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Discussion Starter #1
Ace decided a while back that whenever he sees a new person, dog or whenever we go into a new situation (like the pet store) that he should immediately bark.

I think it stems from when he was younger and I took him out in the evening and he got spooked and barked. The barking kept whatever frightened him away, so now his immediate reaction to any movement or sound is to lunge and "Rrrwooo! Rrrrwooo!" at attention (ears/tail/hackles up).

At first I thought the barking was out of fear and I didn't want him to think barking will keep scary things away, so I started encouraging him to go over to whatever he barked at... I don't do that every time because I also don't want him to think barking gets him stuff.

I've tried to correct him, by saying "No!" sharply as soon as he barks, but the problem is once he starts barking, he'll just continue to make muffled barks "under his breath" for lack of a better phrase. For the most part I try to distract him (heeling or other tricks or just attention on me rather than on whatever would cause him to bark) and reward him for not barking.

I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place here. Our vet said that sometimes the best way to handle it is just to ignore the behavior. We have obedience class tonight, so I'm going to ask the trainer what she thinks, but I'm curious if any of you have advice on nipping this behavior in the bud?
 

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My pup barks at the cat. The cat encourages it with batting at the pup, who thinks its play. Its a little harder for me to ignore it because she's not barking at me. In "The Other End of the Leash," by Patricia McConnell she quieted a barking dog by holding a smelly treat in front of the nose to get the dogs attention, lead it away from what it was barking at by the treat in front of the nose, say, "Shhh," then give the treat when the dog was quiet.
 

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Sometimes Luke will do this. The best thing I can do to get him to stop (and maybe this will work on your pooch as well) is to make a weird sound. Rattle some keys, move a penny jar, rap something against a vent, anything to get your dog's attention away. Maybe even bring, if you go to a store, a squeaky toy or whistle lightly. Find out what your dog will focus on and use it to your advantage every time he barks. When he's quiet, reward him with praise or a treat.

That's what I do. And so far it works. Good luck.
 

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I taught Abbylynn not to bark by offering her a game of tug. Every time she wanted to bark I would interrupt her by saying "Abby!" loudly ... and then showing her the tug rope. Then we would play for about one minute. Then a "Good Girl, No Barking!" Now when she sees something that would normally produce a bark ...it is time to play instead ... and she will grab her tug rope and bring it to me to play.

I made a game of it without the treats. :) Maybe there is something you could do similar to this.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Ooh, thanks for the tips! According to the trainer, I just need to keep his attention on me and reward him (with treats, praise or a toy) for "unsolicited" attention. This is really similar to what we did with Colby when she wanted to herd cars. Not sure why I didn't just think to try it here, too. I'm going to go ahead and blame that on the hot weather, okay? lol
 

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Sometimes a muffled bark indicates uncertainty or mild fear. Not sure in your case, but if it is, then a little remedial people socialization will go a long way. Set up some strangers with treats and ask them to come interact with you... not the dog. If the dog reacts, ask them to toss the treat toward the dog, either just in front on just behind.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
We've been working on socializing him a lot. I don't think he's afraid... it's more like he is "announcing his presence" and/or wants to have "the last word." Whenever we meet people he wags his whole body and jumps up on them. We're working on not jumping up now, but we'll continue to socialize him.
 
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