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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So Mia is a little over 6 months now and when she was a bit younger (around 3-4 months old) she had the occasional bark when someone knocked at the door, or if someone approached her. It was very random though and happened very rarely. It would literally be one single bark and that's it. Once the person approached her she would just lick them to death and do her pitbull bum wiggle.

Now it's gotten progressively worse, especially after I have come back from vacation. I had someone else take care of her while I was away and they told me that she had started barking at random people. I don't know exactly how he addressed it but he just said he would correct her and let her know the behaviour was not ok. I feel like he must have corrected her in a way that just made it more suppressed so now it just comes out more frequently now that she's back with me.

It doesn't happen all the time, not with every person or sound so when she does bark it totally catches me off guard.

I always make sure that I myself am not feeling nervous or anxious and because she always catches me off guard, I'm never anticipating it or expecting her to bark. I feel like its a fearful growl/bark, not coming from aggression.

Here are a few examples:

The other night we were on the couch she was sleeping next to me. I was just watching TV and playing games on my iPad. One of the windows of my apartment faces the alley and so sometimes you'll hear random noises. She's never made a fuss over it before but that night she started to make these low growl/rumbling noises and then a bark. When she barks, its never more than 2 barks at a time. The thing is, she wasn't even looking at the window when she barked. She would glance at the window and then look away into the empty space in the living room and then growl/bark.

Yesterday afternoon we were walking the trails near my house. We walk there everyday so nothing out of the ordinary. Near the end of the walk there was a man standing at a far distance. He was on his phone minding his own business, Mia was a little bit further up on the trail from me and I could see her ears perked up and then suddenly she started barking at him. She actually starting running towards him barking! I was so shocked I had never seen her behave like that. The man didn't seem phased at all, he was still looking at his phone. He started walking away and I noticed he was kind of walking in a weird way. I made a comment to my friend who was walking with us that he might not have been "all there" and he agreed. I don't know if Mia sensed that maybe this man was a little "different" and felt uneasy? so she felt the need to send him a warning bark to back off? But she was the one that ran to him. He was so far away and wasn't even walking in our direction. When I called her name and asked her to come to me, she did stop and look at me but she didn't come. Even when she knew I had boiled chicken in my hand. Her recall during the whole walk was really good besides this one incident. She waited there until we caught up to her and I put her leash on. We walked by the man and she just looked at him as we walked by, no barking or growling.

Then last night, my friend and I went to pick up my sister from my parents place, Mia was in the backseat. Mia has already met my sister before, she even slept in her lap one time when we were watching TV. As my sister was approaching the car Mia started barking and growling. We left the car door open and my sister just stood there and waited. Didn't approach Mia until she calmed down a bit. She still did a couple of short barks and growls but as soon as my sister sat in the car Mia was all over her with kisses.

I'm not sure how to address this....It's so random, the behaviour does not happen every time or with every person that approaches or walks by. I always use positive reinforcement (lots of praise, treats), no yelling or physical punishment.

What are some good confidence boosting activities that I can do with her?

She gets a ton of exercise. Every morning she will either have a play date or I take her to the beach to play fetch and I'll get a few swimming sessions in (usually about 30-45 mins.). Lunch hour she'll get about 20 mins of fetch and after work we walk the trails for an hour and a short game of fetch afterwards. We do at least 2 short obedience sessions (about 15 mins each) throughout the day. We'll play hide and seek with treats (she's very food motivated).

I think the one thing I'm lacking is taking her out more to different environments. She's mostly exposed to different kinds of hiking trails where she meets a lot of different kinds of people and dogs but I don't really take her into the city where there's bustling cars, noises, crowds. Would that help? I live a pretty quiet life these days so I don't really go into downtown Vancouver anymore, I usually prefer the quieter scene like chilling at home or going for nature hikes. But if taking her to busier places will help with her fearful barking I will make an effort to expose her more to it.

**sorry for the long post**
 

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Sounds like shes feeling a bit insecure at the moment, maybe a fear stage? I wouldn't take her into different environments until you find a way to manage it it known environments.

Look at that training has been working really well with Echo, nowhere near perfect but it's getting there.

This is how we trained it:

Level 1 - innocuous object (Book)
a) lift book up while making a whooshing noise.
b) click when pup looks at object, hide book behind back and treat
Aim: pup will start anticipating treat and looking to you, move on to level 2

Level 2 - innocuous object
Same as above but:
a) Click/reward looking at object and do not hide book.
Aim: consistent look at object then look to you, move to level 3

Level 3 - innocuous object
Same as above but:
a) place object on a table or chair.
b) add cue when consistent.
Aim: will look at object on cue, move to proofing.

Proofing:
A) increase desirability of object; treat, toy, neutral person, friendly person, unfriendly person...
B) All positions; sitting, standing, laying down, walking...

Based on Control Unleashed, I can't recommend it enough.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
thanks @Chas! I will try doing those exercises with her.

In the meantime, (and if it could just be a fear stage) what do I do in those moments when she is growling/barking? Lets say if the redirection doesn't work?
 

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Lots of treats, given in a sit. My trainer suggestes that you can't reinforce a fear reaction with treats and I think it makes sense. The treats are more of distraction and calming aid than a reward. If people ran away from the barking or you gave a leash correction that would reinforce the behavior and fear respectively.
 

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I think there's a fear stage around four to six months. I also have Control Unleashed and have practiced the LAT exercises as Chas mentioned. We also play the Watch the World game, which I really like.

For dealing with the fear stage, I agree with Chas. Our trainer also suggested remaining as calm as possible, using treats and happy talk. Just be patient and avoid corrections. If the dog sees that you don't think something is a big deal, then they will eventually come out of their fear stage feeling the same way.
 

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It is possible that alert barking may be natural at a certain age. My new pup, who is between 6-7 months now, has started barking. (It may also be because she hears my other, older dogs bark).
Because I am hearing impaired, I encourage this barking because it helps me know when other people are near my home.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks guys! Yeah I was worried that maybe I was reinforcing it when I was redirecting her with the chicken but good to know that it doesn't.

The Watch the world game looks like a fun exercise @linzydd! The only thing is, I don't know exactly what triggers her to bark. For example, 10 people could be walking by us on the trails, on their bikes or jogging or walking with or without dogs. Out of the 10 people, she usually doesn't bark at all. Even when a cyclist is speeding by. But on an odd day, she could bark at maybe ONE of those 10 people. Would I have to redirect her with every person that is passing by? even if she doesn't growl or bark at them?
 

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I have had the exact same issue with my puppy! She's about 7 months now, and it started a few months ago. If you look back at my entry (Fear aggression in Aussie Puppy), there is some really solid advice there!

The only difference is my pup barks at 7 out of 10 people...

The main thing is taking her in slightly controlled environments and rewarding her when she's not barking. Take her outside and have her sit and observe as people walk by...but at a significant distance. If she doesn't bark..move closer to the person and reward her with high value treats!
 
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