By Diane Garrod
There are several ways to prevent, manage and train your dog not to bark. I created the three-bark rule to showcase how easy it is to diminish and even eliminate non-alert barking without using aversive methods. It establishes it is ok to alert bark. It shows the dog you respect his communication and it ends barking with a simple, pleasant cue.
To train the three-bark rule, you start at the end, meaning you backchain the sequence of cues. This is familiar terminology for clicker trainers. If you are not familiar with clicker training head to www.clickertraining.com and join the Clicker Solutions Yahoo Groups list to start a lifetime of learning for you and your canine companion.
The entire sequence is “Thank you, 2, 3, Done Cue”. You can count out the 2, 3 in your head or simply, say it verbally. Your done cue can be anything – “done”, “quiet”, “shhhhh”, “cookies” etc. I use “done” because I can use it in other training sequences with success. And the thank you portion of the chain signifies you’ve seen what they are barking “at”, confirm it, and indicates you’ll take care of it from here. It shows a respect for the bark as a communication tool; not annoying habit humans hate. Soon your neighbors won’t even know you have dogs. Many times my neighbors have said to me “I didn’t know you had dogs” or “I didn’t know you had two dogs” or “I didn’t know you had big dogs, they are so quiet.”
Start training your “Done” cue first. Every time your dog is simply being quiet, say your done cue and click and treat. If you see your dog siting quietly at the window looking out, this is an ideal time to practice the done cue. The key to the done cue, however, is that it also means, “turn away from what you are barking at and return to me”. So you also run backwards when you say your word or make it so your dog has to turn away and return to (come to) you for a reward. You can click and treat, meaning you click for the ACTION of turning away from and treat for the POSITION of returning to you to receive their reward. WAIT 3 to 10 seconds before delivering the reward so it is very clear that you the done cue does not mean you are rewarding “barking”. Must always be happy and always rewarding.
When you are confident you have a great quiet cue established – a pattern of hearing the cue and turning away from whatever the dog is doing, then and only then start the sequence with the barking. “Thank you 2, 3” is one cue. Here’s how it will go:
What if my dog doesn’t stop barking when I say my done cue?
First ask yourself if you “said it correctly” in a pleasant delivery – not with emotion or aversion – yelling DONE! Is not correct and you are only adding drama and actually barking along with your dog
If you did everything correctly, then you possibly didn’t quite train the done cue long enough to mean silence. Go back to step one and start over.
There has to be a consequence for barking past done and if all is in place, it simply means no reward, and a blocking of view coupled with a relax time for dog – crate, room etc. This will bring the dog down from the adrenaline rush of barking, which caused them to bark after the cue. This must be done without comment, talking or aversion and is simply a time out. Time for you to figure out what piece you might have skipped over, why the barking didn’t end, what you were doing wrong. Then you can regroup and try again later, after you do some practice sessions.
It will take positive reward-based repetitions and proper timing of the clicker to get it just right. The click comes ONLY when the dog hears the word, turns away and trots happily over to you to receive their reward. YOU are NOT CLICKING the bark. Click as the dog is trotting over to you, count 3 to 10 seconds out – depends on the dog – and deliver the reinforcement for good behavior. The more you reward good behavior – NOT barking – the more the good behavior you want will continue. Soon your dog will be counting out his or her own barks. More importantly, they will know their communication is being taken seriously and you value what they are telling you, which increases and establishes a better team relationship.
Other ways to diminish barking:
Let’s take a look at why dogs bark in the first place.
Once you realize dogs don’t bark just to irritate the human species, then you can understand what to do to make barking communication manageable and even enjoyable. Then you can prevent what you don’t want by doing the following:
I particularly like to use the three-bark rule and especially the cue “Done” said in a happy conversational tone, because this cue then becomes the end of other activities – done interacting with dogs or people, or done playing or a host of other activities – sniffing, etc. But it must always mean turn away from what you are doing, and return to me. What a great way for you and your dog to begin a lifetime of proper reward-based training techniques that builds your relationship and communication.