My Pet World: How to deter (humanely) feral cats from your yard
— Mary, Chesapeake, Virginia
The number one question I get about dogs is how to curb their barking, so I don't mind addressing it every now and again for you, your son, and my other readers. You can't teach a dog to not bark. “Alerting” is what they do, but you can reduce the amount of time your dog spends barking and redirect him to do something else.
Using a clicker or marker/reward work like "bingo", begin by teaching the dog what the clicker or marker word means. Every time your son says his dog’s name and the dog makes eye contact with him, he should click or say the marker word to mark the desired behavior and then give his dog a treat. Once the dog understands what the clicker or marker word means, your son can begin training him to stop barking.
When the dog barks, he should say "ssshht," shake a can of coins, or introduce any other noisemaker to interrupt the behavior. The dog should stop barking, but only for a few seconds. That's when your son needs to call the dog to him as enthusiastically as possible, so the dog thinks something more interesting is happening on the other side of the room.
If the dog comes when called, he needs to mark that response with a clicker or marker word and give the dog a treat. If the dog doesn't stop barking, he needs to put a leash on the dog and walk him to the other side of the room. He then needs to ask the dog to sit, so he can click and treat.
Then, your son should introduce the dog to a puzzle or chew toy to keep him distracted from barking. Over time, the dog should learn to stop barking and go to your son, when called.
(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)
©2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.(c) 2022 DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.