So many owners, or to be more precise, their neighbors, find excessive barking to be an intolerable problem when dogs are left at home alone. But also, many owners find excessive and uncontrollable barking to be a problem even when they are at home with their dogs. The solution is simple. Teach the dog to shush on cue. This may sound OK in theory but many owners experience huge problems trying to put theory into practice, largely because they try to teach the dog to shush when he is amped up and barking so loud that he cannot even hear the owner’s instructions. We have a better way.
First, let’s put the “problem” on cue and teach the dog to speak on command. Some may think this strange: “My dog barks so much, so why on earth would I teach him to bark more?” Well, if you have taught your dog to speak on command, you may now teach your dog to shush at times when your dog is not over-the-top with excitement and at times that are convenient to you.
Lure/Reward training always comprises the same four-step process:
1. Request 2. Lure 3. Response 4. Reward.
And so to teach your dog to speak on cue:
1. Say “Speak” 2. Lure your dog to speak, and 3. When the dog speaks, 4. Reward your dog. However, what shall se use for a lure? How about having an accomplice ring the doorbell? After six to eight repetitions of the training sequence, your dog will learn that “Speak” predicts that the door bell is about to ring and so, he will bark when you say “Speak” in anticipation of the doorbell.
Lure/Reward training is so quick and easy, we may as well teach the dog to shush at the same time. But again, what shall we use as a lure to shush the dog? Certainly, a food treat is the very best lure. A dog cannot sniff a food treat and bark at the same time. These are two mutually exclusive behaviors. Go on, try it yourself.
And so, the Woof/Shush training sequence becomes:
1. Say, “Speak”
2. Accomplice rings the doorbell or knocks on the front door
3. Dog barks at the doorbell
4. Praise your dog for barking, “Good boy! Good woofs!”
1. Say, “Shush!”
2. Waggle a piece of freeze-dried liver in front of your dog’s nose
3. Dog sniffs food and stops barking
4. Praise your dog, “Good Shush. GoooooodShush.” And then give your dog the treat.
Repeat the above woof/shush sequence a number of times and with each repetition, progressive increase the length of shush-time following each barking session by delaying giving the food treat. You may count out the length of the shush-time — “Good shush one. Gooood shush two. Goooood shush three… etc.”
Now practice on a walk, so that your dog learns to Speak and Shush in a variety of different settings.