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Hello, I have a Benerse/Amstaff mix, almost a year and a half old. We've had him since he was old enough to be on his own as a baby. He is a super well behaved dog and well-trained in all aspects except this one noise factor, broken down into two parts really.

1.) He barks at noises he hears outside, or if someone else is coming into the building (condo-type of setup) and simply will not stop barking once he hears it until he barks himself out for 5 minutes. I've tried to teach him "quiet!" but his only reaction to it so far has been to stop barking and instead switch to very deep/loud growls that are just as loud, rather than barking.

And the other part of his noise problem:

2.) We have two cats, he grew up with them and he SHOULD be used to them by now... But he still chases them around and whines at them. Mostly he just wants to play it seems, but he is far too big to play with them without hurting them. The worst and most unbearable factor here is when he's just laying down relaxing, and one of our two cats walks by, he'll just let out a HUGE ear-blistering screech/yelp as soon as he sees them! This scares the crap out of me every time as it's so sudden and PAINFULLY LOUD. It instantly gets my heart rate going very fast and stresses me out, instantly putting me in a bad mood.

With the barking problem, I've tried constantly training him by asking him to "speak" which he knows, and then rewarding him and saying "quiet!" then after he's quiet for 3-5 seconds I reward him for that. And I go back and forth with that, for several minutes. I do this at least two times daily.

As for the cats and his whining/yelping at them, I have no idea how to correct this. Especially since it just explodes out of him, and it's not every time he sees the cat, it's unpredictable. My initial thought was to put him and the cats in his big crate together with the door shut so that he "desensitizes" from them... But I obviously instantly realized that's not fair to the cats and it would stress them out being in a crate with him while he's yelping and whining his head off. So I'm stumped.

I've also tried:
- Quietly asking him to stop
- Screaming at him to stop
- Physically holding his mouth and asking him to stop.
- Physically placing my hand on his shoulder in a gentle pinch hold to distract him/asking him to stop
- Squirting him with a squirt bottle
- Bark collar

Nothing works!

Please, for my sanity, can anyone offer advise?
 

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO DOG TRAINING: CHAPTER 16 - SOLVING SPECIFIC PROBLEMS: Barking

Barking dogs can drive you barking mad. They can wreck relations with neighbors and embarrass you in public. There are lots of reasons why dogs bark:

  • Some dog breeds, such as those in the Herding Group, are natural barkers, so there can be a strong genetic component to the problem.
  • It can be rewarding. For example, if your dog barks at you and you pay attention to him, he'll increase that behaviour because it worked.
  • They are announcing something. Alarm or alert barking occurs when a dog senses something and feels a need to announce it. This can include a cat outside the window or someone approaching the house.
  • Fear.
  • To engage you or another animal to play.
  • Frustration.
  • Predation or when chasing something.
  • Boredom.
  • In greeting.
In order to stop the barking, the first thing you must do is determine why your dog is doing it, if you can. If it's something you can manage or prevent, that often solves the problem. For example, if your dog barks only at the window at people or other animals, just block your dog's access to the window. You want to prevent your dog from practicing the behavior. If he keeps it up, it can become an ingrained habit.

If the problem isn't fear-related, and your dog is just barking because he is excited, you can train your dog to hush on cue.

Goal: Your dog will be quiet when you cue him.
What You'll Need:Clicker, treats.

1.Do something to encourage your dog to bark. Then wait for him to stop on his own.
2.The second he stops, click and treat.
3.Repeat steps 1-2 nine times, end your training session.

When your dog is reliably stopping his barking very quickly, it's time to add the cue.

1.Do something to get your dog to bark.
2.Just before you think he will be quiet, cue "Hush" or "Quiet"--be consistent. Use the cue one time, in a friendly voice. If you shout at your dog, he likely will just bark louder, thinking that you're joining in!
3.When your dog is quiet, click and treat.
4.Repeat steps 1-3 nine times. End your training session.




TAKEN RIGHT FROM THE BOOK!!!


THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO DOG TRAINING
BY: TEOTI ANDERSON CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I've done just that, though. :/

I tell him to "speak" which he does just fine, and he barks. As soon as he's finishing I say "quiet", and he stays quite in that moment. I do this now at least 60 times daily. Yet he still doesn't stop when in the middle of barking/whining at the cats or noise.

I'm becoming so concerned at this point, today especially, he's driving me so insane that I'm becoming concerned with my own thoughts. I just want to get rid of him when he's acting like this.

But this is literally the only negative trait he has! Everything else about him is literally THE BEST behavior I've ever seen in ANY dog. It's just this one noise problem that he has.

I can train him any other trick or action in the book no problem, he's so smart that he can learn new tricks from one 3 minute training session alone. Yet he just does NOT understand this "quiet" thing. Arrrggh it's so frustrating!

He knows about 10 pages of advanced commands, but not this one!
 

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I know its totally cute and all but I've always thought that teaching a dog to "speak" is asking for trouble.

I would stop using that command for a bit, until you've solved the barking issue.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I know its totally cute and all but I've always thought that teaching a dog to "speak" is asking for trouble.

I would stop using that command for a bit, until you've solved the barking issue.
Almost every other trainer I've studied, listened to or watched all agree that teaching them to speak typically aids heavily in teaching them to not speak.

Essentially you're training them the concept of "turning it on", so it becomes easier to teach them the concept of "turning it off".

Not in my dog's case, though.

How much exercise is he getting each day?
At least one walk a day, in most days he also gets to play at a park too.
 

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I would try for a week to increase his exercise, just to see if that helps. It sounds like he's getting an alright amount (how long would you say his walks are?). Barking is such a fun behaviour for dogs. It's self-soothing, attention-grabbing, and also tiring.
 

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I know its totally cute and all but I've always thought that teaching a dog to "speak" is asking for trouble.
Yeah, I agree with that. Teaching a "quiet" cue can be done without first reinforcing a dog for barking, and besides, teaching a "quiet" cue isn't the solution here. The dog is barking reactively: this is a purely emotional response. Because he's reacting emotionally and not rationally, without thought, his ability to respond to a "quiet" cue is significantly impaired, leading to frustration all around. That frustration, along with other negative emotions generated by being punished, feeds into the emotional cycle, making the reaction worse over the long run.

Instead of teaching "quiet," I'd work on counter-conditioning both issues (the outside noises and the cats), and on controlling your own responses. My dog is also sometimes a reactive barker, and during our recent spell of cool weather, she's been napping on the back of my chair with her chin resting on my shoulder...very cozy, right up until a dog barks outside and she shrieks loudly, right in my ear. I understand how it can provoke a massive urge to hurl the dog right out the window! But for effective, long-term behavior changes, we have to start by controlling our own behavior, and yelling at my dog is only going to make things worse in the long run.

Counter-conditioning can be read about at the Care for Reactive Dogs website, which is a great free resource. Or you can find professional trainers who can help coach you in those skills. Changing your dog's emotional response to the triggers will help a great a deal.
 
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