Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How To End Attention Seeking Barking

Dogs bark for all kinds of reasons, to alert that there's somebody at the door, to tell you they have to go out or to entice another dog to play but in my opinion, the hardest type of barking dog to train is the dog who simply barks to get your attention.

(For safety reasons I must mention that some dogs bark when they're in pain, hungry, thirsty or have to eliminate; please rule out all of these causes of barking before attempting to train your dog to stop "attention seeking" barking)

Attention seeking barkers are a pain mostly because anything that we humans commonly do in order to interupt or stop this behavior is actually ENCOURAGING it, no mater how angry or serious we try to sound, we're still giving the dog attention which feeds the barking.

So how do you, a mere human, stop an obnoxious and sometimes serious habit with out accidnetly encouraging it?

Simple. Reward the silence. Confused? Let me explain.

If you wait for your dog to stop barking for only a few seconds and you reward the dog BEFORE it starts barking again you'll actually be rewarding your dog for being quite.

Still confused?

Let me explain how your dog views and interprets the situation. Most dogs think in terms of cause and effect. If I do this, I get that or If I do this, that happens. So far, your dog has learned in this paticular situation that if he wants attention all he has to do is bark and you'll come running to take them to go to the bathroom, to feed them, to see who's at the door etc. But when your dog is simply barking because they just want you to stop what you're doing and pay attention to them then what do you usually do? You yell at them to stop barking, be quiet, shut up, etc. usually while making eye contact and facing your dog, am I right?

It isn't important to your dog WHAT it is that you're saying to them but that you've actually stopped what you were previously doing, came over to where the dog was, made eye contact with them and then proceeded to talk to the dog. In your dog's brain, he's just gotten exactly what he wanted and he barely had to do anything to get it.

Are you starting to see why they say negative attention is still attention?

So back to what you CAN do about the barking.

After you reward the even just 2 or 3 seconds of silence by going over to your dog, verbally marking the silence with a YES (this helps your dog understand what it is that they're being rewarded for) and then handing them a small piece of their regular dinner kibble, say "OK" and go back to what you were doing. The dog will usually wait a few seconds or even a few minutes before it starts back up with the barking again.


There will be a break in the barking. Wait for it and reward promptly before saying "OK" and resuming what you were doing again. Repeat as necessary, gradually increasing how long you wait AFTER the silence has started and before your reward the dog for it.

Your dog should be barking less and being quiet longer each time you reward them.

You'll definitley need to practice this EVERYTIME the problem barking occurs. So you may do it a few days in a row beofre the barking completely ceases but it WILL work as long as you're consistent and patient.

Also, remember not to reward your dog TOO lavishly otherwise you could end up in a sticky situation of your dog barking JUST so that you'll reward them for the silence. I prefer to use a combination of verbal praise "GOOD DOG! WHAT A GOOD DOG!" and a piece or two of just regular dry dog kibble.

If this sounds TOO easy to be true, your right it is almost TOO easy which is why it is also VERY easy to screw it up. Remember, to wait for a 2 or 3 second pause in the barking at first then as you make your way over to your dog, start telling him/her what a good dog they are, when you get to them say "YES" and then hand them the piece of kibble. After they've finished chewing the kibble say "OK" and walk away. Your dog will then start barking again, wait for another break but this time wait for a 4 or 5 second pause before starting up with the verbal praise, going over to the dog, etc.

It's also SUPER important for everyone in the household to be on the same page. If even just one person tells the dog to "SHUT UP" instead of waiting for when the dog is quiet, you'll have to start all over again from the beginning.

It's a good idea to try and get everyone together in the same room when the dog starts the barking and have everyone practice waiting for the dog to stop, and then sending out a different person each time to reward the dog until the barking completely stops.

Also, remember a TIRED DOG IS A HAPPY DOG! If your dog is consistently barking they may just need more exercise. Please eliminate all causes of your dogs barking before assuming that it's Attention Seeking Barking. It's also a good idea to enlist the help of a Professional Dog Trainer or Behaviorist to help you with any type of barking problem.

Well that's all for now, check back periodically as I'm going to try to get together a step by step video of How To Stop Attention Seeking Barking as a follow up to this blog.

Please leave a comment!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Theo and Then Some!

So it's taken me a bit longer to write about Theo than I had expected but boy is it going to be worth the wait. Theo is a very special dog and I'm so excited to share with you all not only the story of how he came to be a part of the Bowman's Canine program but how much progress he's made since we pulled him from the shelter.

Buddy was a dog who'd been in the Bowman's Canine program for almost a year. He was a fantastic dog who came with us to a lot of our trainings and helped so many dogs over come their fear of other dogs. In April, a wonderful family came to meet him and eventually ended up deciding to adopt him. Now, Buddy and Latte were pulled from separate shelters around the same time and had been best friends ever since. They played on a daily basis, had slumber parties and were generally partners in crime. So you can imagine Latte's disappointment when Buddy was no longer there to play with every day. It was about a week after Buddy had been adopted that we began thinking about pulling another dog, not only to save a life but to hopefully give Latte that someone special yet again. It was around this time Bowman's Canine first heard about Theo.

