her….she barks, if she is playing…..she barks. Most of the times she barks we can get her to stop but if she’s in a full-blown defensive bark, no luck, she just keeps on barking. We need to help her learn when it’s ok to bark and when it’s not ok to bark …..according to us. 🙂

Our little "Barker"

Below is an article I found that just might help us out with our little Emma Dilemma.

Dog Barking 101 By Martin Deeley

Let’s face it – dogs bark. Some do for good reason and some do for apparently little or no reason and some do a little of both. Of course there are also certain breeds that are more prone to yapping than others. The problem is not always the barking but the need for them to be quiet at certain times or when asked.

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons. They may be giving a warning to another animal, sounding an alarm, playing or instigating play, joining in the excitement of the moment, demanding a reaction (even using it as a command), doing it on command, out of fear and the need to drive another animal or object away, and sometimes they bark just for the sake of barking. On occasion it can be a combination of any of these. With puppies it can be insecurity after leaving the pack.

We don’t necessarily want our dogs to stop barking though, especially when it is an alarm alerting us to danger, or perhaps warding off an intruder. But we do want them to stop when we ask them to, and we don’t want them to bark if there is no reason. Some will bark at the slightest noise, disturbance or movement. Often, although barking could be in the breed’s instinct, the owner has unknowingly reinforced the behavior. If we shout at the dog that is barking he may think we are joining in. If we tell him gently to be quiet or give him affection, he may mistakenly think we like it and sees this calm voice as praise for barking.

With all of these different forms of barking there are a variety of approaches we can take to ensure the barking is for the right reason and can be stopped when the reason is no longer there. Much of this will come from the confidence the owner shows to his dog in being able to handle different situations. To gain this confidence the owner has to get to know his dog and the situations that create the barking. With this understanding, an owner can demonstrate calm, confident leadership and take control in the right way. The dog responds because he can trust the leader has taken charge. From the very beginning of our dog/owner partnership, we should be building a foundation that allows such trust and confidence. Remember that a dog’s barking is one way he communicates to us, so we do not wish to stop it but we do wish to control it as required. Learning to read your dog’s signals and means of communicating is incredibly important to your overall relationship.

To stop barking we can do a variety of actions. One way is through closing his mouth. If you have a dog that will bark and ‘sport’ at people or other animals a head halter, such as a Gentle Leader that enables you to close his mouth and guide him into an acceptable behavior is a big advantage. Introduce the halter so your dog accepts it willingly and, when an unwanted bark happens, lift the leash so the dog’s mouth closes and he is guided into a sit. Now move again and change your direction creating attention to you as you move elsewhere. So, we stop the bark, we gain attention and we redirect to an acceptable behavior in one simple step. Another way to keep the mouth closed is to encourage your dog to bring a “present” to a guest or someone in your home, or to simply to encourage him to enjoy carrying objects. Dogs that enjoy retrieving will often pick up a toy and carry it around just to show their pleasure. Naturally they cannot bark when they are holding a toy. But be careful not to give the toy when barking is in progress or they could mistake the toy as a reward for barking.

Another approach that can work is to teach your dog to bark on command, or “speak,” and then command him to be quiet. If you use treats or even verbal praise – do wait a few seconds after he has finished barking before rewarding him. What you don’t want him to think is that he is being rewarded for barking when really he is being rewarded for being quiet. To get him to bark initially you can have someone ring your doorbell or you can encourage him to bark by “barking” yourself. Have him on a leash during the exercise so that you can distract and stop the barking with a light pop of the leash. To make the response even better teach your dog that he can bark at the doorbell but then must be quiet and go to a place near the door where he can watch who is at the door and allow them to come in. This can give a very effective security touch to a home. Dog barks, owners says “Quiet,” and he stops barking, showing he is under control. When the door is opened he is sat watching and waiting for anything that could be a threat. One word – “Speak” – has him barking again. So by teaching the commands – “Speak,” “Quiet,” and “Place,” – you have a dog that is both under control, yet ready to give a warning or even threaten if required.

With some dogs it does require an interrupter or distraction to take their mind off of the stimulus to bark. In other words, there has to be something that breaks the concentration on the barking. In some cases the intensity is too high for a verbal command to cut through the behavior. The interrupter in that case may be another noise, such as using a tool that emits a high frequency sound when the dog barks. This is not a pleasant sound to the dog and interrupts his barking. A beanbag, a piece of chain and even a can with pebbles or coins in it, can provide the interruption too. It works like this – the dog barks and this loud object lands on the floor in front of him. You act as though it came from “Heaven.” Now he thinks every time he barks for no reason or if he continues unnecessarily, something falls from the sky.

