Monday, April 18, 2011

A Risky Experiment

AJ over at PupLove posted what I thought was a very interesting video here. In the video, the woman cues unwanted behaviour, which in her case was her dog jumping up as she holds a food dish. By cuing, I mean that she actually clicks the unwanted behaviour, then attaches a verbal and physical cue to it. The dog learns to perform the behaviour when the dog sees or hears the cue. Then she teaches the dog over time that the dog only gets a reward when the behaviour is cued, not when the dog does the behaviour spontaneously. After a while, the behaviour only occurs when it is cued. Counterintuitive (for me at least)...but brilliant!

The most annoying behaviour that Oscar has (besides chewing...enough said) is barking. I think it's starting to scare the neighbour kids, who are out more often now that the weather is getting better. He can see them when they play out back because the pen is right next to the window and he pretty much barks at them incessantly. I really hate to think that Oscar might make them nervous, not to mention the barking is annoying, so I really want to get rid of his barking. Nothing that we have tried so far has worked, whether it's shaking a pop can full of pennies, spraying him with water from a mister, or treating him when he's momentarily quiet in the middle of a barking spree after telling him to be quiet. When it comes to the last option, I think he gets confused and associates the barking with a reward because of the timing. The other two options just agitate him, which makes him bark more. Not useful.

So, after seeing the video, I figured I'd try cuing the barking to eventually get rid of it. I managed to teach him the Bark command in about ten minutes. It's easy to train a behaviour that comes so naturally to him! Now the tricky part will be getting him to learn that he only gets treats when I tell him to bark, not whenever he feels like barking. I really hope this works, because otherwise I'll just have a dog who barks whenever he wants treats, which is pretty much all the time!

Now that he's associated the word "bark" with actually barking, I have started to ignore him when he barks spontaneously (which he was previously rewarded for, when I was trying to teach the command in the first place). I have instead been telling him "quiet," and then rewarding when he stops barking. I continue to treat  when he barks on cue. Do you think treating "Bark" and "Quiet" together is confusing? Has anyone tried this, and if so, what worked for you and what didn't? If this works, I'll feel like a genius. If it doesn't, I'm buying earplugs in bulk.

Oscar thinks getting treats for
barking is the greatest thing ever!

7 comments:

Amber-Mae said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amber-Mae said...

HMMM hoomie Melissa has never tried this before with us but then again, we aren't incessant barkers. We're pretty much quiet most of the time. But if we do bark like crazy at our neighbours, when hoomie Melissa tells us to shut up, we do it instantly & then we would either come back into the house or just lie down in the front porch & watch the neighbours. I'm really not sure how well this method will work. It's very risky indeed. We usually get firm corrections for unwanted behaviours.

I'm just wondering though, what will happen if you're not at home to watch Oscar & he starts barking incessantly at the neighbours & there's nobody at home to make him stop? Just wondering...

Rubie said...

I LOVE barking too!!!! My pawrents don't appreciate it though - they are afraid that I might make myself unpopular with people just walking up and down MY STREET. They would like to find some magical way to make me stop or at least tone down - but we are schnauzers - and are supposed to "alert" my people to all sorts of stuff going on..... we cannot be "napping" on the job! I don't know what all the fuss is about! Tail Wuggles, Rubie.

PS: I groan at Rubie comment, please do share any tips that work - I haven't found any yet!!! Rubie's mum.

Schnauzer Days said...

We love to bark!! Our humans don't like it either but it's what we're good at! They keep trying to train us not to and we kid them for a while then back to barking! great to read about you, Dexter & Louis xxx

Santa, Minnie and Christmas said...

Yes, we are schnauzers too! Which means we are just as barky as all of you, schnauzers. Our humans have tried all methods but non work. We are going over to Puplove and see if we can give it a try.

OscarBlogger said...

I know the barking is a major schnauzer trait. When we were looking at breeds before we got Oscar, they were kindly referred to as "good watchdogs." It may be futile to try to get the barking under control, but I'm going to at least try before I give in! I don't imagine that I'll stop the barking, but I really would like for him to stop once I've come to see what the situation is (since he barks to alert us) rather than have him continually going absolutely bonkers and driving us and the neighbours insane. Amber-Mae, I'm not sure what to do about your question. It's a good one. I guess the theory is that cuing the behaviour, then teaching the dog that he only gets treated when you cue it (rather than him doing it whenever he wants) causes him to stop doing that behaviour spontaneously in the first place. We'll see though! Even if I can just get him to bark once (which is what he does now when I say "Bark" - he doesn't keep going) that would be better than the nonstop barking we deal with now. I'll keep you guys updated if it works! And if it doesn't, you'll DEFINITELY hear about it! ;)

Lori @ According to Gus said...

This is definitely a very interesting technique that I'm anxious to find out if it works. Gus is not a barker but his crying when he is anxious drives us crazy. We have tried a lot of different strategies but haven't found one that has really worked.

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