Sunday, December 5, 2010

Barking

When we were reading up about miniature schnauzers before we got one, they were described as being "good watchdogs," which is really just a nice way of saying that they bark a lot. Oscar is definitely a good watchdog.  His exercise pen and crate are next to our back window, and our backyard backs onto parkland.  People walk by often, and every time Oscar sees anyone go by he barks like crazy, especially if people have dogs with them. He's the loudest when he's out in the yard and there are dogs or people on the other side of the fence - he'll run straight up to the fence and bark continuously until they walk past our yard and he can't see them anymore.  He's also pretty vocal when we bring him to PetSmart, because he gets excited when he sees all of the other dogs and people around.  I would love for him to tone down the barking, mostly to avoid annoying our neighbours or scaring any kids that might be around when he barks.

I read one of Cesar Millan's books and one thing that stuck with me is that his dogs apparently only bark once to let him know that they see something, and then they know to stop.  That would be my ultimate goal, at least when he's in the house and sees something outside.  Ideally, I'd like him to learn to be quiet when we bring him out in public, like to PetSmart or the park, and when kids are around.

We took Oscar to an 8-week puppy course at PetSmart, which he finished.  (We managed to take a picture of him before he shook his little graduation cap off - not an easy feat!)  Training a puppy to not bark wasn't a main item on the agenda, but our trainer did give us one tip: put ten pennies in a pop can and tape the top and shake it when the puppy barks.  The noise is supposed to startle the puppy into being quiet, and then you can praise and treat when he's quiet.  Unfortunately he seems to be a bit immune to the noise now, so I'm trying out clicker training instead: correcting the bark and then clicking and treating when he's quiet.

We had a few good chances to practice today: once when my husband turned the vacuum on, and again when some people were out walking by our yard.  Oscar is making a little progress, which is encouraging.  He has now stopped barking at the vacuum when it's off (he used to run up to it, bark at it, and then continue on his way) but is still noisy when it's on.  We're going to keep working on it!

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