I remember the first time Wheaton barked. It took a couple of weeks but one day I was standing at the counter making his breakfast…my back turned to him…and he let out this loud high pitched “RUFF”! It scared the hell out of me! He had been pretty quiet up until that point and the bark was so high pitched and loud….and unexpected….I jumped!

Well now he barks all the time! He’s pretty proud of hearing his own voice! He barks at the tv. He barks when I’m getting his food ready. He barks if you stand still. He barks when we go for a walk. It’s kind of funny cause sometimes he barks and he looks around as if he doesn’t know that noise came from him! Unfortunately, the only thing he DOESN’T bark for is to tell me he has to go outside to pee!!!

So now we’re working on not barking! It’s a definite change. Daisy is a pretty quiet dog. She barks when someone rings the doorbell or knocks on the door, and at work when someone rings the front desk service bell. But mostly she’s pretty quiet. She “huffs” at me when she wants something. The “speak” trick has never been one we practice! I don’t want my dog to be barking all the time!! But now she gets all riled up because Wheaton is barking…neither one of them sure of why…and now he’s barking because she barked…it’s a vicious barking circle!

I want Wheaton to have a voice but I need to teach him to use it properly. I really enjoy watching Zak George dog training videos…he has a facebook page and a youtube channel, http://www.youtube.com/ZakGeorge. I watched his training video on barking and I’ve been practicing the technique with Wheaton (I always forget the bag of “treats” though). Wheatie is very food motivated so I usually keep a zip sealed bag of kibble in my pocket for training/rewarding. It’s all about staying calm and quiet, getting eye contact and focus from the dog. So, when he barks, I stop and kneel down to look at him and I get his focus on me and he stops barking…this works best when I give him a piece of kibble. When I forget the baggy in the house…his focus doesn’t stay on me for very long! The point is, tugging and yanking on his leash & harness and yelling at him to stop isn’t a technique…it’s frustration and impatience getting the better of me. It doesn’t make sense to try to train your dog not to bark by yelling louder at them.

I am trying to understand the “why”. It seems to come from anxiety and over excitement. I find he’s very anxious on the leash when he meets new people or new dogs. The idea of being restrained when he wants to run….that fight or flight feeling…I can see it in his eyes. He’s not barking from aggression or happy playfulness….he wants to “get away”. I don’t force him into situations. If he wants to back off from another dog/person or if him and Daisy both seem uneasy…I cross the street or turn the corner instead of passing the other dog/person.

I’ve spent 8 and a half years listening to Daisy, learning her language and understanding her communication signals….Wheaton may speak a slightly different body language but he deserves the same attention to detail. Every action is vital to showing him that I am his devoted human…he can trust me! I am his safe place.

Coming up….I called it work…but it’s good work.