Dog Training 411

posted July 15th, 2012 by
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by Mary Green

Q Is there any way I can stop my dog from barking at everyone and ev­erything that goes down my street? I like to leave my solid door open and the storm door closed, but Lacey spends the day barking. She doesn’t charge the door, thank goodness, but the barking needs to stop.

A It’s hard to completely extinguish barking, and perhaps that’s not what we want to do. One benefit of hav­ing dogs, even small ones, is that they can sound the alarm to warn you of a threat. It is possible, though, to teach a dog to stop barking when you tell her and maybe help her discriminate be­tween what is and isn’t bark-worthy.

You might start by covering the storm door with a decorative window film available at home improvement stores. There are lots of patterns avail­able, and you could select one that is opaque enough that she can’t see out, but the light comes through. Of course, you may only need to apply it to the lower portion of the door.

The most effective training option may be to teach Lacey the meaning of “that’s enough” or a similar signal. To do this, sit with her at the door, and when she barks, tell her, “That’s enough,” and give her a treat. It may feel like you’re rewarding her for barking—that’s OK, because at least for the second she is eating the treat, she isn’t barking. You can continue to give her treats until the person (distraction) is out of her sight. Pretty soon, she is barking one time and coming to you for her treat!

Teaching an alternate behavior is an­other option. When Lacey starts to bark at the door, call her to you and give her a toy, preferably something that squeaks and have her hold or carry it. When Parker, my Boxer, was a little guy, he would be so excited that he would grab whatever was handy, which often was a sock. We could say, “Parker, put a sock in it!” and he would grab a toy, bone or sock. To this day, nine years later, Parker still greets everyone with something in his mouth. At least the barking was muffled!

You might teach Lacey to go away from the door. At K9 Manners & More, we teach a “go to mat” skill that comes in very handy for this type of problem. By having Lacey go and lie down on her mat or dog bed, she is removing herself from the excitement of the door and us­ing self-control.

Q Are little dogs harder to train than regular size dogs?

A I’m not sure what you consider “regular size dogs” to be, since dogs come in all sizes! From toy and small dogs, such as Yorkshire Terriers or Chihuahuas to giant breeds like the Newfoundland and the Irish Wolfhound, the size of the dog’s brain will change, but the manner in which they learn is the same. There are perhaps notable differences in trainability.

In 1994, Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, wrote a book on dog intelligence, “The Intelligence of Dogs.” The book explains Coren’s theories about the differences in intel­ligence between different breeds of dogs. Coren published a second edition in 2006. He defines three aspects of dog intelligence in the book. Instinctive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to perform the tasks it was bred for, such as herding, pointing, retrieving, guard­ing or supplying companionship. Adap­tive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to solve problems on his own. Working and obedience intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to learn from humans.

There are reasons why one might think little dogs are harder to train. Training little dogs may be physically hard on a person because of the need to bend over more than with a me­dium or large dog. A small dog’s tum­my fills up quickly on treats, making a training session very brief. Small dogs often are afraid of being stepped on or picked up, so they may stay out of arms’ reach. They also have a compara­tively small bladder, and housetraining may be more challenging than with a larger dog.

One thing is for certain in dogs… One size does not fit all!

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