For Whom the Dog Barks
After surviving moving day on a cold February day, I poured a glass of red wine and poured myself into a warm bath. We had always lived in a high rise since adopting our dog. I had trained her not to bark at people in the hallways or knocking on the door. People and dogs looked like ants from those windows, so no window barking woes! From the bathtub in my single family home, I heard my dog erupt in a barking fit. I raised my glass to the new window barking woes and took a big sip. Sigh, doesn't everyone want one more thing on their to-do list when they move?
Lucky for me, our large living room and rec room windows had blinds. Whenever I was unpacking and cleaning, (because let's face it, what else are you going to do without cable and internet), I kept the blinds down. I didn't want my dog barking at whomever passed by. Barking is reinforced every time the person/delivery truck leaves after the barking starts.
When I was taking a break from unpacking, I grabbed some great treats, lifted the blinds, and fed my dog as people walked by. When she couldn't see the people anymore, the treat bar closed. I was using classical counter conditioning to change her barking pattern. I knew I had helped her make a positive association with passersby when she saw a person outside, wagged her tail, and looked at me.
In order to change window barking behavior, it's important to control the exposure to the triggers for window barking. This means no unexpected exposures to the triggers when not working on changing a specific behavior. Cover windows and play white noise. Life happens and sometimes dogs are triggered (don’t worry, there’s a wine for that), but do the best you can so your dog can change her behavior as quickly as possible. By pairing the sight of someone walking past your house or delivery trucks driving by with fabulous food, your dog should start to make a positive association with people walking/driving by and bark less or not at all.
Feel free to ask friends, family, and neighbors for help! They can walk by as you feed your dog. Remember your dog has to see the person first before you start feeding. The dog should be looking at the passersby the whole time she is eating. As soon as the person is out of sight, the feeding must stop. If your dog can't stop barking, the passersby need to move farther away from the house. It's important that your dog see the person, remain quiet, and eat. You'll know your dog has made a positive association, changing her behavior, when she sees a passerby, stays quiet, wags her tail, and looks at you anticipating a treat.
That spring, we let our azalea bushes grow, covering the lower portion of the windows. Landscaping and planters can be a great way to attenuate your dog's view. Who wants the squirrel and bunny channels flooding our dogs with adrenaline? Use landscape, blinds, window film, and furniture arrangements to change The Critter Channel to The Blissed Out Dog channel.
For the record, she still barks at people walking by our house at night, and I'm okay with that. May these tips bring you closer to enjoying your quality quiet pet time. More woof woes? Bark at us www.behaviorunited.com.