Barking does not always require a big interrupter, however. You can use everyday objects. If your dog barks near to you, slam the cupboard door or a drawer, so the noise distracts or startles him. Make nothing of this, and carry on as normal. This can work especially well when a dog barks simply to be let out of a crate. You don’t want to scare the dog, just quickly alter his state of mind and change the focus. He should not see you launch the object or make the noise. He has to think that the unwanted barking creates the occurrence. Practice this while you are watching TV, working in the kitchen or whatever you’re doing – the dog should not relate it to you but to the nuisance barking. An important part of this is that if you do drop or throw an object it should not hit the dog, but land at his feet. You should also leave it there for a while so he does not relate it to you. Remember though that you have to be able to understand and translate the different barks. One of his barks may be – I need to go to the bathroom. So learn to understand the tone of the bark or noise he makes.

Of course another less preferable way is to ignore the barking and wait for it to go away. In a crate or enclosed area this may work (particularly with a puppy who is learning to settle) but if the dog is outside or in a large area then the barking itself can be self-rewarding. In many instances there are multiple stimuli occurring which will encourage the barking. In my opinion, dogs should never be left outside unsupervised or unaccompanied. Go out with your dog and do not allow him to run the fence, race down the hedgerow chasing the cars, or barking at the person walking by. Show your control and confidence in handling these situations and be the leader of your pack. Have him on a leash or a long line so that you can reinforce your commands and maintain control without shouting or becoming agitated.

A puppy barking in his crate may stop if covered with a cloth sheet so he is not stimulated to bark by what he sees. With a cover over it, the crate also feels more like a den and hence more secure. Some pups will be quiet if allowed to sleep in their crate next to the owners’ bed, or with a belonging that smells of the owner or their siblings. When your pup is in the crate do get to know the sounds he makes and unless it is an emergency for the bathroom do not go and open the crate or let the pup out when he is barking. If you do he will learn to bark demanding to be let out and in this way tell you what to do. Sometimes a squirt bottle of water can be used to direct a spray at a pup that barks in the crate but I have seen dogs that enjoy this too and make a game out of it. Plus, it can make quite a mess.

And finally there are bark collars that automatically set off an interrupter when the dog wearing it barks. Some emit a noise, some a blast of air or citronella and some use an electric stimulation between two points on the collar that limit the feeling to that area. They can all work. My experience has been that the electronic one is the most successful and most important only the dog wearing it feels the interrupter. The citronella spray collar and the noise collar can be triggered if other dogs close by are barking. With any form of bark collar, however, I would recommend you seek expert advice before using one.

I mentioned the importance of your relationship and confidence not only in your own ability to handle situations but also your dog’s confidence in you. This comes through exercise, training, spending time together, setting limits and boundaries and showing appreciation for behaviors that are pleasing. Controlled walks, games such as retrieving, and learning to be patient by simply sitting or laying down by your side or relaxing in his crate will create a companion that sees no need to bark without a good reason. In this way you build a foundation of trust and confidence that lets your dog know when he can and should bark and also when he can be quiet.

Now I have the tools I need to have a less barky dog. Time to get started. 🙂

Tips for dog walking…..

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These are some more “dog walking” tips I found to help make walking my dogs more enjoyable….eventually. 🙂

Cody, our 7 year old Lab shows some aggression towards other dogs when we are walking and I’m not sure when it started or why but she wasn’t always like this….time to get her back to the “happy bouncy” Lab she once was.

This is what I am sure I look like sometimes.....


When dealing with dog-to-dog aggression, it is important to listen to your dog.

There are many reasons why your dog may be reacting aggressively to another dog. She may be afraid, she may be stressed because her space is being violated, she may feel the need to dominate, she may be protective of you, she may be very curious, or she may just be overly excited. Try to understand what she is trying to tell you.

As soon as you see that your dog is starting to get stressed, you should step in and interrupt before the situation escalates. You should also take your dog’s age, health, temperament, and preferences into account when coming up with solutions for dog behavioral problems such as dog aggression.

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 1

Be calm and assertive.

Dogs are very sensitive to what their human is feeling. Dogs pick up on what you’re feeling and reflect it, with a hundred times more intensity. Sometimes you may not even be conscious of feeling nervous or stressed, but your dog notices it.

Once you start to calm yourself down, your dog’s behavior also improves.

A common mistake when meeting other dogs is to tense up and get fearful of what your dog may do. If you are afraid, your dog will be a hundred times more afraid and that will likely trigger an aggressive reaction.

