We've been working on a new set of control commands in our house. OK, to be honest, I'm working on it, and the dogs are, well, being dogs. I think they've tried hard to ignore me, but they just can't, because I'm devilishly persistent! And in spite of their resistance, I believe they are getting it, by jove!
The new command? "NO BARK!"
They all have such a bad habit of barking. It began with them barking at the deer. Then barking at the birds. Then barking at the leaves. Then barking at the wind. Then barking at apparently nothing. Over the months, as their other behaviors improved, it seems that their energies turned to that one category, and it was driving me up a wall. I don't mind a bit if they let me know "Stranger on premises!" That's a good thing. But when they are barking for no recognizable purpose, it is time to retrain.
There are several problems: (1) when the barking is frequent and doesn't stop, I can't tell when there is a true alarm; (2) once they start barking, it seems they continue just to be doing something, not knowing when to stop; (3) when one barks, the rest feel they have to join in, like a one-upsmanship free for all; (4) they are often barking at nothing that I can discern, so it just noise; (5) IT'S IRRITATING!
So a couple weeks ago, I began anticipating, as well as I could, when they would bark. If one dog was outside and barked, I knew at least some of the others would rush out to "help." As soon as they stirred, I began saying sternly, "NO BARK!" At first, they paid no attention, so I followed outside, ordered them in repeating "No bark," the whole way. I've become quicker to intervene and they've become more responsive, so that at this time if I say "no bark" as they go out the doggy door, they usually don't bark, but just turn around and come back in. When there is actually a deer or a roaming dog in the area, they do continue, so at least there s a reason. But if it is deer, I bring the dogs back in. If it is another dog, I let them bark; I want to know if there is a trespasser, two legged or four legged.
In the evening, I sometimes have to close the doggy door, because their barking seems worse and they pay less attention to my commands. I'm sure that is when the deer and other forest denizens are moving around out there, and they are stirred by those sounds. I still don't want them to bark without restraint, even if there are critters. I hope they begin to understand that deer are not something that needs barked at. The deer ignore them, anyway! C'mon, guys! Save the barking for the coyotes or the wild cats!
Anyway, I've noticed in the last few days that their body signals are already changing as they start toward the door. They jump up and begin running, but often, they slow down before the words "no bark" can get out of my mouth! They know I'm gonna tell them to hush, so they are responding to the training without my command! I'm psyched!!!!
Times like this, when I realize my work is showing results, are the best.
I also read some old entries about Sammy when I brought him home. He was the first to be rescued and the most emotionally damaged. Wow, what a challenge he was, but such an adorable little guy that he was worth every moment of the work. I'm so glad I have him. The others, also, of course, but Sam .... a special place in my heart for his journey and for just what a special boy he really is. :)
I'm a happy puppy momma!