He was a dog who wasn't available for adoption and was being worked with on a daily basis at Escondido Humane Society to overcome his general fear of pretty much everything. He had one special staff member that he loved and a few volunteers that he'd tolerate but was still VERY fearful. When I asked about what dogs needed exiting the most, Theo's name was the first one mentioned. We added him to our list of potential dogs to pull but wanted to wait until Buddy had hit the 1 month marker in his new home before taking on another dog, just in case things didn't work out and he needed to come back. Another week went by and  I had heard that Theo was no longer in danger as he had been put on the foster list and was awaiting the right foster home. We ended up pulling another dog, a chocolate lab/pit puppy named Mud. He was adopted after only a few weeks of being with us to an absolutely perfect family. Mud had temporarily filled Buddy's spot in Latte's life but he wasn't her partner in crime the same way that Buddy was. He was more of a little brother that Latte needed to shape and teach.

After Mud had been in his home for a few weeks, I began asking around about dogs at the shelter again and Theo's name was once again brought up. He had been taken off the foster list and was now apparently a candidate for receiving anti-anxiety medications. I agreed to evaluate Theo on the condition that I could do so BEFORE he was started on the anti-anxiety medications.

I had our wonderful Adoptions Coordinator/Asst Trainer Krystal join us for Theo's initial evaluation. Theo's favorite staff member brought him out on leash and into an interaction yard. She handed me the leash at first so that she could go get a few chairs for us to sit in. As I held on tight to Theo's probably 6ft leash, he wouldn't come anywhere near Krystal or I. He ran in a perfect circle around me as I held the leash in pure fright. His tail was tucked, he was trying to stay as low to the ground as he could without taking his eyes off of me. He did sit in front of me with his back to me for about a minute and let me pet him but darted right back out again after hearing the slightest noise. Once his favorite lady came back into the yard with the chairs, I let go of the leash and let him be. We all sat there and talked for a while about what all they had been doing with Theo, what we thought he'd need to succeed out of the shelter and how he came to be at the shelter.

It turned out that Theo and a dog who looked very similar to him but was around 5 years old named Norah had been found as strays running loose at Kit Carson Park in Escondido. Theo was extremely bonded to Norah but as soon as she wasn't around, Theo would shut down. Norah was very friendly and was listed as available for adoption and moved over into the adoptions side of the humane society. Theo however, was still too fearful to be adopted and was listed as "Under Behavior Modification" while remaining on the strays side.

Back to our evaluation of Theo, so we were all sitting in the interaction yard with Theo off leash. I began to notice Theo some what "coming to life" he started trying to pull a carpet/blanket thing underneath a plastic table and was casually checking in with his favorite staff member here and there. His tail started to untuck and his brow line finally started to relax. After about 20 minutes of sitting and talking, Theo finally came up to me while I was sitting in the chair for some scratches but never for more than a minute or two. That's when I got out of my chair and sat on the ground with him. He let me rub his head and ears a little bit and scratch his back but he still wanted to run away at every chance he got. After about 45 minutes of hanging out with Theo, I was officially in love and gave the word that we'd be pulling him. He was then scheduled for his neuter surgery and returned to his kennel.

A few days later, I was actually contacted by the shelter's "behaviorist" and told that even though Theo had made some progress at the shelter, he thought that Theo wouldn't be able to "make it over the hump" without anti-anxiety meds and that he wasn't able to cope with new situations. He also said that he thought we should put him on the anti-anxiety meds even after we pull him and offered to get us a prescription. I respectfully declined and asked what behaviors Theo displayed that made him think that Theo wouldn't be able to cope with coming out of the shelter without medication, I never heard back.

We picked Theo up a few days after his neuter surgery and brought him to the facility. At first, he was petrified of our truck but once we started cruising, he LOVED having his head out the window. I took him on leash around the yard, let him explore his new kennel and introduced him through the fence to Latte. Although, he was immediately smitten with Latte, I'm pretty sure the feeling wasn't mutual. At the end of our walk around the yard, I sat down on the front patio with Theo and just let him take his time coming up to me without reaching out for him at all. He cautiously sniffed me but still didn't want to be petted. I was however, able to get lots of kisses after I returned him to his kennel.

Everyday, after that first day, he seemed to come out of his shell bit by bit. Everything was new to him, he was both fascinated and afraid of the most mundane things. He was absolutely petrified of our chickens at first and even our small palm trees that line the fence. We did mini- Behavior Adjustment Training sessions with him and just about everything on a daily basis. The most important one though was with my husband.

It took a few days of doing a BAT session once a day with Theo and my husband before Theo felt confident approaching my husband. At first it was just a sniff and then we'd run away, then it was a sniff and a lick and then we'd run away. By the fourth or fifth day he was practically running up to my husband to give him love before running away and smelling the fabulous smells around the yard.

