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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I really don't want to post this thread but, as a responsible small dog owner, I kind of have to.

Laurel is eight months old and becoming increasingly vocal. I'll spare you the anthropomorphizing and just say that I'm a renter and retired so "Why don't you just buy a house?" isn't helpful.

I want to teach her three commands, ideally in this order:

1.) "Speak" for a standard "stupid pet trick". She can look cute and stand up on her hind legs if she wants to, but I don't really care.

2.) "Speak truth to power!" (Or, Ideally but impractically from poor Laurel's point of view, "Preach it, Sista! Speak truth to power! GOOD doggie GOOD doggie GOOD doggie!") to communicate to Laurel that this is a safe and appropriate place to bark and not to worry about it (and ideally to make non-dog people think it was a stupid pet trick and I was cooler than I actually am, of course.

And, FINALLY, what my neighbours think I should have done in the first place with an e-collar and a googlephone....

3.) "No speak" (Or, ideally but even more impractically, burst into this song https://invidio.us/watch?v=TR3Vdo5etCQ but I'm not that funny and you get the point about cool dog with inexperienced trainer already) for my neighbours.

I'm asking a question so please feel free to critique my plans for the order of and the necessity of all three commands/stupid pet tricks. I want to make this as easy on Laurel as possible and there is no shortage of stupid pet tricks out there that we would both enjoy.

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Make it MUCH more simple. Speak (as a sharp command cue) for her to get something she wants. Quiet.. as a loooonnng and looww key word to associate with being quiet.

Your tone will have a LOT to do with your success.

I taught my dog to bark for Gib laut (German for Give Voice) by playing with him with his ball and then holding his ball and getting silly so he would bark in frustration (wanting the ball) and immediately rewarding him with the ball for barking. I rewarded at first for ANY sound the dog vocalized.. even a little squeak.. and then upped the ante to a full bark. Once we got Gib Laut going then adding quiet was pretty easy and also earned a reward. It took me a few days and short sessions to teach this.

"Speak Truth to Power" is too many words. Dogs are not verbal. In training we use one word for one action. If we talk to much we become unclear. Dogs LIKE Clarity and for your actions to be black and white.

At some point in the FUTURE you might be able to use PART of that sentence to get multiple barks (like the word "truth") but keep it simple at first. Bark for the ball and quiet for the ball. You an also use food to teach barking and quiet. My dog has a lot of drive and the ball worked better for him.

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
She's a small terrier mix. She barks when she's happy and she barks to alert me to sounds and smells that my ears and nose don't detect. I don't think she is being unreasonable and I don't expect her to stay silent if she hears rats running around inside my landlord's walls and none of us humans do. She's a working dog just like a Border Collie or a Lab or an Ol' Houn' Dawg.

I anthropomorphize her almost complete silence as a puppy and then the way she chooses to vocalize as a teen. Of course she isn't really "speaking truth to power" and she doesn't really want to break up with me and go date a homeowner. I know the basics, like teaching the dog to cover his eyes and make crying sounds whenever you say the name of the presidential candidate you don't like until it's solid enough that you can move on to, "So, Rover, who do you think I should vote for? Do you think Smith would make a good president? How about JONES?"

At that point, you could even say "bones" and the human would laugh and high-five you and decide not to complain to the property manager after all.

The saddest thing is that what the neighbours are most likely to complain about is her high-pitched, I am almost positive she is making sounds higher than the human ear can detect, little happy dances that shye literally only does when she is happy that we are training or happy that she has figured out some of the mystery of why I am so obsessed with "sit".

It's a Catch-22 for my poor "yappy little dog" and I get that I just have to do it. She is NOT any more unreasonable than any other dog in the neighbourhood and it did my heart good to hear her speaking to the invisible doggie neighbours in our nice city house after being so lonely for "our pack" at a public park the next city along the Podunkville Expressway, which is a nice, dog-friendly little college town.

She makes lots of Lassie and Timmy noises (whining, but she's imitating the rhythms and melodies of human speech and just being silly, not complaining or crying because she's in pain) and the other working dog blood I think she might have would be straight out "companion" or even "death doula"/"In Home Health Care provider for Senior Citizens and the burgeoning nursing home industry" if you want to get right down to it.

