16. Suki “Woofs”! Well, duh!

suki-barks

Suki and I are working on her “woofing”. What’s that? You say  your dog is already very skilled at woofing? In fact, maybe too skilled? Well, yes, I felt that way about Suki, too, and that’s why I’ve chosen to try and put “woofing” on cue. After she gets that part down (and, as you’ll see in the accompanying video, she’s well on her way,) we’ll get serious about “shushing”, so we can put not barking on cue. This will allow Suki the freedom of expressing herself verbally in a way that I deem to be socially acceptable. Your dog needn’t take a vow of silence for life.

As a slight sidebar here, I’d like to point out that trying to eliminate growling in your dog may not be such a good idea. After all, a growl is your dog’s way of warning, “Hey, don’t push me into doing something we’ll both regret!” Without that form of communication, your dog, in certain situations, might be like a time bomb with no ticker…Not so great. Anyhow, I digress…

In a previous post, we alluded to “luring” and “capturing” as methods of training, in addition to the “shaping” from our click training primer. Our earlier post on “All or None” training is actually about “capturing”, a method in which you wait for a behavior to occur and then reward it. Our post on “Lure Reward” training is about “luring”, in which you use some kind of manipulation (preferably “hands off” in nature) to get your dog to perform the behavior you want to reward. Check these earlier posts for more detail!

If you’re luring your dog to bark, having a friend ring your doorbell can work. A celfone could be a big help…you say “Woof!”, and both your dog and your friend on the phone hear the cue. Your friend, stationed at your front door, rings the bell (that’s the lure), your dog barks (that’s the behavior), and you deliver the treat (that’s the reward).


In this video, Suki has already had a couple sessions in which I’d captured or lured her bark, so all it takes to lure the behavior is body language (dropping my weight) on the first rep. After that, I know she’s going to bark for more rewards, so I just need to sneak in my cue (“Woof!”) before she barks. I do this by carefully estimating how many chews it takes before she’s ready to bark again. I try to get a rhythm going, which will encourage her. I don’t lure her with my body drop after the first rep. I try to remain still, so the only cue is my voice, and I make sure to click first, then treat, so the clicker continues to “promise” that the treat is on the way.

After we do a few reps, I break the rhythm by just waiting. If she barks now, without my cue, she gets nothing. If she remains quiet for several seconds, I click and reward her for not barking. That’s the beginning of our “shush” training, which is still ongoing. I’m working on getting that behavior, and I’ll install a cue once it seems more reliable. If you install the cue too soon, it becomes less dependable, because the dog will know that there’s a history of it not working all the time.

Anyhow, I’ll post again later and let you know how the “Shush” part goes…

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