Dogs bark. Yes, this is a pretty obvious statement to start off with, but I feel it’s important to point out. This is something that dogs do. I am going to be talking about different ways to curb some of the barking, but always remember that this is a trait of the domesticated dog.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
There are a couple reasons why dogs bark. In a lot of cases a dog is barking because it either wants something to get closer, or something to get further away.
Here are some other reasons:
As I’ve listed, there are many reasons why dogs bark. The first thing you need to do to help curb the unwanted barking is to identify what the reasoning is for why it’s happening. Depending on the reasoning, there will be different approaches on how to handle it.
In most cases Positive Reinforcement takes place when the dog barks, which results in more barking. Positive Reinforcement (R+) is when the dog does a behavior, and the behavior gets the dog something it wants. When R+ takes place, the behavior is very likely to repeat. Also, when R+ takes place over and over for that behavior, the behavior often gets stronger and stronger.
How to Stop Your Dog From Barking (Or from Unwanted Barking)
One of the most important things to do to help curb that unwanted barking is to make sure the dog gets zero enjoyment for the behavior. As I mentioned above, if your dog does the barking and gets what he wants, he will do it again. If he does the barking, and it results in nothing good, the behavior should start to go away on its own. If your dog is barking at you for a treat, and you do not give him a treat, the barking will stop. (It may take some time if the behavior has had a reinforcement history in the past.) If your dog is barking to get someone to go away, and the person doesn’t leave, the dog will learn that barking doesn’t work, and in theory, the barking will stop. If the barking is to get the person to come to them, and the person waits for the barking to stop until coming to the dog, the dog will learn that barking doesn’t make the person come, and actually being quiet will make the person come. These are just a couple examples. The overall idea though is to teach the dog that barking isn’t the answer.
Here are some other ways to get barking to stop:
Put the Bark on Cue
While this may sound a little silly at first, if you put the bark on cue, and are very strict with it, the theory behind it is the dog won’t do it unless it’s cued. To teach this you need to find a way to get your dog to bark. For some dogs knocking on the door will trigger a bark. What you’d want to do is knock, the dog would bark, mark the behavior verbally or with a clicker and then reward. Do multiple reps of that. Once your dog is responding pretty well to that, you can start using a verbal cue prior to knocking, mark and reward. You’d then want to fade out the knocking and your dog would do the behavior as you cue it. (This probably isn’t going to work for most people, but it is an option.)
Develop a “Quiet” Cue
This is one that I use quite often. The way I teach this may seem a little counterproductive to start, but it works well in the long run. Here’s how I do it: When the dog is barking, I walk up and say, “quiet” and then present a treat. The dog typically quiets down long enough to just take the treat and then go right back to barking. Do lots of reps of this. I want the dog to start to associate the word “quiet” with getting a treat. After you do enough reps, when your dog is barking, you’ll be able to say, “quiet” and your dog will stop barking and look at you in anticipation of getting that treat. This is the behavior we are looking for. Once your dog responds to the quiet cue, you then want to start asking your dog to be quiet for longer periods before giving the treat. The overall goal is to be able to say, “quiet” and have your dog stop barking. You’ll need to do lots of repetition with lots of reinforcement to make this work.
Reinforce Incompatible Behaviors
An incompatible behavior is a basically getting your dog to do something that he can’t physically do while barking. An example is that the dog can’t quietly look at the thing it was barking at, and bark at the thing at the same time. These are incompatible behaviors. One thing I like to do is teach the dog to look at the thing without barking. Here is a video I made explaining this:
Increase Physical and Mental Stimulation
A lot of barking happens because the dog is bored. The dog is bored because he has extra energy and doesn’t have a way to exert it. It is said that 10 minutes of mental stimulation is equivalent to about 30 minutes of physical exercise. I’m a big fan of mental stimulation because it tires the dog out and also doesn’t build the dog’s stamina. Here are some forms of mental stimulation you can do with your dog:
Prevent and Manage
This basically means that you’re preventing your dog from doing the unwanted behavior while you’re not present.
The things I’ve mentioned above are some ways to help you achieve your goal of less barking. If you are dealing with fear or anxiety that takes a bit more work than what I mentioned above. Give some of the ideas a try to get your dog’s barking to decrease. Be very consistent and give lots of reinforcement.
