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Old 04-05-2009, 01:13 PM   #1 (permalink)
Maltese Guru

Name: k/c Mom
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 21,482

The following tips are from SM member JMM, originally posted in this thread:

In order for a correction to influence a behavior, it must have 3 pieces
1. The correction must be immediate to the behavior (as soon as the unwanted barking begins)
2. The correction must be strong enough that the dog views it as a correction (obviously your no is not adequate)
3. The correction must be immediately followed by a chance to do the correct behavior and be rewarded (rewarded for being quiet)

If you cannot do all 3, you are actually STRENGTHENING the barking because you have unknowingly put it on a variable schedule of reinforcement. This is the same idea as playing the slot machines in Vegas. People keep playing because sometimes they get rewarded and if they keep doing the same thing, it will happen again. Barking is self-rewarding. So all the times he barks and isn't stopped, he is rewarded. Thus, this behavior remains strong and your intermittent aversives don't have much impact at all.

Using a baby gate to prevent him from being at his perch can help.

The best way to curb barking is to ask your dog for an incompatible behavior. This could be a sit, down, roll over, carry a toy, run to the kitchen to the cookie jar for a treat. EVERY time he starts the barking (you must be consistent so you don't continue to strengthen the behavior) interrupt (a loud "eh" or clap your hands) and ask your dog for the new behavior and reward! Then keep your dog engaged and remove him from the room doing some fun training or grabbing a toy to play fetch.

Your "correction" for the issues outside the house is not working because of the above AND because your dog is being reactive due to anxiety and fear and you are INCREASING those emotions by getting physical with your dog. Reactive behavior is very common in small dogs, usually due to lack of socialization. It can be counteracted by building confidence in the dog, remedial socialization, and desensitizing your dog to fearful stimuli (ie border collie running by). Ideally, you should work with a trainer in person. It is important for someone to evaluate how you are interacting with your dog because owners often have body language that is making the behavior worse and you cannot self-evaluate for this. In addition, the desensitization process is something that requires knowledge of dog body language and behavior as well as someone who can properly set criteria for your dog's progression. You want a trainer who is well versed in small dogs with this issue and uses only positive, motivational methods of training (ie clicker training, never something based on corrections).

Search for trainers:

Scaredy Dog by Ali Brown
Click to Calm by Emma Parsons
Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson
Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell
Feisty Fido by Patricia McConnell
Fearfulness Pamphlet by Ian Dunbar

All are available from


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