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My Pet World: Focused attention and good recalls help with barking

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

How can I get my three-year-old terrier mix, Reef, to stop barking at everything? While inside, he barks at people and pets, delivery drivers, etc. Outside, he barks at other dogs walking by us on the street. The "shock" collar only worked for a while, but we did not want to keep it on him constantly. Bribing him with treats is not a good solution.

— Bob, Cooper City, Florida

Dear Bob,

You can’t stop a dog from barking, but you can shorten its duration through training. Treats are a training tool. It’s how we let dogs know when they have done something right. So, here’s how to begin:

Dogs can’t do two things at once. So, whenever your dog is barking, call him. He will have to stop barking to walk over to you. If your dog has poor recall, you will need to train him. You can get a clicker for a few dollars at the pet store. Begin by training him to look at you whenever you say his name. When he does, click the clicker to mark the correct behavior, and follow up with a treat.

 

Next, focus on the recall training using the same techniques. Click the clicker the moment he turns to come when called. The clicker is the promise of a treat, so he will come for it. You are not rewarding him for barking; you are rewarding him for coming when called.

After calling him, play a game, train him, or give him a puzzle toy, like a Kong, with treats inside to keep his mind busy and distracted. You also can mask outside noises by playing music or white noise, watching television, or closing the blinds to the front of the house.

When he barks during your walks, say his name, and turn quickly and walk the other way. If he makes eye contact, click and treat. Once he begins to focus on you, he should bark a little less.

Dear Cathy,

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