Not too long ago I was looking at videos of show dogs. You know—those dogs that can do amazing things on talent shows. One trick in particular struck me as simply amazing. I saw a dog stand and walk on his hind legs, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. So I decided to teach it to my dog. And it worked!
Here’s a video of how I did it, and it’s only four minutes long.
I have added some additional training information and tips below. Be sure to read them when you teach your dog this trick.
Before you begin training your dog, it is important to note that standing tall on its hind legs is not a natural behavior for your dog. This is not going to be comfortable, especially if you have a larger dog. Smaller dogs usually have a much easier time with this trick.
I must also caution you that if you have any concern about your dog’s hips or hind legs, or if your dog has a history of injury in that area, then you should not attempt to train for this trick. Your dog’s health and well-being is much more important than a trick.
Let’s begin. The first thing is to teach your dog that great things will happen if it stands on its hind legs. That’s why you need to reward your dog when it moves into that position.
Begin by placing your dog in a sitting position, and then place a treat above your dog’s head. Next, you move your hand upward and toward your dog’s back. The goal is to get your dog’s front legs off the ground. As soon as this happens, reward your dog immediately. Continue to reward your dog while gradually moving the treat higher and higher.
The final goal is to get your dog to stand tall on the tip of its toes, as seen in the video. Make sure that your dog doesn’t put its paws on you when doing this trick; your dog should learn to balance itself without your help.
Practice this exercise at least twenty times. Your dog should be comfortable in this position before moving on.
Once you can easily lure your dog into the stand tall position, the next step is to begin conditioning a hand signal. This step is to avoid having your dog become dependent on you holding a treat above its head to do the trick. You will be able to trigger this behavior from a distance, which looks much more impressive.
The easiest way to do this step is by creating a pattern (e.g., 3:1), which means three lures followed by one hand signal. This works great because it sets your dog up for success. Your dog will anticipate what you want it to do, and it will stand tall even though you don’t have a treat in your hand.
In the beginning, make your hand signals identical to your lure. Basically, this is the same motion as your lure but without any food inside. You can see more clearly what I mean in the video above.
Next, while ensuring that your dog is successful and being rewarded for every repetition, you can slowly make changes to your hand signal. Preferably, move your hand away from your dog and use your index finger pointing up as the hand signal.
The key here is to refine your hand signal to the degree of perfection you want before moving to stage three.
STAGES 3 & 4
Once you can consistently signal your dog to stand tall and you have refined your hand signal to the degree of perfection you want, you can begin conditioning a verbal command. Saying your verbal command just before you give your hand signal easily accomplishes this. However, it is important that you leave a small pause between the two so your dog learns that verbal commands are what trigger the hand signal.
A common mistake new trainers make is that they say their command at the same time they give their hand signal. You really must say “Stand,” and give your hand signal after. Practice this at least twenty times, and then start testing your dog’s understanding of the command.
You can test your dog’s understanding by creating a pattern in which you say your command (e.g., “Stand”) followed by a hand signal three times in a row. Then, on the fourth repetition you simply say “Stand” and see if your dog responds to your verbal command. If your dog responds, then great! Make sure that you celebrate with a treat and lots of praise.
However, if your dog does not respond, this usually means you need more conditioning with hand signals. Also, you might want to record your training sessions to see if you project any subtle body language that your dog might be picking up instead of your verbal command.
For example, a common mistake people make when training their dog to lie down is to say “Down” while nodding their head or looking down. Although this seems harmless, some dogs will learn to ignore the command and simply wait for the head movement. As you can imagine, this is problematic if the owner is not directly in front of the dog.
I am so happy you have decided to teach your dog this trick. I think you’re going to love it, especially once you see people’s reaction to it. Although it’s extremely simple to teach, people will think your dog is a genius.
Have fun with it!
Since I published my core training concept, “The Four Stages of Luring,” many people have asked me to show them examples of how luring is done. And because a picture speaks a thousand words, I decided to dig into my collection of dog trick lessons to find one that uses this training method.
Then I stumbled upon my “Roll Over” lesson—the perfect match!
Here’s the video—it’s only about six minutes long and you’ll learn exactly how to teach your dog to roll over.
You will also find some additional information below about each stage so you can refer to it while teaching your dog this trick.