After about a week of being with Bowman's Canine, Krystal came up and we took Latte and Theo for their first walk together. The chemistry was ELECTRIC! They absolutely LOVED one another. Latte lit up in a way I haven't seen since Buddy was adopted. They rumbled, tumbled,  wrestled and played all while dragging poor Krystal and I along.

They then began going on daily off leash play dates and turned into the best of friends. After, Latte was attacked just a little over two weeks ago, Theo was devastated. Latte was no longer directly across from him day in and day out and he stared to develop a bit of separation anxiety. This was secretly, a blessing in disguise though and this helped bring Theo even further out of his shell without his dependency on Latte.

Theo has now begun approaching people when they come over all on  his own, with little or no coaxing. He approaches people with a waggy tail and confidence. It also turns out he likes kids and was more than happy to say hello to my neighbors little girl through the fence. He still loves every dog he sees even if the love isn't returned. Everyday he's blossoming more and more into the fantastic dog I knew he could be. He has made all of this progress WITHOUT the use of medications. All he needed was some love, time and patience.

This evening, I'll be taking Theo on his first hike away from our facility. We'll be meeting a friend and her dog at a hiking trail out in, gasp, PUBLIC! I'm both excited and nervous to see how Theo does. I'll be bringing the video camera along so don't worry I'll definitely be posting video.

Speaking of video, I'm going to attach two videos for you all to see. The first video is of our first meeting with Theo while he was still at the shelter and then day two with us:

The second video, is Theo's 11th day with Bowman's Canine and his first time meeting Krystal. This was also the same day he walked with Latte for the first time:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Our First Post!

So, I finally gave in, buckled down and created a blog to share not only training tips and articles but to highlight the dogs in our program as well as any progress they're making. As most of you know we currently had three dogs in the program up until Sunday,when Miss Jersey was adopted. We are now down to Latte and Theo and I've decided to do a separate entry for each dog detailing how they came to be a part of Bowman's Canine as well as the progress they've made.

So let's start with the Lovely Latte!

I first heard about Latte from a friend who continued to volunteer at a shelter I formerly worked at. She had expressed to me that she knew Latte was a good girl but had ended up on the euthanasia radar for being "too hyper". At the time Latte was about 8 months old and as stunning as ever. I agreed to meet with my friend just outside of the shelter since, at the time, I was still not allowed on the property (we're all good now but this was about a year and a half ago). As I waited patiently by my truck, little Latte began approaching while on leash with my friend. I could tell at first she was a little shy and was carefully scanning me to determine if I was friend or foe so I kneeled down sideways, turned my head to the side so as not to make direct eye contact and started telling her what a pretty and sweet girl she was in my best Mickey Mouse voice.

She immediately came running over, sniffed my hand and then attempted to jump in my lap. Now, I'm not going to lie, Latte had enough energy to put the energizer bunny to shame but she was 8 months old, a pit and a brindle one at that. Being the proud momma of a brindle female pittie myself I already knew what I was getting myself into. I couldn't help but fall in love with Latte immediately. I did my usual evaluation just to make sure their were no red flags and other than being extra wiggly, I saw no reason for her to be on the "euth radar". I agreed, on the spot, to rescue her if we could find a way to exit her without it being public knowledge that I was the one doing the rescuing.

Thanks to lots of help from several volunteers and a few staff members, Latte was pulled from the shelter and transferred to Bowman's Canine. A few days later we ended up also pulling another dog, Buddy, from San Diego Humane North Campus who just so happened to be 8 months old as well. Buddy was quite the charmer and was able to get chummy with Latte in no time. They both gave each other fantastic bouts of confidence and drool.

At the time, Latte had ZERO manners, she pulled on the leash, didn't know any basic commands, wouldn't sit still for more than a minute and was basically a bucking bronco if I've ever seen one. Latte is now almost 2 years old and is a refined lady with lots of love to give. She knows sit, down, stay, come, release, leave it, is crate trained and housebroken. She is dog selective but warms up to most dogs in time. She's also still a little wary of strange men when we're out and about but if you're a guest at the ranch, she's all over you quicker than white on rice.

Now if you follow me on facebook (www.facebook.com/bowmanscanine or www.facebook.com/bowmanscaninerescue) than you've probably heard that about a week and a half ago, Latte was attacked while on a walk with me by my neighbors two German Shepherd Chow mixes, after they broke out of their yard. The damage was pretty significant, she ended up needing 3 drains and about 8-10 sutures. We thankfully received a lot of support from our supporters, clients and friends which helped pay a big chunk of Latte's $1000 vet bill. The neighbors are going to help reimburse us for the vet bill by making monthly payments to us, so that is already squared away.

Yesterday, Latte had the last of her sutures removed and is now healing BEAUTIFULLY! She's still a bit wary of any shepherd she sees but thankfully still loves her current boyfriend Theo.

Here's a picture of my lovely Latte:

Well, I guess that's all for today. I'm really looking forward to blogging about Theo and his progress tomorrow. He's going to be one of our biggest success stories, I can already tell.

Until next time.....