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We have a couple of problems we've been trying to resolve for a while with little success. Any advice?

First with barking. One dog barks more than the other, but they both bark too much, to the point where the neighbors have been getting annoyed. How can we teach them to stop?

We got Meg from a breeder in February 2008. She used to bark a lot more, but when we got Savannah (Feb. 2009), she doesn't bark as much because Savannah barks for her. The dogs don't bark much inside unless someone comes the door, but they both bark outdoors.

Savannah is a really sweet dog but her bark sounds...vicious, almost like she is trying to guard her territory. Whenever someone walks by, she barks. We've been trying to teach her "quiet", but she doesn't listen very well. The only thing that sometimes works is telling her to sit and tugging her collar gently, then giving her a treat if she's quiet...but is that the right thing to do and will it work in the long run? We've put up a temporary fence to keep them from reaching the front yard and barking. Savannah seems happier that she doesn't have to guard that area anymore, almost like she was obligated to, but Meg is sad because she liked to see everyone walking by.

And then Savannah's "man problems". I posted about this a while ago, but she's still having trouble with men she doesn't know. She's learned to love my dad, but she was from a home where a man abused her (we think). The lady who was fostering her said that her owner was a man, and he seemed mean. He only agreed to meet her in a parking lot, and wouldn't let her come to his house, and he dragged Savannah out of the car by the fur on her neck. She had no collar and she came dirty. Then he said, "here's the dog" and started to leave. When the foster mom asked if she had a name, he told her her name was Savannah (but something's fishy there--she didn't know her name at first, although she is supposedly 2 years old. The vet thinks that she's only a year old based on her teeth.) and then drove away. Well, anyway, whenever she sees a man she barks viciously. She cowers when a man raises a hand to pet her, and she actually bit a man that came into our house once (although he did barge in rather unexpectedly, and it was a really gentle bite. But it was still a bite and it scared us. We don't want our dog biting people)

Anyway, sorry for the long post...but do you guys have any advice on either of our problems?
 

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The barking is called alert barking....letting the rest of the pack and in particular, you, know about a possible intruder. She's doing a good job but, now you have to do yours...you've been alerted....now, you have to go out and investigate/intercept the 'intruder'. You show her that her job is done by stepping between her and the problem....showing her that you're taking over/you'll handle the situation....her job is done.

You thank her for the alert and ask for quiet. Now, the hard part....teaching her what is normal activity ie; doesn't need alert barking. I use Yawning...yes, Yawning...dogs understand that body language. That tells her that this situation isn't important....a false alarm. With practice, they start to distinquish the real threats from the false ones.

For the issues with men, you need someone who will cooperate/help with the lessons. He needs to sit quietly without looking at her, reaching for her or talking to her and just toss treats....showing her that good things come from those scary guys. With practice, she should start to move closer to him. That's a breakthrough....her confidence level just went up. Eventually, you'd like her to take a treat from an open hand...still with no petting, talking or direct eye contact. That's the second breakthrough...getting really close. The last step is actually being touched/interacted with.
 

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Looks like you have the same problems I have, except that one may be worse and one less of a problem than yours.

First, the barking. Nell is like you described, but worse, lol. I'm really trying to get her to not do that. She never used to bark at the fence, as Betty was here and she would race the fenceline, lol. But since Betty's gone, I guess she took it upon herself to be the protector of her territory. Sometimes Sonny will bark as well, but is more of a friendly bark and jumps up onto the fence wanting to be petted, lol. He get's a lot of people petting him, he loves it. Same with Chloe, she will bark when excited and wants to be petted. But Nell is real shy. I was hoping the Agility class will help, the Foundations class did as there were more people in the class. But with being about the only person in the class, we haven't made any progress as she loves the instructor and knows the other person in the class with us. Would have been nice if the other person was a guy, as she's more shy of men than women.

As for the men issue, Nell is similar, she backs away and barks at most men, but not to the point where she would even bite. But after a little time, she'll warm up to them. She did really good in the Agility Foundations class, as there were quite a few guys in the class, and she got to the point where she would actually want to go up to them and be petted. But it was against the rules while in class.

As for how you are dealing with the barking by gently tugging on the collar, I think that can be pretty effective. Another thing you might want to add is to redirect the barking to something different, like maybe sitting next to you. If she's going to bark, get her attention and have her come sit next to you and treat heavily if she's food motivated, or break out a toy if she's toy motivated. Anything that she really, really likes.

As for the men, maybe a class or 2 might help, anything where there's men around. Or a park where there's lots of people, go to a spot where she's comfortable and not tensed up and start treating for any looking at men, then slowly get closer. With Nell, we sometimes do that when we are on walks, but if I have a frisbee with me, it doesn't matter how many men there are, she completely ignores them, lol. All she wants is the frisbee, so I usually use it to walk through areas where there's lots of men around. But around here, it's not usually heavily populated, wished I lived closer to some of the parks in the Seattle area where there's tons of people. I think that would really help her, heavy socialization.

Edit:
I would also have to say that TooneyDogs has also given some excellent advice as well. Very good advice.
 

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Thank you so much for the tips, both of you! We'll definitely try those things!

We called a trainer about her barking issues and she wasn't much help. She just said that it's a collie's instinct to bark so you can't get them to stop. :(

Whenever a man comes over, we do have them give her a treat. She's gotten comfortable with a few men in particular, but others, she'll just take the treat and be calm for a second, and then the moment she's gobbled the treat, she starts barking again. She has good days and bad days. One time we took her to the pet store and she walked right up to one of the men that worked there--she had never seen him before--and asked to be petted! And then, that same day, she walked up to a man she'd never seen before and gently sniffed his hand. But then other days we have to remove her from the situation because she gets so upset. It's frustrating, and we're hoping her fear of men is a fixable thing.

I've never heard of yawning to help calm her down before! We'll have to try that, thank you, TooneyDogs! :eek:

I appreciate all of the advice!
 

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Unfortunately, the trainer has something of a point. Collies are talky dogs, and completely eliminating the barking is going to be tough.

If she enjoys being outdoors, I would keep her on a longline. Get a friend with a cell phone. You sit on the porch and let her have the whole line free. Call the friend and have them start heading past the house. When she goes to bark, reel her in, tell her no bark, and take her inside and crate her for a few minutes. Then rinse and repeat. You can dot htis without a friend to help,b ut it's easier when you can control the people going by- you know when they're coming by and you cna make sure the person you're using as the stimulus isn't teasing her or anything.

If you've got good timing, you can set this up by calling her right before the person walking by becomes interesting (This may mean halfway down the block, it may mean right as they come in front of your fence- watch and see. Her behavior will change from watching, to barking- if that's the case, you waited too long, you want to call her when she's just STARTED watching.) Anyway, call her up to you (on the porch is fine, on lawn is fine- just away from the fence) and start feeding her treats. Use treats that are good enough that she doesn't want to leave you to bark. If she starts barking, stand on the leash and ignore her - no treats, no eye contact, and no letting her go run to the fence to bark. The key to this method though, is that you've got to start feeding after the person has appeared but before she's 'locked on' and started barking. Otherwise, you're rewarding the barking.

Barking is REALLY hard to eradicate in collies. You can usually get it under control, it just takes a lot of patience, a lot of repetition, and good timing on your part to make sure you're rewarding what you want to reward.
 
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