She's a dog. Cute pet tricks are fine, but we just need some interspecies communication along the lines of the difference between reusable puppy pads and Grandma's favourite Oriental Carpet.

I didn't need my cats to get likes on YouTube, I just wanted them to use the litterbox like indoor cats have to do. I'm overthinking this.

We'll start with "speak". I can't even get her to generalize "sit" to "on the ground at my left side so we can get serious about 'heel'!" yet, so getting the whole concept of "don't speak" "don't sit" "don't heel" etc. across to a dog isn't really a priority, even though it would be interesting for a 10+ year old child's Science Fair project or a serious and experienced dog geek's book.

"Quiet", "Sssh", "Secret", or other commands that mimic normal human interactions with infants and other undesireables might come more naturally to me in the store, nursing home lobby, etc. or other embarassing "real life" situations where I am confronted with size prejudice ("Can't you shut that thing up? It's not even a real dog!") anyway. I talk big in print, but when I can't hide behind my typewriter I'm actually very shy and don't present well.

As in you wouldn't invite me to Open Mike night at the Comedy Club but you might rehearse your act in front of me kind of shy, not as in needing an ESA or a service dog. Laurel is a pet. She's going to have bad separation anxiety because of her breeds and I might lose the couch or even all of my African Violets if crate training just doesn't happen and doggie daycare doesn't either. We're less likely to have emergencies if I follow up on my end of the bargain and train her to be a good canine citizen.

Would it be better to work on some sort of universal "All done!", "Over!" (I want that one for the Broad Jump though....), "Stand down!" kind of "Good job! Work time's over. Go be a dog." type of command and forget the whole Stupid Pet Trick of "everybody's voice deserves to be heard, even marginalized little yappy dogs?"

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How about this:
A positive marker for doing the correct thing (I use "YES!" and follow it always with a reward of food of ball toy for my dog). The positive marker also ends the behavior. YES means you got the desired behavior correct.

Another end of behavior cue used by Border Collie folks and I use it after checking out at the end of tracking is "That'll Do."

One word. One behavior.
One word to cue a behavior (do not repeat or "sit" becomes "Sit Sit" and eventually "Sit sit sit sit sit...." ).

Teach sit with the dog in front of you. Sitting in Heel position you use a couch or a chair and lure the dog into position with food. When the dog is in correct position you let the dog have the food and you say "Yes!" about 3 seconds before you give the food. Luring only for a short time or it becomes dependency.

Make it a gave to come in between you and the couch and sit in heel position. Eventually you lure the first step. When you can take a step and the dog keeps her head up and eyes on you without luring you are on your way to heeling.

Sit in front of you the cue is "sit."
Sit next to you in Heel position the cue is "heel."

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Personally, I have never had success teaching a dog "speak" and "quiet" to reduce the instances of barking, and I don't know anyone else (including the numerous professional trainers I know) who has either. It's a method that looks like it would work on the surface, but unless you are very skilled/dedicated at putting behaviours on stimulus control, it is very difficult to pull off successfully.

Like human vocalizations, barking kind of happens for two reasons: 1) to intentionally communicate something, or 2) an outlet of a emotional response (in dogs, most commonly, excitement, frustration, or fear); sometimes it is a combination of both communication and an emotional response, for example, if the dog's ball rolls under the couch, and they bark it may be both because they are frustrated, and also to let you know that their ball is under the couch and they can't reach it so could you get it.

IME, with barking, to reduce it you really have to address the underlying reason(s). The communication aspect is usually less of an issue - addressing whatever the dog is trying to tell you is usually enough to stop the barking, and if you can predict the situations in which the dog barks to tell you something (e.g., ball rolling under the couch) then it is pretty easy to take steps to prevent it - e.g., buy bigger balls that don't fit under the couch. For example, my oldest dog - a watch dog breed - used to bark when he could see people outside. He would bark and then look at us, and we found the easiest way to stop it was to 1) closing the blinds so he couldn't see outside and 2) when he did see someone outside, thanking him for letting us know. Which sounds kind of dumb, but he would stop barking as soon as we did it.

It's addressing the emotional aspect of barking that takes much more effort - changing emotional responses is hard! And all of that to say.... this is an issue that I haven't personally dealt with, so while I understand the basics of it, I don't have a ton of experience how to modify/prevent arousal outside of a reactivity/fear context.

