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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Little-Dog Barking Problems

Hello Jan -
Cosmo (our Maltese) barks non-stop when someone drives in the driveway or rings the door bell even after I tell her "no" (showing her the palm of my hand) and even after I have allowed the guests in. My friend, Laurie, says it is so entertaining to come to my house and ring the doorbell because she knows I will be yelling at the dog within seconds! This past summer when we were in the front yard or the driveway, Cosmo would bark when neighbors walked by the house. I know it is a territorial thing, but she just keeps barking and barking and sometimes runs up the street after them. We have a no front yard fence policy in our neighborhood and I like having her with me when I am outside.
I do not mind if she barks a few times, but it is so aggravating when it goes on and on and on.
Please help me!
Much obliged -

Dear Lynn,
Get a couple squirt bottles and fill them with water and a little vinegar. Keep one near the front door and station the other one where convenient. Put Cosmo back on a "drag leash" in the house for this re-training period too.

When Cosmo alerts you to an "intruder" at the front door, go to her, pick up the leash and calmly tell her to "Quiet!" and "Sit." Give her a leash correction if she does not. Praise when she sits. If she starts barking again, whip out that squirt bottle and surprise her with a splash. She won't like it. When she's quiet, praise her again. Don't drop the leash during this sequence, or she'll dash away and bark from a distance.

When the person comes in the door, require Cosmo to stay on the floor, slightly BEHIND you, until you release her to say hi. You'll be sending her the signal that YOU are in charge, and that you can handle the situation....also that her excessive barking won't be tolerated.

If Cosmo is food motivated, try some reverse psychology. When she barks at the front window, call her sweetly and let her see you have a treat for her. When she comes for it, pick up the drag leash and take her away from the window. Feed her the treat in the kitchen, or at least away from the window. If she tugs to get free and run back to the window, ask her to do an obedience command or a trick instead, and offer another small treat. IOW, teach her to associate someone outside the window with a TREAT IN THE OTHER ROOM. You are NOT rewarding bad behavior; you are simply redirecting her behavior.

If your friend expects you to be yelling, then Cosmo does too! Your excitement and frustration will further fuel her barking. Try remaining calm and assertive instead.

Regarding the front yard situation...geez, do what I do with my own dogs. Keep them on a leash and keep the leash in your hand (or stake her out...she's little enough that you can do that for a few minutes while supervised. I NEVER trust even my own dogs if there's a possibility they can get excited and possibly run off chasing something.

There's NO substitute for a complete refresher course (for both of you) in "who's in charge." You and Cosmo came through Leadership Class at Manning Dog Training a long time ago, and you still have lifetime privileges there in Yakima. Call Jane or Lisa at 574-4008 and find out when would be a good time to bring Cosmo back through class (at no charge, or course). You'll be amazed how even one night of class will improve the situation at home and elsewhere.

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