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Debbie asks...

This question is about: Barking at people, dogs, animals, birds or where the dog barks for attention or at the slightest noise

Isabelle is a friendly dog, especially with people. However, if she hears any noise outside, she barks. If the doorbell rings, she barks. She will stop, however, when the door is opened and the guest greets her. While some people may think this is cute, I do not. It's very disruptive. Yesterday, she barked for four minutes. I had to open the door and take her outside. When I tried to stop her by distracting her and telling her to stop or to sit, she would not. I don't want yell at her all the time. What can I do?

G’day Debbie,
 
With the name of our company being “Bark Busters,” you can imagine that we get lots of questions about how to stop nuisance barking.
 
It is important to understand that dogs will bark for various reasons. They do not bark just to annoy you and your neighbors, nor do they bark for spite or revenge. Certain dog breeds bark more than others; in fact, some types of dogs were actually bred to be barkers. One thing to remember is that happy, healthy dogs whose needs are met do not bark unnecessarily. Having said that, we must identify why your dog is choosing to bark at the triggers you have identified.
 
Being holistic in nature means that we can teach you how to effectively establish two-way communication and build a relationship based upon mutual trust and respect. Our in-home based training helps teach you how to establish and maintain your authority in your relationship with your dog without being physically abusive or causing pain to get the proper result with your dog. Based on observing your interaction with your dog and how the dog responds to direction from you, our trainers and therapists will create a customized training plan to address any relationship or communication issues to allow you to effectively change your dog’s behavior.
 
Without hiring a professional trainer, I would like to leave you with a couple of tips that may help.
 
Never comfort, pet, hug or feed your dog when she is barking for attention or out of anxiety. That would be rewarding the behavior, thus encouraging it.
 
Shouting at your dog to stop barking does not help. It may actually cause her to bark even more.
 
Avoid punishments like shock collars. They are not only painful and unkind, but many dogs will learn to test them and eventually work around them.
 
Try to get her attention with a clap or whistle. Once she is quiet, redirect her attention to something productive and rewarding, like a toy or praise to let her know she made a good choice to stop the nuisance barking.
 
Should you decide you need professional help, we would be more than happy to work with you and Isabelle, so feel free to contact your local Bark Busters trainer.
 

Kathy asks...

This question is about: Aggression to a dog or other animal or where the dog is aggressive to the owner or a stranger

While I'm watching TV, my puppy is lying on the floor, resting or chewing on a toy. As soon as I get off the chair or sofa, he immediately attacks me, usually as I walk by his toy. All other times, he is very affectionate and friendly to everyone. What is making him behave like this, and what can I do to stop this behavior?

G’day Kathy,
 
Cooper is possessive of his toys, and this is fairly normal behavior for dogs, as long as it doesn’t escalate to aggression. It is not acceptable for Cooper to show aggression or pose a threat to those whom he should trust and respect. Even more of a concern is an unsuspecting guest becoming a victim of Cooper’s aggressive ways.
 
To remedy his possessiveness,  I recommend limiting Cooper’s access to his toys, putting them in a box with a lid so he can get them only when you allow. Next, restrict where he can have his toys: only in his crate or on his bed, in a room other than where you would get off the chair or sofa and walk past him.
 
Then, starting with his least desirable toy, take him and the toy outside and teach him to “leave it” and come over to you by using a long leash. Praise him profusely when he comes to you, and then allow him to go back to the toy. The goal here is to teach Cooper that you have no interest in his toys and you are no threat to him when he has them. As you progress, introduce the toys he favors more. Ultimately, he should be able to have his toy in your company and show no signs of aggression as you go about your business.
 
If you need further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact your local Bark Busters trainer.

Matt asks...

This question is about: Puppy Management

How old should our dog be for training?

G’day Matt,

Puppy training can begin as soon as you bring your new puppy home. The key to good training is that the student is ready for the lessons you are prepared to teach. Beginning with a relationship based on mutual trust and respect, you and your puppy should interact in ways that maintain a healthy relationship.

Your patience is key to training a puppy. Be prepared for mistakes. You should also do your best to ensure your home is a safe environment for your puppy. Store items that are potentially dangerous to your pet and remove items you don’t want your puppy to chew.

It’s also a good idea to restrict his access to the house in the first few weeks so that you can monitor his behavior and keep him out of mischief. Set aside time each day to spend with your new puppy to work on bonding with him -- this could include a few minutes of training and/or some play time.

There are many ways to teach your dog, and you should choose one that suits both you and your dog’s temperament and learning style.