I will say though, that the more clear your communication is with your dog, the better. When I finish a training session, I use a verbal cue "all done!" and an arousal-lowering activity (cookie scatter) to help them calm down from excitement of training, especially if we have been doing a lot of high-energy games.

I would also be very careful about framing behaviour in terms of what you don't want - mainly because it is usually more effective to teach a dog what you DO want instead. So instead of "don't sit", you might want to teach the dog "remain standing" (or remain standing until I ask you to sit). Similarly, if you want a dog to "not get out of a stay", its easier to think about how to teach it in terms of "I want you to stay sitting until I cue you to get up". Of course, that mainly works with operant behaviours - ones that the dog is deliberately choosing, rather than behaviours that are emotionally-driving like barking can be (which is why it's important to address the underlying emotional state and that brings us right back around into the loop that is dog training). Hannah Branigan and Sarah Stremming both talk a lot about arousal and reducing frustration in their blogs and podcasts. Hannah is especially good at breaking things down into understandable parts if you're not (yet) a super-nerd when it comes to dog training.

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Sometimes there's no "one size fits all" kind of answer:

I’m not usually one to substitute a human interpretation of a dog’s behavior, but in this case I will. Your dog is barking (no matter the situation) for the sake of making a connection with you! That is her relationship with you. Read how you’ve "analyzed" her antics and that's for your own amusement, no worries! However she knows that her barking illicits a response from you, right. Even if you were faking absolute immobility (no physical reaction, as in ignoring her) your dog would still sense the change in you, by scent.

I have a dog that was labeled “barky” at a young age, contrary to the average of his breed. I had no idea what that meant at the time, and failed to nip it in the bud. And because all dogs have an instinctual job (or purpose) within a pack in the wild, I know my dog’s job is being a verbal sentry. He is mentally on guard about 22 hours a day. Sleeping between me and a threshold or a doorway (for example). Perching up high to oversee things. Sleeping in a tight dog curl on a small ottoman. He is literally ready to “launch” at a moment’s notice. And very seldom does he do deep sleeping. I could almost never walk over him.

But along with that physical mobility is the barking! Barking is the way he announces himself to the world. He doesn’t judge if it’s really a threat or not. He’s just not taking any chances!! His job is not to reason why, but simply to inform me. And that is our relationship. I’ve accepted his personality. And am reassured by his vigilance.

And I say all of the above to make a point. That denying him his instinct would be unfair. So all I can do is “shape” his behavior. For example, this is a dog who barks at particular TV commercials. Like Prevagen and Local Car Dealerships. And I've lost track. He absolutely HATES the “My Pillow” guy (and who can blame him). I’ve muted the TV and him just watching the guy sends him into a frenzy. So we sit on the sofa together, and I talk him through it. To calm him down, let him know I’m taking over, and then the guy is gone as in “all gone….no more” (job is done). I figure him having this kind of mentality must be exhausting. So, when it goes over the top, for too long, or barking randomly at the TV for reasons I can never explain, then he has to tone it down.

And I do it quickly with a noise can. A small emptied pineapple juice can, filled with something clunky. He gets a warning “enough!” … which he usually honors. But if not, the can gets thrown down at his feet, and it usually eliminates that particular association. So he won't bark at that commercial again. I could do it with food, but that would be reinforcing a pleasure ... the thrill of barking with food. So I don't. It's got to be a deterrent.

Now, when he’s in a different mental state, I could (theoretically) teach him to “bark” (or woof) for a treat. Or some kind of circus trick. Though he’s not innately an entertainer, being much too prey driven. But WHY in the world would I confuse that poor dog…. with it’s okay to bark now, but not then. That just puts me in the position of being some “all powerful” being in his world, and disrespects him as a creature of his own design. However, if I lived where neighbors could be annoyed by him, then I’d have to train him NOT to bark period.

We've designed a pleasant compromise, now (usually) all I have to say is " ...hey, hey..hey..." if he's beginning to rouse, and he stops.

Dogs are binary (or as 3GSD4IPO says) they like clarity. Black and white. So when an obsession gets out of control, you have to resort to an "on or off" position. But I would never use an E-Collar, period.
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