Barking & Dog Agility Groups

QUESTION:

My daughter has an Australian Shepherd. My daughter moved three and a half hours away, taking “Stella” away from two other family dogs. She’s not much of a barker until she runs her in agility trials. Stella non-stop barks through the whole run to the point of not being able to finish the runs. She didn’t do this until they moved. How do they fix this? Do you have training for a dog that only barks during agility runs?

 

ANSWER:

Good question. Please tell your daughter this:

You can fix this by applying the same training principles in my Perfect Dog DVDs and by first practicing a staged agility course at home. You would correct for any barking (and any other undesirable behaviors) by using the verbal commands I demonstrate, reinforced with the relevant corrective technique(s). At first, this will necessitate interruptions to the agility routine (which is fine). Simply carry on through the routine until you reach the end, taking breaks to correct as needed.

In conjunction with this, you’ll need to implement the other elements of my Perfect Dog training program because this adds to building respect for your authority. Teaching and then building on the “Down” command is one of the critical steps toward maximizing the training results. Very soon, Stella will learn to heed the boundaries of acceptable behavior both inside and outside of the home.

In the long term, you’ll be able to maintain control over Stella’s behavior in public by mostly using the verbal commands e.g. “Quiet!” (which the dog will come to respect because you’ve reinforced these verbal commands in private). Not that Stella should be barking much at all at this stage. If you’ve properly done your groundwork at home, it should be very much under control. Rather, I’m referring to using a maintenance correction from time to time.

Inevitably, transitioning from building the foundations at home to then testing in a highly distracting, highly tempting public environment (such as dog agility) will involve some “tidying up” corrections, so you need to mentally prepare yourself for this. This includes not worrying about other people’s reactions. If they want to let their dogs be loud and chaotic then that’s their choice, but it’s important not to let peer pressure undermine your personal goals with your own dog. After all, you and your family are the ones that have to live with Stella 24/7 and it’s in your best interests to have her as well behaved as possible.

If you’re still struggling with the barking in public after working on the issue at home, this says you’ve jumped into the public scene too soon and you need to go back to private practice for a period of time. Every dog will vary, so I can’t offer specific time frame suggestions. You simply need to gauge things based on results. The ultimate goal is to reach the point where your dog consistently self-governs, no matter where you are or what’s going on around her. This self-governance point is what I have dubbed the “Trust Zone” in my Perfect Dog system.

Also, be acutely aware of leaving Stella in the company of unruly dogs and/or permissive owners. This can be one of the biggest detriments to a dog’s training progress. (And, unfortunately, you find a lot of this in pretty much all dog agility groups.) You might want to read the following Blog post as well: https://dogfather.tv/what-should-i-do-with-my-dog-while-im-at-work-what-about-doggie-daycares/It touches on this subject of negative influences.

–  Don Sullivan, “The DogFather”

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