Q&A – Barking Mad


My dog Jake is a barker, especially when he has a toy and either wants you to play fetch or he is playing on his own. Yes I could take away the toys, but then Kirby my other dog doesn’t get toys. “No” doesn’t work, ignoring doesn’t either. So I had to pair no with an unpleasant experience; the spray bottle (mind you it has the apple cider vinegar and green tea rinse in it). But now Kirby associates Jake barking with the spray bottle and hides. Even when we are inside and I have never used the spray bottle inside or on Kirby.

Kirby is very obedient and has a huge understanding of human language, so a simple “no” or frown works with him. He is easy to train, except with drop and shake paws. He rolls over onto his back. He is very submissive.

Can you suggest anything to help me help Kirby? The fact that he goes to another room away from me is a big thing, he is my shadow.


Good old Classical Conditioning at it’s finest. As you mentioned, Kirby is quite a sensitive boy and responds to verbal and body language quite well. Even though your behaviour is directed at Jake, Krby will be reading your signals and hearing your anger when reprimanding Jake even if you aren’t using the spray bottle. He has then predicted that when Jake barks you are going to follow with your behaviour whcih causes him to run and hide.

To help Kirby through his fear, you would be best to repair the barking to something else. Have treats available for Kirby. Whenever Jake barks, immediately provide Kirby with a really high value treat. Retrain Kirby to think bark = treat rather than trouble. This may take some time to prepare. It sounds like you know what causes Jake to bark so it will be easy to set up a situation where this will happen. Have Kirby on lead so he can’t run and hide and begin pairing. If you aren’t sure how to do this, read this article and change the clicker to Jake’s bark.

By doing this with Kirby, you are also ignoring Jake’s barking, thus not rewarding him, and his barking will likely stop as he will be wondering what you are doing with Kirby that is more interesting than interacting with him.

If Jake is barking at you to throw the ball/toy, ignoring him until he stops then asking him to sit or drop before you throw the ball/toy is the ideal way to stop him barking and to offer an alternative behaviour. Have the ball/toy ready with you. Treat Kirby every time Jake barks. When Jake stops for a couple of seconds, command a sit/drop (something he knows well). When he does this, release him and throw the ball/toy. If he drops it and barks at you, ignore him and reward Kirby. Once Jake stops barking, pick the toy back up and repeat the process.

I hope this helps you with the barking for your attention. The barking during play is more complex as barking in itself while playing is self-rewarding. Perhaps having a set play time with the toys will help you control the barking so as not to annoy you or the neighbours, but allowing the barking at appropriate times during the day. When it’s not play time, toys go away in a box.

Good Luck! If you would like some tips regarding teaching Kirby to shake, please let me know. Here is a step-by-step for teaching drop -> Teaching Drop.


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