As I wrote earlier in the week, we’re having some trouble with self-rewarding behaviors. With Emmett it’s the counter-surfing, and we’re working out the technology to do a little Skype-scare with him. In the meantime, we have a similar, but totally different, situation with Lucas.
As far as Lucas is concerned, nothing bad has happened to our little family since he’s been on guard. Maybe it’s his shepherd genetics or maybe it’s his high-anxiety nature, but Lucas patrols the house like it is his sole responsibility in life to keep us safe. Which is fine. Except when it’s not.
Like when he barks at every single person, biker, dog, stroller, or frolicking child that is within his eye line. Especially when he does this while I’m on a conference call.
But in his little head, nothing bad has ever happened because his ferocious barking scares them all (who???) away. Which is why this is incredibly difficult to correct. I’ve been brainstorming a training plan to combat this behavior, but there are a couple challenges: First, every wall in our entire house has at least one window. It was one of the things so appealing about the house, of course, but now it allows Lucas unfettered views of the street in every direction. Blinds didn’t work (he made himself a little peephole by breaking a couple of them) and curtains didn’t work because he just noses them out of the way. Second, while desensitizing him would be ideal, it’s nearly impossible to disallow him to bark, like when we’re not home.
I don’t want him to start ignoring “come,” so I’ve been training a really specific whistle as an alternate recall. They get a very yummy treat every single time we whistle those exact notes. Every single time. I haven’t busted it out when he’s been barking yet because I don’t want to lose its effectiveness, so step 1 is to continue training the whistle with increased distractions.
Step 2 is to start using that whistle whenever I see someone approach the house first as a distraction mechanism, with the yummy treat, of course.
And then step 3 is to use the whistle while he’s barking at something.
That plan doesn’t stop the barking, though. It just calls him away from it. But it’s a start.
Maybe next month, once calling him away from barking becomes reliable, I will start working on desensitizing him (keeping him on leash in the office is one idea, sitting with him on the balcony and clicking and treating is another).
Have you faced this behavior before? Any better ideas or suggestions on how to put an end to this self-rewarding behavior?