When I first started working on this post, I thought about getting some video of Cooper to illustrate the problem… but then I realized just how annoying it would be to watch a video of him barking his face off.
From discussions here and on Facebook, it sounds like a lot of us are faced with this behavior. Your dog barks (and barks and barks) to get something from you: food, attention, play, to be let out, to be let in, and so on.
Cooper does this all the time. In fact, he made a spectacle of himself this weekend when we had company in town, and he insisted on barking at one of our friends for tortillas… of course, she kept giving it to him, so the barking continued.
He also barks at Emmett and Lucas. He wants Lucas to play, so he barks in his face until he relents. He wants the toy Emmett is chewing on, so he barks in his face until Emmett gets frustrated, drops the toy, and walks away. He wants the bed they’re laying on, so he lays in front of the bed and barks until they get annoyed and leave. In each instance, Cooper wins.
So I started doing a little research to devise a training plan.
Here’s how we’re going to tackle Cooper’s demand barking:
- Don’t “correct” the barking with any verbal cues. To Cooper, that’s rewarding him with attention. (Aside: This is REALLY hard for John. He always wants to shhh! him, so this will be the difficult part for him!)
- Ignore the demand and replace it with an incompatible behavior. He wants my chips? I’ll hand him a chew toy instead.
- When he demands something from Emmett and Lucas, it’s a little tougher, but we’re going to remove Emmett/Lucas with the toy Cooper is demanding. It’s sort of like a “time out” for Cooper because – gasp! – he won’t have his brothers right with him.
- Sporadically reward him for quiet. For example, if I’m eating carrots at my desk and he barks at me for a carrot, I’ll do step one (perhaps ask him to go on his bed with a chew), then wait for a few seconds of silence, then give him a carrot. This has to be very random because we don’t want to risk setting up a chain reaction where: barking for a while + not barking for a while = treat.
Seems simple enough, right?
However, in my research, I encountered the idea of an “extinction burst.” Your dog was successful in getting what he wanted by barking at you for a very long time. Now that you’re stopping, he’s going to be super confused! It always worked before… what the heck is going on? Perhaps they didn’t hear me. So he’ll bark at a greater intensity: longer, louder, more frantic, etc. It’s critical not to give in at this point because otherwise you’re setting your pup up to think, “Okay, now I have to bark at THIS level to get what I want.” So, hold strong!
I’m actually curious to see what his “extinction burst” is going to be like…
That’s our plan! For now, anyway. The great thing about plans like this is that we can remain flexible and adjust as needed, as long as we keep the goal in mind: Extinguishing demand barking!
Does your dog do this? Have you tried a training plan to extinguish the behavior? Any tips or tricks? Anyone want to attempt this plan along with us?