I came across a post the other day on a friends social media wall, regarding another dog trainer associated with a well known training organisation, and how they were blaming the owner for the dog biting them…
What I read, made me cringe, shake my head and feel nothing but sorrow for the owner and dog in question.
This so called professional had arrived to collect the dog for their training session, and had not set any collection rules (i.e put the dog on a lead/ out of the way/ days off etc) for the dog fearful of people and just took them straight out to ‘train’
Shortly after heading out with a dog they didn’t know, hadn’t built up a relationship with, and put them straight into a situation the dog wasn’t comfortable in (new person) they ended up freaking out and nipping the handler.
Now, why in the world would you take a dog away who was fearful of people and try to work with them? Baffled me!
So, now we look at the back lash of this decision and find the dog now has a bite history and the owner is in a worse position than when they first started out. Likely the owner also has a bitter taste in their mouth, on getting another dog trainer in because of this, and quite frankly that so called professional has prolonged the chances of the dog progressing because they set them up to fail.
In the same post was a comment from someone saying ”This is the reason I will never seek professional help for my own dog” or along those lines and it left me feeling incredibly sad.
When searching for a solution to the barking, I often hear how people have perhaps tried a dog trainer before but didn’t see any changes. Or the dog got worse. Which is not cool at all and gives the good and reputable trainers a bad name.
Coming back to the post title and what you’re probably wanting to know more about, is another thing I get asked and hear surrounding the barking issue. It goes like this: ‘How long will it take for the barking to stop?’
Well, if we look at some of the factors surrounding the issue, then as we can see from the above story and short history of this situation, that particular dog is probably going to take a lot longer in trusting strangers again, as will the owner. Which means the progress will take a lot longer and they’ve been set back weeks, months, maybe even years, who knows. So the road will be long for them.
But, if we take a dog who perhaps has just started barking, or is a dog who is easily distracted by and can focus on the rewards we offer, I’d say we could probably turn the dogs behaviour around quite quickly. Sometimes I’ve done two sessions with a dog and the barking has all but gone by following the right protocols.
Aside individual cases, which they should all be treated as, to answer this as well as I can for you over a blog post, let’s have a look at a few basic key factors.
How long has the dog been practicing the behaviour? Is it a few days, months, or years? Did it happen overnight or progressively got worse
Is the barking at something specific, or is it varied to different things? Specific triggers are generally easier to work with because we can better control what the dog is exposed too. Variable barking is harder and requires a deeper understanding and learning of the dogs body language to help identify when they’re starting to get concerned/over excited etc
Are there any underlying medical issues causing the problem? Ain’t nothing in the world going to help you with the barking if your dogs doing it through pain or discomfort. It’s why the good ones will first tell you to get a vet check for your dog first before undertaking any training. Dog’s are pretty good at hiding pain but you can look for things yourself to help determine where a medical issue might be. Are they limping/licking at certain areas too much on their body/ struggling to eat their dinner/ scratching or whining when touching their ears/ struggling to get up after a sleep etc. I’m not a vet but it’s not ethical to test your dog for everything and anything so keep tabs on their behaviours and their movements to see if you can spot anything. Bloods and X-rays are a good place to start with any concerns.
What kind of barking is it? Demanding, over excitement, boredom barking and often frustration, I find can be turned around quickly (other factors dependent) where as the likes of fears, stresses or anxieties can take a while longer. If you’ve got a dog who’s more of a ‘Hey, you there, give me some god damn attention woman’ then this comes down to teaching some manners and channelling the dogs urges to yell into something else.
Where as concerns and internal worries are way more complex. We can’t change the memories surrounding the worry over night and if the dog is genetically fearful, it can be a lifelong management situation. Improvements can always be made, but as good as any dog trainer is, we can’t change genetics. So it takes longer to build up confidence, trust and a solid support system for the dog to rely on and work through. It’s not impossible to help these dogs, but it requires more determination from the owners to ensure they’re doing what they can to keep the dogs at ease.
What breed is the dog? This may seem stupidly obvious, but some dogs have been bred to bark more than others. And dogs don’t moo, quack or bahhhh like livestock. They do bark. But what’s normal, and whats a nuisance?
My dogs bark. When there is someone at the door, they let me know. Then when I ask them to stop. They stop.
If we’re out and about, if Hunter is feeling unsure, or perhaps getting a bit frustrated, we get a growl and a couple of woofs sometimes, and then we can carry on (unless I prompt a more serious reaction! See last weeks blog post) and it’s not continuous, stressful and he can’t recover afterwards now, like he used too. He’s not constantly on edge and pacing, whining, reacting to everything and anything anymore.
So, although barking is normal for dogs, it comes down to whats enough, and whats too much. This will also vary depending on who you are as a person. I don’t mind barking to a certain degree, but you might not like any.
What’s the dogs diet like? Is the food a good quality one or perhaps shitty supermarket brands full of sugars, colourants and additives? Is the diet the right one for their age group and breed? Are they allergic to any of the ingredients or perhaps getting too much or too little proteins etc. Diet plays a massive role in behaviour.
If you feed the wrong things, it can change how the dog acts. I remember back when Skye was 15/16 weeks old and I asked my partner to pick up some food whilst we waited for the next delivery. He picked up Bakers (Blah!) and all of Skyes calmness, toilet training and biddable nature went out of the window after the only meal she had of it. I was up all night cleaning up after her, watching her racing around the caravan and generally being an absolute nut job. Needless to say it went in the bin the next morning.
So, now we’ve got a few of the basics out of the way, back to the question in hand. ”How long will it take to stop the barking”
And the most widely used, well renown, reputable dog trainers answer you will get, will be: ”It depends”
If someone tells you they’ll have the job sorted in one or two sessions, tread with caution. And always ask ‘What will happen to my dog if they get it wrong’ If you’re met with any answers that say the following, steer clear.
– We’ll correct that and tell them off/ yank them on the lead/ shock them/ shut them down
– Let’s put them with my dog and just see what happens
– I use this ** insert tool here* which will stop them barking immediately
You’re looking for responses such as ‘the dog shouldn’t fail because we’ll set them up for success’, or ‘we’ll use that reaction as information to ensure in the future they are’t put into that situation again, until they’re ready.’
Fixing the underlying emotion is key. Tools, supposed quick fixes or corrections aren’t exactly ethical or fair to your dog, and just because you’ve seen someone doing it on the TV, or Tiktok you’re timing in delivering the corrections won’t be well times, trust me. There’s a whole books worth i could write on punishment, so I’ll do that another week.
So, set your dog up to succeed, dedicate time each day to spend with them teaching what it is you’d like for them to do instead and let’s reward the things we want to see more of.
In my work with barking dogs, I run something called Elite. It’s a 12 week program which helps owners get their dogs quieter and calmer, working with like minded owners and doggies. To date, all of the dogs who I’ve worked with are now working in the exclusive group sessions, progressing on what they’ve learned in the 1:1’s and taking their dogs behaviours to another level.
What ever your dog’s barking is aimed towards, I’m a firm believer that we can learn to better manage the issue, by learning a few key principles, and then sticking to them.
There is always something WE can be doing to further help our dogs, and if you’re ready to learn and work more closely with me, then I’ve got two spaces remaining for the final intake for Elite this year (It’s still crazy, I’m having to write it’s the last one!)
It starts on August 25th and runs every Tuesday and Saturdays, it’s held in Buxton, Derbyshire and will open doors for you and your dog you never thought you’d be able to reach.
If you want to find out more about it, then simply email: firstname.lastname@example.org with the headline ELITE to receive the application form and PDF details of the service.
Until next time my friend,