The first thing you need to do is teach your dog the behavior of rolling over. Begin by luring your dog into a down position. This is accomplished by moving your lure close to the floor and between your dog’s paws. Be sure to release the treat and reward your dog once its belly touches the floor.
Then the next step will be to reward your dog for going onto its side. At this stage you move your lure close to your dog’s shoulder blade. Make sure you release the treat and reward your dog once it falls onto its side.
Continue to move your lure closer to your dog’s back until your dog rolls over. You may need to reward this step multiple times before your dog gets used to the sensation of rolling over. Depending on the size of your dog, you may need to create some momentum by quickly moving your lure toward your dog’s back.
This momentum, as demonstrated in the video, will get your dog’s body to follow through and roll over.
Please keep in mind that rolling over is not a natural behavior for dogs and can be a little bit scary for them. It’s also recommended that you practice this on a soft surface such as carpet or grass. This will make it more comfortable for your dog.
Once you can easily lure your dog to roll over, the next logical step is to teach your dog to respond to a hand signal. You might be wondering why you need to teach a hand signal. The main reason is to keep your dog from becoming dependent on your having food in your hand to perform the behavior.
Begin by creating a pattern in which you lure your dog twice in a row for rolling over. On the third repetition, simply pretend you have a treat in your hand and do the same motion. This will fool your dog into following your hand even though you don’t have any food in it.
As you become successful at this, you can reduce the ratio of lures to hand signals until it is 1:1, meaning that you lure your dog once and then give a hand signal. Eventually, you will be able to entirely phase out the lures.
Then you can gradually make changes to your hand signal until your dog responds to the one that you want. For example, you can practice signaling your dog to roll over and, with every repetition, you can slowly stand.
STAGE 3 & 4
Did you notice that I didn’t give the command “Roll over” until this stage? The reason I didn’t is that dogs need to learn the behavior before it can be associated with a verbal command.
And because you’ve just taught your dog the behavior in the first two stages, the only thing left is to give your verbal command, “Roll over,” just before you give your hand signal.
Pretty easy, right?
The trick for this to work is repetition. You have to do it a good twenty to thirty times, preferably over a few training sessions. Then you’ll want to attempt Stage 4, which consists of saying your verbal command.
It’s also a good idea to create a pattern in which you give your verbal command “Roll over” two or three times in a row, and then test your dog’s understanding on the following repetition.
I must admit I have an affinity for this trick. It was one of the first tricks I taught my dog, and it gave me such a sense of confidence.
So have fun with it!
NOTE: And be sure to refer to this guide while you go through the different stages with your dog. There is also great additional information inside my core training concept, “The Four Stages of Luring.”
Have you ever seen a dog in a movie doing something totally amazing, such as playing chess, and thought to yourself, Wow, I wish my dog could do that!?
Well, this is the same reaction that I had when I watched the movie Bingo as a kid. In this movie the dog Bingo plays chess with his owner. While watching it, I thought, How AWESOME would it be if I could teach my dog this trick?
So that’s what I did. And I’m going to share with you exactly how I did it!
(I must write a quick disclaimer here that your dog won’t actually be playing chess with you but rather picking up pawns from the chessboard and putting them in a box beside it. It’s still pretty cool, and if you film it the right way, with a little bit of acting, it can look real! Make sure that you send me that video once you’ve filmed it! :-))
OK, let’s get started! I’m going to share with you the step-by-step training video, and then I will explain each step in detail below.
This trick is fairly advanced, so if you’ve never trained your dog to do anything before then this might not be the best one to start with. But it can be something to strive for because any dog can do it, no matter what level of trainer you are now.
This might be obvious, but you will need a chessboard to train your dog to perform this trick. Make sure that the pawns are not made from a toxic material (e.g., lead paint) because your dog will be handling them with his mouth.
You might also want to find a chessboard set that has larger-than-average pieces so that it’s easier for your dog to pick them up. Plus, you have to be very careful and make sure that your dog doesn’t chew or swallow the chess pieces. That would be very dangerous, so be cautious, and always put the chessboard away when you’re not training.
And one last important note: Please keep your training sessions short. Five to ten minutes is perfect. And ideally, three training sessions per day.
