Attention Barking in Meetings

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Attention Barking in Meetings

This is a discussion on Attention Barking in Meetings within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; OK, I've been training dogs a long time, but I've got a tricky situation that I haven't been able to come up with a solution ...

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Old 12-13-2017, 07:39 PM
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Attention Barking in Meetings

OK, I've been training dogs a long time, but I've got a tricky situation that I haven't been able to come up with a solution for, yet.

I have a 3-month old English Shepherd (like a Border Collie or Australian Shepherd). He is a service dog candidate - being socialized and trained to enter service dog training when he is older, if all goes well.

In general, he is great! He might be the smartest dog I've ever trained, he is super healthy, happy, and sweet, and has the maturity and work ethic of a much older dog ... in many ways. In most ways, he is ideal, and I don't have any complaints. But ...

Circumstances are such that he must accompany me to work every day. I work in an office setting. He is put into all sorts of situations throughout the day (including 75 minutes on the bus, each way) and he handles them really great. Amazingly great, considering his age.

Even when we're in my office, with people coming and going all day long, he just hangs out and either naps or plays quietly by himself. Of course, we take frequent breaks outside, but he has no problem just hanging out for an hour or two at a time.

Wear the bliss breaks down is when we go to meetings. He just refuses to settle down and suddenly becomes a manic puppy. If I ignore him or otherwise refuse to entertain him, he barks to get my attention. Obviously, that isn't great in a business meeting.

He occasionally tries that at home, but I just ignore him, and he gives up after a yelp or two. He doesn't even really try it anymore, because he knows it doesn't get the results he's looking for. But, he quickly figured out that, in a meeting, I can't ignore him. So, he's learned that barking is an effective strategy for getting my attention during meetings, and that there's nothing I can really do about it.

The best things I can do are:
  • Sometimes I can excuse myself, take him outside, have him sit quietly for a few seconds to recompose himself, and go back inside. That helps a little, most of the time.
  • I can reward him with treats every so often, as long as he is sitting quietly. This works well, except that he is completely in control of the speed of the treats. If I do not hand them out quickly enough, he barks. Then, I have a choice - let him continue barking, or try to get him to stop for a second so I can reward him. And, if I start with the treats, I can't stop unless he decides he's had enough. Again, he is in complete control of the situation.

I've tried nearly every feasible approach. He knows "Hush" and respects that command normally, but knows he doesn't really have to in a meeting. I can also redirect him, most of the time, with a distracting toy. But, he isn't satisfied playing on his own because he knows he can force me to play with him with one hand, while taking notes with the other.

Also, tiring him out with play before the meeting doesn't really help. It just amps him up and it takes him a while to settle back down. He almost always settles down after about 30-45 minutes anyway - right toward the end of the meeting, usually.

So, I know that the best solution is that I wouldn't be taking him to meetings where I can't effectively train him how I want him to behave. It just creates a situation that reinforces the bad behavior with no opportunity for him to learn the right way to behave.

In an ideal situation, I would do something else with him while I'm in a meeting, until he is more mature. And, I may end up having to just hire someone for this purpose. It's just that laying calmly during business meetings will be very much a part of his daily routine if he becomes a service dog, so I would like to solve this and habituate him to that activity early. It is really the only thing he can't do, right now.

Another possibility that I've considered is to stage some mock meetings, just for the purpose of training. I actually like that idea, it's just logistically difficult for me to pull off, since these would have to be after-hours.

Any creative suggestions?
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Old 12-13-2017, 10:45 PM
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I'd love to hear creative ideas since I can empathize. I have a three year old shelter dog with separation anxiety. He's very destructive and a danger to himself if I leave him alone too much. So I take him a lot of places with me. He's quiet and not a big Barker normally except at the stable where I keep two horses.
When I'm exercising the horses he's either locked in a horse stall or tied. If I leave him loose he wanders off and disappears and there's cars and a large state forests with coyotes and other predators. Plus he can't be loose in the riding arena bothering or scaring other horses and risking spooking them and having someone fall off.
If he can't see me or thinks I'm too far he barks and whimpers non-stop. If I tire him where he can see me he barks and lunged at everyone that walks by and also barks and lunged at horses that kick or act up on the stalls nearby or my horses if they act up when I'm exercising them. This gets dangerous as it scared them and makes them act up more.
He'll even bark at people he knows and bark until they walk right up to him and pet him, which I hate because it reinforces him bring obnoxious. I'll tell him quiet and to sit or lie down and stay. Sometimes he'll listen and sometimes he'll completely ignore me. I have to stop what I'm doing and bring the agitated horse over and go over to him to make him sit or lie down and say quiet and stay.
He's much better when we're alone there but when there's a lot of people and lots of activity and people riding he's obnoxious with all the barking when he's tied.
If I leave him in the car he chews up and destroys the car, and beeps the horn. He knows that gets me back fast.
Did I mention he's also very smart???!!! Lol with the horn.
I think you should have simulated meetings to reinforce ignoring him. Every time you reward the barking you teach him barking in meetings is good because he gets attention and treats.
I actually tell other people at the stable not to pet my dog when he's barking because it's encouraging him.
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Old 12-14-2017, 09:21 PM
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Arrow Have *someone else* on tap to remove the pup

.

suggestion:
hire someone to play Bad Cop for a few days.

