Tips from the Trainer
Why do dogs bark? Because they can! Dogs bark for lots of reasons:
Alert change in the environment
Entering new spaces
Ask for space/distance
Some breeds are more naturally vocal than others. Ask any sheltie owner, lol! Barking can be part of your dog's nature, but barking can also be a problem. A vocal dog can be a dog who causes annoyance for neighbors, annoyance for owners and barking can be a symptom of other issues, including poor impulse control. This week's tip is on exiting cars.
Problem: Barking when getting out of the car
Tip: For some dogs, moving from one space to another is arousing and the dog is very excited. Impulse control games and clear criteria can help solve this issue. Let's take the car. Does your dog leap out of the car, bark to let the world know they are here? Run to the end of leash and pull? Or, does your dog wait to be released from the car, and then, when released turn and check in with you?
Skill: Car Etiquette Part 1 - Exiting the car
To teach this skill, put your dog in the car. Load up with some yummy treats in a pouch or pocket, because you will most likely need your hands. I prefer to work this in a crate, as I feel crates are safer for travel in the car, but you can work this with a dog on a seat belt as well. Use the car door instead of crate door in this example and have your dog's leash attached and run thru an attached seatbelt, instead of clipping the seat belt on the dog. Hold the leash for safety, the dog will need to choose to stay, not be attached to car in order for the training to have meaning to the dog.
Put your hand on the crate door, click/treat for your dog sitting or standing still. Remove your hand. Repeat a few times. Unlatch the crate and start to open the door. If the dog moves toward the door, close the door. You may need to repeat quite a few times until the dog stops charging the door. Click/treat dog for staying in the crate.
Close the crate door any time the dog tries to leave before you release the dog from the crate. Keep your rate of reinforcement high, as the dog with little impulse control will get frustrated and bark more
. This is hard work for the excited dog, so reward them a lot! Once the dog will sit in the crate and is not trying to leave, release the dog from the crate.
Encourage the dog to jump back in the car/crate. Put your hand on the crate door, does the dog sit/stand relaxed? No barking? Click/treat. Open the crate door, but be ready to close again if needed. Open the crate door. Click/treat for staying in the crate (and not barking). Reward a few more times for staying in the crate with the crate door open. Then release from the car.
Skill: Car Etiquette Part 2 - Leaving the car
Here is the second part of arousal control, the exit. Many dogs jump out of the car, lunge to the end of leash, barking, pulling, etc. The dog is not connected to the handler, and is not thinking. Remember to keep your reinforcement rate high, lots of feedback for the dog to help them learn how to think when excited! Your dog is staying in the crate when you open the door, and you are ready to work on the release outside the car. Be ready to put your dog back in the car, so have your treats in a pocket or pouch. Release your dog (have leash attached prior to release) and wait for your dog to turn and look at you. If they bark, put the dog back in the car and start again. Once the dog can jump out of the car without barking, work on the next part, connection.
Give the dog 3-5 seconds to look back at you. Click/treat eye contact. If the dog does not check in, put them back in the car and repeat until the dog checks in. Then go for your walk, let the dog go sniff some grass, etc.
Criteria: In order for your dog to keep his skills intact, you must be consistently clear. Exiting the car must always have the same rules and you must be consistent. If you let your training slip, your dog will have trouble maintaining his/her new skill.