Be careful not to put undue or continuous tension on the leash. Also, do not pull your dog straight back as that will likely cause a lunge forward response. To remove your dog, pull him to the side and quickly walk him past the other dog.

That would be mistake #1 for me…..I know she is going to react to the dog coming towards us so I automatically tense up and pull back on the leash, thus I get the reaction I don’t want….that’s right….I am to blame. I am trying to stay calmer when we meet another dog, but it is difficult when she can pull me over.

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 2

Ignore, Ignore, Ignore – Teach your dog avoidance.

When you see another dog,  just ignore it and move along.

Avoidance is most effective when **YOU** ignore the other dog and owner as well, i.e. no eye contact. Just keep your eyes forward and pass the other dog. That way your dog is learning from you that when we see another dog, we avoid, rather than confront.

Be careful not to crowd your dog. If she feels trapped between you and another dog, she may think she has no choice but to react aggressively. Do not stand still while trying to tug your dog away. Move away and your dog will come along with you. At the same time, you are creating space so that your dog will not feel trapped.

Do not let your dog obsess (i.e. unblinking stare) on the other dog. Do not allow this bad behavior, do not let your dog practice it, do not even let her think about it. Just move her along whenever you see another dog. If the other dog is somehow blocking you (e.g. if the owner is unable to control it) then turn back and walk away. Do not stare the other dog down and do not confront him, either through posture or by physically engaging him.

Challenging unknown dogs is a good way to get bitten.

That would be mistake #2 for me…..I can’t seem to get Cody “unfocused” on the dogs coming towards us. The more I try to distract her, the more “alert” she seems to get. I have been trying harder to keep her moving as we pass the dog, but she is a bit stronger than I am.

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 3

Create space or block the other dog.

Another way to handle dog-to-dog aggression is to create space between your dog and the other dog by moving across the road, or into a driveway, and waiting for the other dog to pass. You may also move your dog behind a barrier (e.g. a car). If there are no barriers available, blocking your dog’s view with your body is another possibility.

By doing this, you avoid a head on, more confrontational, passing.

Dog treats and trying to get her attention do not work if your dog is already obsessing because the other dog is too close and your dog is probably no longer listening.

The nice thing about walking your dog briskly past the other dog is that she has less time to stare, and she can’t fully obsess because she must partly focus on walking.

This method of blocking, however, may work better for a fearful dog.

Be careful not to let your fearful dog forcefully pull you away as that may reinforce her phobia. Instead, create as much space as possible and move her behind some barriers. Then distract her from the other dog by doing simple commands and by using very high priority treats.

Some trainers suggest turning and walking away when you see another dog rather than passing him, or waiting for him to pass.

There are two problems with this method:

  • If you turn away, the other dog will be following you and that usually causes your dog to keep looking back.
  • If you keep turning away, you may meet other dogs and get boxed in; especially if there are many dogs in your neighborhood.

That would be mistake #3 for me….trouble blocking. Although I have started crossing the street ….and then crossing back…..dogs on both sides, I have stood behind parked cars until the other dogs have passed us, and I have walked out on to the street to avoid other dogs. It may actually be working.

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 4

Create neutral experiences.

Create as many neutral dog-to-dog meeting experiences as possible. If every time your dog sees another dog, you just pass by and nothing interesting happens, she will be less aggressive towards other dogs.

Being consistent with neutral greetings will build your dog’s confidence. Through repetition, you are teaching her how to behave (just avoid and move along), and how not to behave (show dog-to-dog aggression), when another dog comes along. She will be calmer because she is not waiting in anticipation of a highly charged encounter, either for play or for confrontation.

Do not let your dog practice any aggressive behaviors when meeting other dogs. The more she practices, the more aggressive she will be.

If your dog becomes aggressive during a walk, try to end the walk as soon as possible. Once in this mode, her adrenaline levels will be high for a fair duration and she will likely react aggressively to all the dogs that you meet. In this state, she will no longer be capable of learning, and will only be practicing dog aggressive behaviors.

Being consistent with neutral or positive greetings will build your dog’s confidence.

 That would be mistake #4 for me….we don’t seem to have an opportunity to create neutral meetings with other dogs. I am now being more consistent with moving to the street or just walking past even though she is still pulling at the leash but ending the walk early doesn’t seem to be a good solution since it could happen half way in to the walk and my choice is turn around and go home or keep walking home, either way the walk is the same length. I guess I have my cell phone so I could call for a ride…. 🙂

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 5

Protect your dog from rude dogs and rude people.