Bark Busters has developed a “New Puppy Quick Reference Guide,” which we provide to veterinarians and pet care providers. The Guide is filled with great information and answers to common puppy questions. Ask your vet for the “New Puppy Quick Reference Guide” or contact your local Bark Busters trainer.

Andrew asks...

This question is about: Aggression to a dog or other animal or where the dog is aggressive to the owner or a stranger Puppy Management

Andrew

8-week-old female Husky, Icia

Yesterday, Icia was biting on a plant, so I shouted at her saying, "No! Bad girl." She tried running away and I tried to pick her up so I could look into her eyes and talk to her. When I did that, she bit me hard! Not play biting, but actually bit me! I was wondering why the aggression? And, how can I make sure she doesn't do that again? Also, I don't want her to grow up and become vicious. Thanks a lot.

G’day Andrew,

Congratulations on your new puppy, Icia. It is wonderful that you show and guide her what habits you do and don’t want. Puppies have sharp teeth, and bites from those teeth can definitely hurt. I agree that you don’t want Icia to grow up to be aggressive.
Dogs follow two basic instincts when it comes to being threatened: fight or flight. From Icia’s perspective, she was left with no choice but to bite. She had been told “no”; then she was picked up (which took away her ability to flight) and she was stared at in the eyes, (which she viewed as a threatening move). You want to communicate with Icia in a way that is effective and non-threatening to her, and you want to show her the correct behavior.
The first step to making your puppy-raising experience more satisfying and less stressful is to make your house as “puppy proof” as possible.  Remove or protect any potential hazards to eliminate temptations for Icia. Then, if she attempts to bite something she shouldn’t, calmly growl a correction, call her to you, and provide her with an alternative to chew on (such as a Kong® toy filled with treats). You can also discourage Icia from chewing forbidden items by spraying a taste deterrent, such as Bitter Apple, on those items.
Using these procedures gives Icia a better learning experience, and she will begin to look to you for guidance on how she should behave.

Carly in Washington asks...

This question is about: Aggression to a dog or other animal or where the dog is aggressive to the owner or a stranger Other

This week's question comes to us from Carly M. in Washington. Carly has a three-year-old female Beagle named Gracie. My beagle is very aggressive when it comes to food. The only person she doesn't snap at is me. My son is 19 months old and she is always taking his food from his hand, sometimes biting him. I don't know what to do. Is this something that she can be trained not to do, and, if so, how to I fix this problem? I really don't want to give her away, but I'm to a point where I don't know if I have a choice. She is a really great dog other than this. Can you help me? Also, how do I get her to not eat poop? Thank you!

G’day Carly,

Food aggression can be a difficult problem, especially with children in a household. Food is very important to a dog, especially if the dog’s dietary needs are not being met from the dog’s perspective.  Not only do we need to consider the quantity of food being provided, but also the quality, which is even more important.  Sometimes the dog’s food does not satisfy all of the necessary components for optimal health, or the dog’s digestive system does not have the ability to break down the nutrition that is in the food provided. One of the clues in your letter is that your dog also eats her poop.

There can be a number of reasons for a dog to engage in coprophagia (eating his own feces). While we will not get into all the possibilities here, it is important to identify why your dog is choosing this behavior. In some cases the dog does not digest the food well enough, the waste product can still be evaluated by the dog as providing nutritional value.  There are commercial products available at pet food retailers or pet supply companies that are supposed to deter coprophagia. Sometimes adding digestive enzymes found in yogurt and similar products can improve digestion and resolve the problem.

Whatever the reason for the dog’s behavior around food, it is important that Carly be taught that she has no right to claim food from your son.  Food plays an important role in the hierarchy in your family, and the dog can assume she has a greater right than your son to the food in your his. Feeding a dog from your hand can also be confusing for your dog, so we discourage that practice. Sometimes feeding a dog inside his crate or in a separate room is enough to resolve the issue. Once the dog’s meal has been provided, the availability of that meal should not be threatened, and the dog should walk away or be called away from the food instead of anyone approaching to take the food away. Many people will attempt to take food away while a dog is eating to demonstrate dominance over the dog. This is a bad idea and can actually make the situation worse as you are proving to the dog that the supply is vulnerable.

There is hope for Gracie, and understanding the reasons for the choices she is making and providing instruction for her to make better choices is one component to controlling the behavior. Managing Gracie’s access to your son when he has food is one of the best ways to get the situation under control and the likelihood of him becoming the victim of an accidental bite will be greatly reduced.

If you need further assistance, please contact your local Bark Busters trainer.

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