Is your dog acting like a hooligan, running and barking at your fence line? Are you so embarrassed you try to avoid your neighbors?
You might be happy to hear that your dog’s not the only dog on the block running and barking at the fence – far from it.
That, of course, doesn’t mean it’s okay or that it’s something you have to live with. Here are four tips for keeping the peace in your neighborhood.
Bake Some Cookies!
No, not for you or your dog … for your neighbors!
If your dog is known as the obnoxious dog, make peace with your neighbors before starting a training program. Popping over to their home with a warm batch of cookies just might be the icebreaker you need while you explain to them that you are going to be actively working with your dog on his behavior.
Teach Your Dog The Value Of His Name
Your dog’s name should be a pleasant experience, not a punishment.
In other words, good things happen to your dog when he hears his name. By teaching your dog that when you call his name, he should turn around and look at you, you are halfway to the finish line.
Because when your dog turns away from the fence, you have his attention for that split second to ask him to do a different behavior, like come when called.
You may be thinking, “My dog already knows his name.” That may be true, but if you say your dog’s name when he’s outside or around distractions and he doesn’t turn around to look at you, then you need to practice this game.
- Start your training session inside the house with no distractions.
- When your dog is not paying attention to you, or in another room, place a handful of tiny and tasty treats like cooked or dehydrated meat into one pocket and a tiny squeaky toy in the other pocket.
- Now, go hang out with your dog. Just act naturally. Say your dog’s name one time in a pleasant sing-song voice.
- That moment when your dog turns his head to look at you, immediately mark that behavior with a “YES!” or Click and give him five treats one after another as you tell him how smart he is.
- You can even toss in a fun game of him chasing you to add to the reward.
I know that was easy, and it was supposed to be.
You need to make a big impression NOW if you ever want to get to the point of being able to have your dog turn off the fence line and look at you.
Randomly practice this same setup 10 times a day until your dog is spinning so fast to look at you that he reminds you of that scene in The Exorcist. Okay, probably not the best analogy, but you get the idea.
But what if you get an OOPS! moment and he didn’t turn around?
Do not repeat his name.
Instead, grab that squeaker toy from your pocket, and start tossing it around and squeaking it while ignoring him.He does not get to play with it; you have a fun time with it by yourself.
Wait a few minutes and if your dog doesn’t get distracted by something else, try the name game again.
Assuming he turns to you, treat and whoop it up as usual. If he does not look toward you, evaluate your training environment and his reward system. It’s critical that he wins at this level and has a lot of successful sessions if you expect him to be able to do it outside.
As your dog starts to understand that your calling his name means crazy exciting treats and fun, start to practice with a few distractions. Nothing too hard, maybe when you’re taking a walk and he’s casually sniffing the grass, say his name in that same sing-song voice, he turns, gets rewarded and a nice party ensues.
Build on this concept in a variety of situations, like in the back yard when he’s not running the fence. Maybe he’s just sniffing around. Say his name, he comes, big reward and then let him go back to sniffing. If you do this randomly while he’s outside, he’ll actually start to hang by you more and not be so focused on his previous fence routine.
What?? You’re not outside with your dog?
Sorry, but if you truly want to change this behavior, you need to be out there with him, supervising him and teaching him what you would rather he do.
I know, life’s busy and we have a lot to accomplish daily but if we want our dogs to be happy and well balanced, we have to play an active and proactive role in teaching our dogs how to behave.
At some point down the road you may not have to be out there with him, you can just call his name from the back door and he comes running, but unfortunately, that time is not now.
Management Tools To Consider
Active supervision is the first “must” as I discussed above. A 20 to 100 foot leash is another management tool that can be helpful.
If your dog just doesn’t have the reliability of responding to his name with real distractions, you can attach a long leash to his harness and either allow him to drag it or you can hold on to the other end. This is if you need to reel him in from barking at the fence.
If you have to reel him in, try to get him to pay attention to you when he gets to you. Toss in some of the behaviors he knows well, like sit, down, and touch.
The long leash is, of course, fully supervised and not left on him unattended.
It’s for your beginning training when he just isn’t there yet. With a little training, it won’t be long before that leash is gone.
Games, Food And Toys
If you have a dog who just wants to patrol the yard for intruders, he needs something else to do with his time.
We humans are the best interactive toys on the market, so use yourself, whenever you can. Play hide and seek, trick training, massage or a round of fetch.
Other options can include chewing raw bones, eating part of their meal out of a hollow toy or hunting (finding) their hidden meal. Try to think outside of the box and mix it up. Variety is always key when trying to engage our dogs. Unpredictability can be a good thing.
When you reread my top four tips for keeping the peace, you’ll notice only one behavior cue is needed: your dog’s name. That one behavior, if taught really well, practiced and rewarded, can get you and your dog out of a lot of jams.
So, hit that ‘x’ close button on the top corner of your computer screen and start teaching your dog how cool his name really is.