If your dog is aggressive to dogs, keep him away from people and dogs with weak energy (e.g. fearful, excited, or frustrated energy). Keep other dogs and owners from coming into your dog’s space. Usually just say a quick ‘hi’ to the people you meet, and move on.

If people with weak energy stop and want to meet your dog, ask them nicely to move on because your dog is an excitable dog. It is fine and good to let your dog meet people with calm energy, but make sure to let them know how to best greet your dog, e.g. turn away when your dog jumps, no quick movements, no petting from above.

This one really doesn’t apply so much to me……no one wants to stop and pet my barky growly dogs…..however there are some people and some dogs that they do react more aggressively towards than others. Mistake #5 for me would be that I just need to pick up on their energy as quickly as my dogs do and take corrective action.

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 6

Use positive interrupts and keep encounters short.

If you are greeting another dog, you want to positively interrupt your dog every so often and make him refocus on you. Positively interrupt him many times if necessary so that she does not lose control of herself.

Whenever your dog is meeting a new dog, interrupt her after a very short duration (2-3 seconds). Quickly move away from the other dog, while giving the positive interrupt command, e.g. Hey, hey. Initially, you may have to lightly tug your dog while moving away. Treat your dog for moving towards you on a loose leash. Make sure to treat well.

If your dog is too obsessed to move away and is strongly standing her ground, then you have waited too long to initiate the positive interrupt. The positive interrupt is also useful for dealing with human greetings, getting your dog away from a dirty or dangerous area, and getting your dog away from a dangerous object.

The key to a successful positive interrupt is to catch your dog early enough before she starts to obsess.

This isn’t actually a mistake I make….I just don’t even practice it. I think it is a good tip to keep in mind for future when Cody has become better behaved on the walk.

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 7

Be aware that your dog’s natural look may trigger a dog aggressive reaction.

Some dogs, have a natural look (ears up, hair out, tail up) that is a very confident and dominant dog posture. This dominant look may instigate other dogs to respond in kind and start posturing as well. Dog to dog aggression could occur and ultimately a dog fight; if neither dog is willing to back down.

If you are unsure about a dog greeting, then just move on.

We actually move on regardless of the reaction of the other dog….I have allowed my dogs to greet other dogs when their owners have been ok with it but Emma is a consistent barker and this keeps Cody tense so while there hasn’t always been aggressive behavior it hasn’t been so calm either.

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 8

Desensitize your dog towards other dogs.

In the desensitization process, you get your dog to focus on you instead of other dogs or objects in the environment. Find some balanced, low energy dogs that you can practice desensitization exercises with. Have a friend engage the other dog so that he is staying in a fixed position and not focused on your dog.

Take your dog a far distance away, and get her attention by calling her name. If she looks at you, praise her, treat her, and move forward. Keep doing this until you get to a point where she won’t give you her attention anymore. Then non-mark her (uh-oh) and move back and away from the other dog. Try and get your dog’s attention again and once she gives it to you, stop, praise, and treat.

You can let her sit and watch the other dog as long as she is willing to give you her attention when you ask for it. Once you are comfortable with this, you may start moving forward towards the other dog again.

Make sure to stop before your dog starts obsessing and long before she becomes aggressive. If your dog becomes aggressive, then end the session. As you make progress, you may slowly increase the strength of the stimulus, for example, by letting the calm dog start moving and/or by getting a more energetic dog.

The desensitization process can be long and difficult. Dogs with lower “instinct thresholds” (the point at which they lose control and switch to instinct) will be much harder to desensitize. For desensitization to be successful, it is important to keep your dog below her instinct threshold at all times. However, consistent practice will also help to raise this threshold.

Perhaps someday we will be to this point and we can get some kind person to volunteer to help out with the exercise….but we aren’t there yet. J

What to Expect from Dog-to-Dog Aggression Training

Do not expect too much, at once, from your dog. Make sure to treat and praise your dog very well if she voluntarily engages in avoidance maneuvers when faced with another dog. This includes looking away from the direction of the other dog, smelling and exploring the environment, or looking to you for direction.

Treat and praise even for small avoidance moves, e.g. looking away for only 1 second. If your dog will not accept treats from you, then she is too far gone and it is best to lead her away. Treats are only effective, for shaping behavior, when your dog is still thinking and not operating on instinct.

Keep practicing the exercises above with your dog and he will improve. As she matures, she will become more confident, be less dog aggressive, and be more comfortable around new things.


This is what I expect to look like in the near future..... 🙂

All good advice for me to follow….tonight’s walk should be a breeze…..“a walk in the park”  so to speak. There will be no dog issues what so ever….I am completely full of confidence (or full of something anyway)!! 🙂