Some people will say, “Dogs bark, what can you do?” It may surprise you to know that I agree with this statement. To a degree.
I like my dogs to let me know when someone, or something is approaching my house. I do not like my dogs to bark incessantly, or lunge at other dogs.
I work on this behavior in a couple of ways.
In my home, when my dogs run to the window or door barking, I get up, I see what has piqued their interest, and I let them know, it’s okay. Sometimes, I thank them. Then I say, “It’s okay, let’s get a cookie.” I walk away from the window. Generally, my dogs follow my lead.
On the rare occasion when they don’t, I go to my pantry and grab a treat, leading them away from the window.
Sometimes, I grab a handful of treats and throw them on the floor. While they are busy gobbling up the treats, the ‘threat’ has disappeared. (If your concerned about calories, consider using a dried fruit, such as dehydrated banana or apple slices.)
When the distraction is an ongoing thing, such as a dog that walks past every day, I will stand with my dogs, I stroke their fur and I tell them it’s okay. I use a soothing tone, and quiet words, reassuring them that, even though Ellie is walking on their lawn, it’s quite okay with me. (This also works well for the garbage truck.)
If we are in the yard and my dog is barking at other dogs, I will call them inside the house, or bring them away from the approaching dog, to a point in the yard where they aren’t barking. I reward for quiet behavior. Once your dog is quiet, you slowly begin to lessen the distance between your dog and the other dog.
On a walk, this can be more challenging. There are many dogs along our route, that run their fence and bark at my dog as we walk past. For us this is a tough one. One of my dogs, Delilah does not care for a dog barking incessantly at her. Her old reaction was to respond to said dog, with a bit of barking and lunging of her own.
I’ve worked extensively with her to stop this behavior.
Here’s Four of My ‘Tricks’:
I use the “Look” command.
Some people use Focus, or Watch Me, whatever word you will remember. This command rewards with a treat. So, while she is watching me, she is getting a treat.
Another trick I use is also with treats.
I will take a handful of treats, and one at a time toss them about 5 to 10 feet ahead of me. This engages the dog’s attention, taking the focus off the other dog.
Sometimes, just for fun, I run past the other dog.
If you have a dog that loves to run, but doesn’t get a lot of run time, this can be a great way to help get their attention away from the other dog.
Sometimes we just stop and do basic obedience commands.
Commands like “Sit”, or “Down” or if your dog has a favorite trick, you can use that to take their focus off the other dogs.
If you have a dog that is not motivated by treats and instead likes toys, consider bringing a squeaky toy with you on your walk. At the crucial moment, pull out the toy and use it to distract your dog.
By using these types of distractions, I’ve trained, or conditioned Delilah to walk past the posturing dogs without engaging. She never knows what type of reward I will use, so it’s fun for her, and she looks forward to it. Now, when we approach a house with an out-of-control dog, she either looks to me for direction, or sails right past it.
Jodi Stone is the author of Heart Like a Dog, a community based blog, where readers go to find humor, inspiration and support. Inspired by the challenges she faced when she rescued her dog, Delilah, Jodi’s goal is to let other dog owners know that their dog doesn’t have to be perfect and they definitely aren’t alone!
Jodi is cohost of the popular Barks and Bytes Blog hop, is co-creator of the DADO blog hop, and created the Caring for Critters Round Robin which resulted in a community health page for pets as a permanent addition to her blog.
Graduating with a degree in Communications, Jodi currently works as an administrative assistant.
Jodi lives in CT with her husband and two dogs, Sampson and Delilah. When she’s not blogging, Jodi can be found hiking the trails with Sampson and Delilah, spending time with her grandchildren, or cuddle up with a good book and preferably a dog.