Correcting the two most common types of nuisance barking
Barking can be a cause of constant frustration to new puppy owners. However, even though constant barking is agitating to us as humans, it is a behavior that can be changed over time using a few simple techniques.
The first step to curbing your Teddy’s barking is to identify why they are barking, and/or what is triggering their bark. Remember, even though you may not understand why your pup is doing it, they are almost ALWAYS barking because they think it’s what they are supposed to be doing. Almost all problem barking arises from one of the following two reasons:
1. Danger – Your pup wants to alert you of what they see as potential danger. This could be anything from the UPS man, a new visitor, another dog, a passing car, or even a new hat you are wearing. This bark is designed to alert you (their Master) of potential danger so that you can protect yourself (and them!)
2. Attention– Teddies are notorious for barking when they want your attention. This can be because they are bored and want to play, they are hungry and want to eat, or they are just so happy to see you that they bark for joy! If they are barking to tell you they are hungry or happy, curbing the behavior is easy to fix, just give them their food or a little attention. However, a puppy who constantly barks every time you shift your focus elsewhere can be a real headache.
How you go about fixing your pups problem barking will depend on which type of behavior you are trying to curb.
Your pup is constantly barking every time a stranger walks by, the doorbell rings, or even when they hear a strange noise coming from the other room. Remember that this is their way of showing you they love you; by alerting you of the impending doom brought on by a loud television set. Punishing your dog every time they bark once will only confuse them and cause stress between the both of you. Follow these simple steps to help your dog recognize the difference between “real danger” and “no danger”.
Step #1 – Allow your Teddy to bark once before you respond.
Responding immediately typically encourages your puppy to continue barking, since they now believe that you feel the danger as well. Wait until the second bark to respond so they know your actions are not directly tied to their barking.
Step #2 – Develop a consistent command to use which let’s your puppy know there is no danger.
Use a simple command like: “Calm” or “Quiet” and say it consistently every time following your Teddy’s second bark. This command will be the vocal indication that you are aware of their concern and that you are in control of the situation. If you were to ignore your puppy they would just assume they weren’t barking loud enough and needed to continue.
Step #3 – Reinforce the command quickly and consistently with a treat
Reinforcement is the key; use either a small treat or a form of physical touch, such as head scratching. Treats will be the more effective form of reinforcement in the early stages, sometimes head scratching isn’t enough to distract your puppy from a strange noise. It is very important that you quickly and consistently reinforce your command every time you say it. Keep a couple of treats in your pocket at all times so you don’t have to run and grab one every time they bark. If you wait to reward your puppy even 10 seconds after the command, they will have a hard time making the connection between the words and the treat. After a while your puppy will associate the command with receiving a treat or physical attention (head scratching) and will anticipate the reward when they hear you command. This will then distract them from the sounds or danger they just heard and stop the barking.
Step #4– If meeting a stranger, hand the person a treat to give your Teddy.
There are very few things Teddies like more than treats. Anyone who gives them one usually becomes a fast friend, and the stress of meeting a new person will lessen with each encounter.
Step #5 – Once your Teddy is relaxed, rub their head behind their ears.
Teddy Bear puppies love this and it will serve as a soothing mechanism that will calm them down and let them know everything is okay. When meeting a new visitor, make sure you do this AFTER they have been given a treat, this will ensure they are calm enough to appreciate the scratching. Encourage your visitor to also rub their head once they are calmed down. Teddy Bears are just like any of us, the more practice they get at something, the less scary it becomes for them.
Because Teddy Bear dogs are such loving and physical creatures, they want your attention constantly and don’t understand the concept of “personal space.” Sometimes when you have neglected them for an outrageous amount of time (about 15 minutes to a Teddy Bear) they will lose their patience and demand your attention! This usually comes in the form of a short “bark” followed by a piercing stare. This form of problem barking is much different than “danger barking” and MUST be handled differently. DO NOT try to correct this behavior with the same positive reinforcement we just outlined in the “danger barking” section. If you do, you will simply be training your dog to bark every time they want a treat!
Use the following steps to correct “attention barking”:
Step #1 – Make sure they are only barking for attention
If your pup is barking because they are thirsty and out of water, or they need to relieve themselves, then it won’t do any good to try to correct the barking. In fact you want them to let you know during these times! Make sure that your dog isn’t showing signs of needing to use the bathroom, and that they have plenty of food and water before you correct them.
Step #2 – Show them a small amount of attention
After the second bark, again make sure you wait until you pup barks a second time, show them a small amount of attention by rubbing their head, letting them lick your hand, or picking them up and holding them for a minute. Sometimes a Teddy just wants to make sure you still know they are there and receive some physical affection. Depending on how busy you are or who you are with will determine how much or what kind of affection to show them.
Step #3 – Use your quiet command BEFORE they bark again
After you have shown them a small amount of physical affection, firmly say your quiet command one time and then go back to what you were doing. This will communicate to them that you understand why they are barking and you expect them to stop.
Step #4 – Put your teddy into another room by themselves
If your Teddy doesn’t stop their attention barking after your quiet command (most won’t in the early stages of training) it’s time to use some negative reinforcement. Pick up your Teddy immediately after their next bark and put them into another room, closed off from everyone else. Most people have a room in their house designated for their pup, but if you don’t a laundry room or a bathroom usually works well. IMPORTANT – one of a Teddy Bear dog’s favorite games is “Catch me”, make sure that when trying to pick them up you do not chase them all around the house! They will think this is a game and it will give them the attention they hoped to receive from the problem barking.
Step #5 – Wait until your pup has been quiet for at least 5 minutes before letting them out
Many Teddies will whine, scratch, and bark when they are closed off. Do not give into their crying, doing so will only teach them that whenever they cry, they get what they want. Wait at least 5 minutes before opening the door to the room. When you do open the door, open it only slightly and stand in the doorway so they can’t get past you. While they are looking at you, practice your quiet command 1-3 times, and when they have been quiet for a few seconds give them lots of love and affection (but no treats).
Both of these common types of problem barking can be fixed, but neither can be fixed instantly. Do not become frustrated if it takes a few weeks or months for your pup to learn their new behavior guidelines. Just like with humans, practice makes perfect and no one is perfect the first time they try anything.
Consistency will be the MOST IMPORTANT factor in your success. If you remain consistent in your training, then your Teddy will learn much faster. Inconsistency only confuses your puppy and will delay their learning for months and months. Remember, your puppy will do whatever you ALLOW them to do, if you allow problem barking to continue then they will keep doing it their whole lives.
Now I’d like to hear from you, what are your thoughts on correcting problem barking? Do you have any techniques that have really worked well for you? Comment below with your thoughts and opinions!
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