Musings on Bark Control

Now and then, my dog barks when I don’t want him to. To get this under control, I did a bit of web research. One recommended approach involves teaching your dog to speak on command.

How to get him to speak on command?
He was already barking on a certain cue, intermittently, when we were playing fetch. I said “Give it to me!” and he would occasionally bark – so I just kept reinforcing that. “Speak! Give it to me!”, “Give it to me, speak!”, etc., gradually dropping the “Give it to me!” Very important to give IMMEDIATE feedback, i.e. click or “good!” when you get the bark, before the treat is given. You can say “good!” or click faster than give a treat. The time interval between the correct behaviour and your feedback is shorter with a clicker. Speed is critical when reinforcing the behaviour you want. I am an amateur but studying up. I don’t agree 40ish percent of the time with Cesar Milan techniques but he has a few good pointers. I like these little one gram training treats – slightly larger than kibble size. Not big treats! No need to make your dog obese to train him/her.

It helps to think of the clicker as a fast way to say “Good dog!”. If you click and a treat comes, the dog knows click means “Good!”. If you do a few rounds of clicking and giving a treat, the dog gets the idea.

Maybe the dog is motivated to please. Mine aims to please, and doesn’t always need food to do something. If your dog is like this you can taper off the treats. I think of border collies as less food motivated than, say, labs.