I Googled for “dog barking in crate” and got about 536,000 results. Which is actually fewer than I expected, but does tell us we’re not alone here.
When I clicked through on the results from the first page, some of these were interesting, and some of them were concerning so let’s start with the concerning ones.
Please do not punish crate barking, especially with a remote punisher. Dogs frequently bark in crates because they’re worried about something, most commonly they simply want to be with their human family. Using something which can increase anxiety isn’t simply a horrible thing to do, it can make anxiety worse. Pretty much a no-brainer when you think about it.
Punishments which are more under your control, eg making a loud noise to interrupt the barking, are more acceptable. But we need to be very careful with our timing, we need to be very sure his barking is not anxiety-related, we need to be as sure as humanly possible we’re not going to generalise the dog into being worried about loud noises when he’s out and about.
Dogs do go through a “fear imprint” stage in their development, it’s younger than George is according to most sources, but other sources put it later. And some sources add another one at the onset of adolescence. If I’m given several good choices my favourite way of dealing with it is to choose all of them! So let’s decide it’s all of them, fear imprint @ around 9 weeks and 18 weeks and 8 months. There’s good evidence for all of these.
What nobody really says is what to do about it. Lock the little pud in a padded room for slices of his babyhood? Protect him from falling tea trays and black bin liners in trees lest they give him life-long complexes?
Maybe a better way to think about it is that scary things can happen any time during a life, our life, a dog’s life, any life. And we are not just things we know will hurt us but they’re things we’re not sure if they’re going to hurt us or not (I didn’t make that up, by the way, some historical bishop said it, I just can’t remember which one and Google doesn’t know either.)
I’m wondering if there’s anything we can do to turn such incidences into events that work FOR us rather than against us.
The commonest advice is to not reward fearful behaviour by comforting the dog, drawing attention to it. But I think we can be cleverer than this.
I’ve always taught that if our dogs are scared of something, we should step immediately into recall mode. If my dog is scared I want him to come running back to me, not rushing home or back to the car.
But I’ve been thinking.
Why not use the fear incident even more broadly than this?
If the fear makes him bark, why not use the situation to build control of the bark. Barking is simply behaviour after all and behaviour can be brought under stimulus control which then turns it from being triggered by emotion, to something triggered by us, under our control.
I’ve got a “thing” about barking, I’ve also got a “thing” about sitting, but that’s an entirely different story.
We have dogs living in our villages because when the bears come, the dog barks. We move from villages to cities and now barking because a problem not a benefit. Dog doesn’t know this.
German Shepherds. In 1990 something, my late great friend John Fisher shared his visit to German working German Shepherds and these dogs were standing barking in the faces of cows to control them. This behaviour is not ideal on Northumberland Street. But the dog doesn’t know that.
Where were we? Ah, not reinforcing fear by paying attention to it, teaching dog to recall when he’s scared and is there anything we can do to turn barking incidents to our advantage?
At the end of most every dog seminar (another name here, I got this from Ian Dunbar) somebody asks a question about barking. One of the commonest answers the speakers give is “teach your dog to bark” so you can teach him to shut up again. I’ve always mentioned this in barking discussions, but have never been convinced it’s the right advice, because I’m not convinced the customer is convinced, and it’s also not the easiest thing to do, means you’re building barking at the same time as controlling barking, and it’s not the easiest thing in the world to get the customer really on-board with this concept.
I’m not sure I’m right, certainly in George’s case.
I’ve done it once myself, one of my collies, Libby. A high performance Border Collie, very focused on stuff. It took me 6 months to a year to get her barking under command control and my attention to the issue was of the Terminator variety, I stuck to it like a Terminator would. And we did it. “Speak!” and she’d bark 3 times. “Quiet!” and up-shut. It was a thing of beauty.
And it was 30 years ago. I think I could do better now.
Barking is simply behaviour, not good not bad, sometimes we want them to bark. To amplify the doorbell, to let the axe-murder know there’s a dog in the house, warn us of bears.
We then want them to shut up so we can discuss what to do about the bears which isn’t easy to do over the sound of barking dogs.
Dog barks: “Speak!” Dog about to bark: “Speak!” 3 barks “Quiet” click/treat. Or better still, treat/treat/treat…treat/tuggy-toy/lots-of-love-and-touches.*
*”Speak!” and “Quiet” are best spoken in very different tones of voice. Quiet, say softer.
We can even set him up to bark. Ring the doorbell.
Or approximate a bark. Any canine vocalisation can be shaped into a bark. Go to your copy of Don’t Shoot the Dog for further help on shaping.
Hi. George has been a little growly, and barking more the past two days – territorial I think – started when window cleaners were in next door’s yard and he’s been more vigilant ever since. I took him to see window cleaners this morning on our walk and that went ok but he growled at a dog in the coffee shop this morning and that’s just not like him. I’ve been consulting ‘The Culture Clash’ and I think it’s going ok – want to nip it in the bud if possible. Was talking to Rachel about this and she told me that there had been a discussion about barking on this group a while ago. Is it possible to find those posts and repost them? Thanks, Jane.
George is an 18 week Coton de Tulear
I’m mainly talking about bark activated collars. Just Google for Bark Activated Collar to see what I’m talking about.
“…noises when he’s out and about.”