The overall objective of this lesson is to teach your dog to pick up a pawn from the chessboard and put it in a box beside it.
To ensure that the training is successful, you will have to focus on small steps along the way. I call these steps “milestones” because these are the small obstacles you and your dog must overcome to get the final trick.
The first milestone is getting your dog to pick up the chess piece and put it in the box. This should be done without using the chessboard (as you can see in the video).
The second milestone is all about conditioning your dog to the chessboard and the sound of a chess piece falling onto it. This is VERY important because it will prevent your dog from becoming scared if he drops a chess piece later on (and he will most likely will, as my dog did many times in the beginning).
The third milestone is to combine #1 and #2—in other words, the dog picks the chess piece up off the chessboard and puts it in a small box.
The fourth milestone is adding some extra pieces from which your dog must distinguish the right piece to pick up. You’ll want to add a few more chess pieces and train your dog to pick up ONLY the chess piece that you have chosen.
And the final milestone is mixing up the chessboard, really challenging your dog, and testing how well he understands what you want.
Here are a few important tips to remember before starting your sessions:
Milestone #1 – Placing Pawn in Box
The objective is to train your dog to pick up a chess piece and put it in a box (without the chessboard present).
To begin, I recommend that you choose one chess piece and stick with it for the duration of the training. For my dog I chose the black pawn because it was the easiest one for him to pick up because of its rounded head. I would advise against training your dog to pick up the king because if you film your dog performing the trick and playing chess later on, the dog’s move would seem unrealistic and go against the rules of chess because the king can only move one space.
Next, you will need a box for your dog to put the chess piece in. I used an old alarm clock box, so it doesn’t have to be fancy.
Here is the list of steps your dog will need to master to perform the trick:
Because the dog does not need to move his entire body to perform this trick—only his head to drop the chess piece in the box—you can train your dog to perform this trick while he is lying down in front of you.
The first step will be to train the dog to pick up the chess piece in his mouth. Depending on your dog’s experience with picking things up in his mouth, you may need to spend a few sessions practicing this step before moving on.
Once you have trained your dog to pick up the chess piece, you can then start to incorporate dropping the chess piece into the box.
Tip: After you click your clicker, your dog will automatically let go of the chess piece to eat the treat. You can use this to your advantage by sliding the box below where your dog normally drops the chess piece.
Eventually, you will need to make a change and click ONLY if the chess piece lands inside the box. And once your dog figures that out, you’ll want to gradually move the box away from your dog to make it more challenging.
It is important in training your dog to move along to the next step but not to make it too easy. So you have to GRADUALLY make it harder for your dog, but not so hard that he can’t successfully perform the steps of the training.
For example, when you start moving the box away from your dog, you don’t want to move it an entire foot away; you’ll want to start with an inch. And if the chess piece doesn’t land inside, then wait and let your dog try again.
Note: At the end of all your training sessions, take your chosen chess piece and store it away. It is now a training tool and should only be used during training sessions.
Milestone #2 – Adapting to Sound
Now it’s time to acclimate your dog to the sound of a chess piece falling onto the chessboard.
I have incorporated this exercise into this lesson because I had an incident related to this topic happen with my own dog.
My dog had fully mastered this trick; then one day she accidentally dropped the chess piece on the board, which made a lot of noise and scared the heck out of her. After only this one experience, she was very reluctant to pick up the chess piece.
So it’s much better (and easier) to prevent your dog from becoming reluctant; simply conduct a few training sessions of dropping the chess piece on the board and then clicking your clicker.
Timing is crucial for this to work. Your dog must hear the sound FIRST and then hear the click, followed with a treat. Try to vary how long you have your dog take between dropping the chess piece. Sometimes wait a second before dropping it; sometimes wait five. This way, your dog won’t know exactly when you’re going to drop it.
Milestone #3 – Pick up Pawn From Box
OK, it’s finally time to get your dog to pick up the chess piece from the board and put it in the box.
This should be relatively easy if you’ve fully passed the first two milestones. The first milestone was really the most important, so if you are still unsure about your dog’s ability to pick up a chess piece and put it into a box a foot or two away, then you need to go back and practice some more.
Depending on your dog’s body type and height, you may need to position the chessboard on a small box or a table. As you can see from the video, I put my chessboard on a small box to make it easier for my dog to pick up the chess piece. This also helps prevent your dog from walking on the chessboard.
