Puppy Forum and Dog Forums banner

1 - 4 of 4 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
94 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Our 9-month-old blue heeler puppy is doing fine in most regards, but his barking has been a constant challenge. We are working on the barking itself, but it is getting in the way of training. This seems to be a vicious cycle, because I know one of the ways to address barking is by focusing on other tasks, but trying to learn new tasks brings about barking fits.

There are two things that make Willie bark in a frustrating way. One is simple training. We can teach him a new action with luring, and he learns the action. But the transition to following a voice command always brings about barking that hurts our ears. For example, we would like to have him clean up his toys. I sit where his toys should go and say, "Bring a toy." He gets the first one and brings it to me. I take it and put it in the corner and give him a treat, very quickly. I say, "Bring another toy", and block him from the first toy. He looks confused, so I lead him towards other toys and he picks them up and brings them back to the toy corner. All well and good, with the leading him around.

I have tried to stay put and let him figure out to get the other toys, but he always started barking obnoxiously so I ended up staying in the "leading him to other toys" stage. Tonight I had an empty house, so I stayed put through his barking. After about a minute he looked around, raced to another toy, and brought it to me. He repeated this for another two toys. Those were for toys that were in plain sight. I know very well that he could learn to go find other toys not in plain sight, but right now that would require sitting through barking that physically hurts my ears.

Should I train him with earplugs in? If I interrupt this training to focus on "Quiet" training is he likely to get it and go back to the other task, or will he just end up barking to get into the quiet training which he knows will get him treats? It doesn't seem to work to only train him to be quiet, because that bores him quickly.

It would be a lot harder to work through this if he wasn't so ridiculously cute sometimes:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,966 Posts
Um, I'll get right down to posting some semi-helpful advice as soon as I finish going through Willie's Flickr set and adding a bunch of them to my favourites.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,966 Posts
Okay, hi.

I get this sometimes from my dogs. It's not a sign of bad training and certainly not a sign of aggression. It's more like frustration. "What do you want from me?!? I don't know what to do, just give me the darn treat already!!!" When this happened and they didn't know the "quiet" cue, I would either a) wait it out, b) end the training session or c) give them a simple command they already knew, and reward for a good response. I rarely do a) -- because it tends to increase their frustration, but mainly because two Beagles barking at you gets very loud. I will wait it out if I can tell it's just going to be a couple of barks. Once they are done with that couple, I will give them something simple -- no more free shaping or learning new tricks -- and end the training session on a positive. How long do you guys usually go before the barking starts? Any frustrated barking at all (meaning not the excited barking I get right at the start of the session), even if it's just a couple of barks, is usually an indicator to me that it's time to wind down.

If for some reason it's been a very short amount of time and my dog is already barking, it's usually because she's feeling particularly high-strung that day. If that's the case, I'll usually begin a game of "go find" and really push her limits with the hiding places on that one. (You can substitute "go find" with any kind of problem-solving game.) It only takes about 5-10 minutes of that before she's calm and ready to learn.

About picking up toys. I assume the end goal here is a "Willie, clean up" (or similar cue) and he picks up all the dog toys that are lying around the room and brings them to a specific spot. If this is the case, you can keep chaining the behaviour by continuing to lead him. It's okay if you still have to lead him to the other toys for now. After a few repetitions he will start pre-empting you -- "once I bring the first toy, he's going to ask me to bring the other toy."

One thing I would be careful of: instead of saying "bring another toy", I would say "bring a toy" again. Just to make the commands uniform. "Bring a toy" and "bring another toy" may sound similar and make perfect sense to us, but "nother" is just two random syllables shoved into a command he already understands...and two random syllables can make a lot of difference.

I would also forget about hidden toys for now and put the toys out in plain sight. Teach him the whole behaviour first -- in other words, get him picking up all the toys and bringing them to the toy corner. Then you can gradually increase the difficulty of the entire behaviour by hiding the toys in places that are harder and harder to find.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
94 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Thank you for the response, I didn't see this until now. Most of what you wrote makes perfect sense and is helpful. For one thing, I can see that it's okay to lead him around to the toys more. It's frustrating to do that, because I can see him thinking as he's barking. It strikes me as more of an excitement barking than a frustration barking, something along the lines of, "I have to figure something out! What is it?! This is fun!" When he is frustrated about not having a treat immediately, or confused and frustrated about what to do, he looks straight at us, intently, and barks. Most of the time he looks around trying to figure out what to do, barking excitedly. It's not one or two barks, and it's not ten minutes of barking. It's 45-90 seconds of piercing, loud barking that literally hurts to hear.

What's happening now is we're always interrupting the training because of barking, asking him to do something simple to end on a positive note, and he rarely gets to learn new things. The training itself, the moment of having to think something through, gets him started on the barking.

I think problem-solving tasks are good. Do you know a list somewhere of good problem-solving games to play with dogs?
 
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
Top