Recently I was informed by my neighbour that my 2-year-old spaniel was barking for an hour after I left to go to work. This came as a shock to me as my dog never barks! And what was more worrying is that I thought it was separation anxiety.
So prior to any management modifications I was instructed by my colleagues at Kalmpets to video his activities during the day so we can get facts straight. This surprised me. My first thoughts prior to viewing the video was that he would be crying/howling/barking at the gate or doors, or that maybe he is barking at a bird flying by, or even barking at strange noises… well I was wrong! My dog was barking at my other dog to get his attention to play and interact with him. This went on for 5-10 minutes at times, to which my older dog (the perfect boy that he is) just lays there ignoring the 2-year-old spaniel circling and barking at him. Prior to this behaviour on the day he did spend the first hour enjoying his kongs that I had left for him and foraging for the food that I had placed out as a food hunt. So, the question is, is my dog bored? … No, he just doesn’t know how to stop, he doesn’t have an off switch.
Now the challenge is to teach my dog ‘how’ to switch off.
Kalmpets head trainer Tracey’s tips for teaching “off”:
The ‘settle’ game – The aim of this game is to teach your dog to lay down when there is nothing else going on.
1. Put the lead on your dog and sit down. Keep the lead loose. The lead is only attached to your dog to help them make good choices and stay near you.
2. Do not say anything to your dog, but calmly reward them for being calm or offering any calm behaviour.
3. Continue this for a few days until your dog begins to understand that it is being rewarded for being calm.
Walking – does your dog become excited as soon as the lead comes out? Calm behaviour starts in the home!
1. Don’t excite your dog with words such as “walkies!” if you are aiming for a quiet walk!
2. Devalue the dogs lead. If your dog becomes really excited when the lead comes out then change the association to the lead by;
· Putting your dog’s lead on when you are not planning on going for a walk. Put their lead on and give them something else to do instead, such as a Kong or food hunt or similar.
1. Teach your dog to be calm at the front door. Play the settle game near the front door then add the lead once your dog understands the game.
2. Allow your dog to sniff as much as it likes on walks! Remember that we see the world with our eyes whilst our dogs see the world with their noses. Sniffing is also mentally exhausting for your dog!
Jumping – I love this one, especially if the dog jumps on visitors! Why, because often it’s the visitors that need training rather than the dog
1. Put a sign up on your front door explaining to visitors how you would like them to behave around your dog.
2. Set your dog up to succeed by either putting them in another location with a rewarding activity to do, such as a Kong whilst the visitors arrive, or put them on lead.
3. Look for calm interactions with the visitors and reward these.
Kalmpets Day Care Manager & Head Agility Instructor