Good Dogs!

Guess how much we learned about behavior and training in veterinary school?  The best explanation I have heard for what is taught in vet school is this:  “Four years is much too short to learn EVERYTHING.  Vet school is for learning how to THINK like a vet.”  So true.  Still…

The answer is…NOTHING!  Maybe these days, with all of the great behavior medication and knowledge on how mental and emotional health are linked to physical health, behavior is better covered in vet school.  Everything I know is from trial and error, reading and…you guys.  (Thank you so much!  I don’t need to be a genius, I just surround myself with them!)

So we have always had great dogs, but we have never had very well trained dogs.  Here is what I know for sure:

Positive reinforcement

(reinforcing the desired behavior, ignoring the undesired behavior)

is ALWAYS best.

And, um, that was going to be a list, but really, that is all I know.

The Doorbell Song

This week we have buckled down on the barking-at-the-door training.  When my wonderful Aunt asked me for help with her pup’s barking, I realized that I am a lame barking training resource.  Joy and Noodle are the worst door barkers there ever were.  So I told my Aunt what I knew (but have not practiced well!) and set out to train our barkers.

When the doorbell rings or people walk by or New Mailman delivers the mail (their three biggest barking triggers) I thank them for warning me after the first bark, ask them to come to me and sit  then give them a cat treat.  That is all I have done, and it has worked like a charm!

The real test will be SUMMER, when kids are in and out of the front door constantly.  I will let you know how well my novice training holds up!

Trainers, behaviorists, dog owners who are more successful in training than I, what have you done to teach your dogs not to bark incessantly?  And next up on the Finch dog training…teaching Joy and Noodle not to jump on friends when they come over!  I would love your suggestions!

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8 Responses to “Good Dogs!”

  1. Of Pitbulls and Patience says:

    You’re off to a great start! Essentially you just turned the training into a game, and your dogs are figuring out the rules they have to follow to get the prize at the end (cat treats- love it!). With two dogs at once, it is usually a good idea to have a plan if one listens while the other ignores. I throw a party for the dog that follows the rules; extra treats, a game of tug. Your second dog will notice that there is something more fun than barking going on, and join in.

    My little dog, Parker, was not so willing to stop barking (it was his favorite activity after I adopted him). For him, I added a consequence. If he stopped barking when I called and came over, great things happened. If he ignored me and continued barking, I would put him in his crate for a 1 minute time out. After a few days of consistently giving him a choice, then rewarding a good decision or using a time out, he got it. Some dogs are just a little slower than others.

    We’re just hopping by, but we’ll be back!

  2. Great advice! Thank you! I’m going to refer back to your words of wisdom as the summer goes on – I can already tell it’s going to be crazy! Now Max the Cat is lining up with the dogs when they bark :)

  3. Crystal says:

    Sounds like its working for you.

    I’m always cautious of people who think vets are the end all in dog behavior, health, and happiness (and vets that think so too, for that matter). Having that title does not bestow magical knowledge on anyone.

    I think I lucked out with my dogs, they rarely bark at anything other than a direct knock on the door, and even then only bark a couple times then shush up.

  4. Your dogs need to talk to my dogs! :)

    You are right about vets – We can be great resources, especially with health issues, but other stuff too – we have seen a lot! I can help with the medical/medicine issues and the concept of positive reinforcement. Beyond that, I am so glad there are specialists (of all kinds) who are so good at what they do! I refer behavior (and other) cases all the time, and I think my patients get way better care for it than if I thought I was the end all in pet care! Oo yeah, watch out for that guy… :D

  5. Heather Taylor says:

    Interesting piece, especially about not learning much about behaviour at vet school. I am a retired teacher but it always amazed me that we learned next to nothing at teacher training college about behaviour. Brief mention of Pavlovs dogs/conditioning and that was it.
    In my later years I became the head of a behaviour Unit for young children with varied and multiple behaviour problems and used to give a yearly lecture at the local teacher training college. The students loved it and couldn’t get enough!!

  6. Heather-I am amazed behavior was not taught at teacher training college too! Sounds like you BECAME the expert – fortunate for the teachers who have learned from you and the students with whom you and they interacted! I bet part of the interest for both of us in behavior (pets for me, kids for you – not that there is not overlap!) is because we were not taught it in school.

  7. Jodi says:

    Noodle and Joy are NOT the worst door barkers. Sid holds that title :) I think I will try Pitbull’s advice & crate her for time out when she goes on her excessive barking rampages. Poor Sid may LIVE in the crate. BUT maybe between cat treat reinforcement for not barking and crating for excessive barking, I can teach a (very) old dog a new trick.

    Great blog! and YAY Joy & Noodle for being good dogs

  8. Thanks! Let me know how it goes with Sid! Just cuz she is louder than Noodle, doesn’t mean she is worse ;)

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