Once you’ve positioned your chessboard, choose the side that you want the box to be on. This will be the box’s permanent location until your dog has mastered the trick. (You can always change it later on, but for now just pick one side.)
Place one chess piece on the board and reward your dog for picking it up and placing it in the box. If your dog drops it, put it back in the middle of the board.
Tip: You can make it a little easier in the beginning by placing the chess piece closer to the edge of the chessboard where your dog is.
Milestone #4 – Pick up the Right Pawn
OK, let’s make this interesting! Let’s get your dog to start distinguishing between the chess piece that you’ve trained him to put in the box and other pieces that you put on the board.
A good reason why I encouraged you to use the black pawn while training your dog is that it remains easily identifiable when you start adding a whole bunch of white pieces to the chessboard.
So begin by placing one chess piece at the end of the chessboard opposite your dog. For example, put a white rook closer to you and the black pawn closer to your dog. This will make it easy for your dog to pick up the right one. Then you’ll want to gradually move the two pieces closer and closer.
If your dog picks up the wrong one, simply ignore the behavior and wait for him to pick up the right one. Your dog will eventually learn that a reward is ONLY given for picking up the correct piece.
A great advantage is that you’ve been training your dog with the same chess piece throughout the first three milestones, so your dog will have gotten used to the look and smell of it, and it shouldn’t be too hard to him to figure out which one to pick up.
Milestone #5 – Mix the Board
This last milestone is all about having fun with the trick. Challenge your dog (and yourself) by moving the pieces around and only rewarding your dog for picking up the right one.
Your goal should be to have at least five pieces other than the black pawn on the chessboard and to have your dog consistently pick up the right one. But the trick is to mix them up every time after the dog performs the trick.
This will definitely challenge your dog to think.
Have fun with this trick! I know that you’re going to have A LOT OF FUN while training your dog to do it, and perhaps you will share a video that shows your dog mastering the trick with me. If you put a link to your YouTube video in the comments below, I want to see it.
And maybe you can build upon this trick. You could train your dog to move the chess piece to a different location on the board to represent a chess move, followed with a BARK to represent “CHECKMATE!” That would be fantastic to see on video!
See you during the next lesson or at one of my dog training programs!
Last week I published three dog training tips to help you train your dog. These training tips are not meant to be full courses but rather “golden nuggets” of information.
One of them was about training your dog to come, and more specifically one technique that I discussed was the “Rocket Launch”. Where you have a friend hold your dog and you call your dog and run in the opposite direction to trigger your dog’s chasing instinct.
You can actually read more about the “Rocket Launch” technique by clicking here.
What I enjoy about publishing these dog training tips is the interaction that I get with other dog owners. I can read about their struggles and help them. And this is what happened; I received some interesting questions about a variety of subjects.
One question in particular was about training a dog to come close and being able to put a lead on.
So in response to Laura’s question, and anybody who might have the same issue, I’ve decided to take one of the lessons from my Walk in Harmony Game Plan and share it with you for free.
This training game is called “The Collar Grab Game”. And basically you want to condition your dog that great things will happen when you grab your dog’s collar.
Because here is the thing; most dogs learn over time that coming back to you (or their owner) is something to avoid because it leads to a loss of freedom.
Think of it from your dog’s perspective. If your dog is playing freely in a park, and it’s finally time to go home, what do you do? You call your dog to you, put the leash on your dog and go home.
But over time, your dog will learn this pattern. And you may already be experiencing some side effects of that with your dog starting to “ignore” your come command, or not fully coming all the way to you and staying a few feet away, or running away when you try to put on the leash.
So to counter-act this, you simply have to play “The Collar Grab Game”. Basically you take your dog’s collar, give your dog a treat, and then release the collar. Simple right?
Here is the video:
So when can you use this? You’d want to use this when practicing recalls; get in the habit of grabbing your dog’s collar whenever your dog gets to you. Of course sometimes put the leash on, and other times release your dog.
There’s times when I’m at the park and I purposefully practice this game with my dog. I would call my dog to me and then grab the collar, put the leash on, give her a treat and then let her go back to play.
So have fun! And let me know how it goes by writing a comment below. (Yes, I read them all.)