Not in the classic sense of Good Cop / Bad Cop, where the Bad one threatens, is verbally abusive, or physically intimidates -
a much-milder variation; a polite but neutral person sits nearby, & as soon as that 1st bark slips out, escorts Pup to yer office.
[note the time of that bark.]

they wait, pointedly ignoring the pup [who's crated] with the room door closed, & return the pup to the meeting 2 to 3-mins later.
[note the time of return.]
They resume their off-to-the-side waiting, reading a book or otherwise occupied... "Yip!", & they take Pup away again.
[Note the time.]

During the times that Pup is quiet [with busywork to occupy those puppy-teeth, such as a cow-hoof], do NOT ignore him -
every 10 to 45-secs, at random, drop a tidbit. Vary the goodies, kibble plus 1/2 its volume in lean cubed beef, chkn breast, etc,
plus some freeze-dried proteins such as lamb-lung, beef liver, whitefish, all in pea-sized to 1/2-pea sized bits.
Bagging the mixture in a zip-lock bag overnight will marry the scents, & even the kibble will smell irresistable, next day.

Repeat 'remove at bark #1" as needed for 2 to 3 meetings - by meeting #3, incidents should be down by approx half
[be sure to LOG all barks]. Meeting #4, try it without the Bad Cop for the 1st 10-mins, but as soon as Pup barks, out he goes!

U can see where this is going - keep data, provide quiet absorbing activities, randomly reward any quiet moments.
Build duration - watch the # of barks & the time BETWEEN barks; hopefully numbers fall, & time between grows.

Sound do-able? // If meetings last 45-mins to an hour, any decent dog-walker should be willing to help.
There's no poop to pick-up, & they're indoors... what's not to like, :lol: ?

- terry

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Old 12-14-2017, 11:26 PM
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Yeah, I actually think some variation of the accomplice approach might work for us. Taking him out of the room when he barks probably won't do it. That seems to be what he wants.

But, having an accomplice bring him into the meeting for only a few minutes at a time, rewarding him for calm behavior, and taking him back out before he starts barking - that might work. It breaks it down into manageable chunks for him to be successful and doesn't teach him that, if he barks, someone will take him somewhere else.
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Old 12-15-2017, 05:48 AM
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Question what's his reward hierarchy?

.

do U think "ignored in his crate in the office" would be rewarding / preferable to him, vs being in the meeting with U?
I was thinking "being with U" would be better than being confined solo - but U know the dog, I don't.

Which would he rather? // Do U think he'd prefer ANYthing, to get out of a boring meeting?
Other than active play, & tasty tidbits, what makes him happy?

- t

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Old 12-15-2017, 09:17 PM
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The thing is, as soon as he is taken out of the room, he sees that as a win. It is clear that is exactly what he wanted. By the time he got to my office, I don't think he'd make the connection to his initial tantrum.
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Old 12-15-2017, 11:54 PM
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He is only 3 months old, and bored at your boring meetings, with little tolerance or impulse control, because he's only 3 months old.

Could you crate in your office, during boring meetings, and try again later, when he has a little more impulse control, and stability in his down/be quiet?

I think you maybe are pushing the pup, beyond his physical developing brain stage.
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Old 12-16-2017, 12:44 PM
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I hear you about his young age, but I have to disagree. It is perfectly within his capabilities and temperament. For sure, he is still young. He will get squirmy sometimes, try to wander, occasionally whine or yip. That's totally to be expected.

He has demonstrated his willingness to lay quietly at my office (in or out of his crate, as he prefers) for an hour or two at a time, no problem, and does the same for an hour on the bus, each way. When he's not laying quietly, we go outside and run/play, meet strangers, or do some training. So, the issue is not that he isn't mature enough to do this.

The difference is that, in the office, we go out on my schedule. He doesn't ask to go out or play, because he knows we'll do it pretty soon, if he just waits. Occasionally, he gently asks for some attention, I give it to him, and he settles back down.

In meetings, he has just figured out that he can be in charge of when we play, go outside, etc. He can force me to stop what I'm doing and pay attention (good or bad) to him.

Admittedly, he is a just a puppy being a puppy. He is doing exactly what a 3-month old puppy does. No argument there. The fact that he is so well-mannered most of the time, considering his age, is a real bonus - I couldn't expect better.

But, I am also responsible for his training, and this is something we can improve on. Honestly, if THIS turns out to be his Achilles' heel, you won't get any complaints from me. I know he'll just grow out of it in a few months, judging from his other behavior. But, I'm still going to work on it, in the meantime.
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