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  #1  
Old 12-01-2012, 11:04 PM
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Default Making Progress with No Barking!

I REALLY want to share this because I posted here a few years back about Teddy's barking issues. He's not one of those dogs that's super social with everyone. He doesn't care much about other dogs, doesn't really like strangers, he only tolerates the rest of my family.. Part of it is that I didn't start socializing him until AFTER the optimal window for socialization had closed (around 12 weeks old) -- because I didn't know any better -- and part of it was that I was overprotective and have my own social anxiety to contend with which he probably feeds off of.

I've enlisted the help of a canine behaviorist (for $300) which yielded nothing helpful except for a really good method for teaching Stay. We've done training classes, I've taken him to work with me (I work at a pet supply store), and I've tried to take him out in town more to get him used to things out and about. Up until this point, all of our training has been focused on positive reinforcement and counter-conditioning, but any progress made was veeeerrryyyy slow and marginal at best. But the two things I can honestly say have made our relationship do a 180-degree turn are these:

1. At least one 30 minute walk every day. Not so much because he needs the exercise, but because it's very mentally stimulating and it keeps him from getting overly riled when he's out when he's able to see and get habituated to the outside world. We change it up a lot too-- sometimes it's our local park, sometimes it's my quiet neighborhood, and sometimes it's the busier shopping center downtown.

2. A bark collar. I was SO against this for a really long time (and I'm not in any way trying to advocate using a bark collar for just any dog, we worked towards a solution for almost three years first). But the trainer I've been working with recommended it to me, and I reluctantly used it.. and almost instantly we got results. The great thing is that now I spend less time getting frustrated or upset about him barking and more time using clicker training when we're out together. He seems to have more fun working with me, even if he IS still anxious about other people. Before, the barking was so self-rewarding that he wouldn't take food and became fixated on whatever person was near him. It was becoming impossible to use clicker training in a realistic way because his threshold distance was SO far away and I just couldn't control the scenario well enough to train consistently. He barked a few times indoors, received a few corrections--which is on level 3 out of 8--and now CHOOSES not to bark because it's less rewarding. He now happily takes food rewards, and I've trained him to turn towards me and sit for a treat when we're on walks and he sees a person or dog pass by. In combination, I work with him a lot now to counter-condition him to the presence of other people.. so as we're passing another person very close on the sidewalk, I treat, treat, treat like crazy and then we move on.

This past Thursday, I took him to an outdoor cafe in the evening, and here's how he did. You can see he's still very hyper-vigilant (carefully watching everything going on, getting frustrated about not being able to bark) but he responds to my cues to go to his bed ("Go Place") and lie down for treats. He never once got a correction the entire two hours we were out. This would NEVER have happened before!


EDIT: I forgot to mention.. I didn't want to film other people without their permission, but there are 3-4 other tables of people right nearby us, plus people walking past and waitresses coming in and out of the nearby restaurant to serve the cafe area. We would NEVER have been able to get this close to people before. In fact, I had taken him to this very cafe a long time ago and he barked the entire time. I finally had to take him home because he was annoying other guests.
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  #2  
Old 12-01-2012, 11:43 PM
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Congrats!!! That's awesome! When I first started getting into dog training I was not a fan of the bark collar, but I have seen them work wonders with dogs that were on their way to being homeless. It sounds like you have put a lot of time, effort, and $$$ into solving this problem! So happy for you guys!
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Old 12-02-2012, 12:12 AM
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Bark collar=shock collar?
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Old 12-02-2012, 12:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jesuschick View Post
Bark collar=shock collar?
Yeah. It's a shock collar that triggers automatically when the dog barks, so it's very consistent. I didn't want to subject him to an e-collar where I control it manually. I've known people who threaten their dogs with "toning" them (beeping the collar as a warning), so the correction clearly comes from the owner. With the automatic collar, he has full control over making the unpleasant sensation stop. It's also not enough to hurt him, but it surprises him and probably feels weird. (To us, it feels a lot like those ab toner muscle stim things on the level we have it at.)
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Old 12-02-2012, 12:40 AM
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Wow! so glad you've made progress, it's very inspiring! I've been considering getting a bark collar for romeo, it makes an ultrasonic noise when the dog barks, and then if he carries on it vibrates. i have the same issue that nothing i do is as rewarding as barking at that dog that's a mile away! x
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Old 12-02-2012, 12:48 AM
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Here's a short video. This was the very first time he received a correction, so I feel like this would be the "worst" of it. He hasn't responded any differently since then! (In fact, the only real way that I know it's even working is by watching the little red light on the front. But most of the time he doesn't even acknowledge it, he just stops being interested in barking.)
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Old 12-02-2012, 07:09 PM
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Here are two comparison videos of his behavior before the bark collar and after the bark collar, in the same store. He didn't get any corrections in the second video, by the way (because he didn't bark).

Before:

After:
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Old 12-04-2012, 11:37 PM
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Lately Teddy has been going up to people looking for treats! I've been having strangers hand him treats whenever possible, and clicking/treating every time we're out and a person walks by. Still no more corrections on the collar, and everyone comments on how well-behaved he is! Totally different from how things used to be! He also seems a lot more relaxed outside the house than he used to.
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