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Stop the Barking

In Korea you will live in an apartment. That’s the reality for 99% of us. And if you live in an apartment, a barking dog is an immediate ticket to eviction.

So I consider it imperative to stop all barking related to separation anxiety. That’s why I have deloped a very simple and effective method that will guarantee quiet when the dog is left alone.

First a philosophical note: While my method does not cause pain to the dog, it is a negative reinforcement one. Some people think that the most psychologically healthy way to train a dog is by positive reinforcement only. I disagree with this way of thinking, not only in canine education, but also in human.

Every one of us, human and canine, experiences the world as a cause and effect set of equations. When our actions bring a desirable consequence, we repeat those actions. When they bring a negative, we stop the actions. This is a constant of life, that all creatures must learn to apply. So based on the philosophy of cause and effect, I see the problem from an incentive-based perspective.

The first quesiton to pose is: Why does the dog bark when left alone? The answer is simple: to call attention to the fact that he is alone, and influence anyone who will hear him to come and relase him from the undesirable idea of being alone. His natural instinct says that calling out by barking will eventually bring the solution- human company. As dogs have different perception of time than we do, he can continue barking the entire 8 hours you are out, and when you finally do arrive, he will see it as this: My barking worked. if I bark long enough, the human will come.

This reinforces the barking, and tomorrow the dog will bark once again, assured that his efforts will sooner or later pay off, unaware that you came home becuase your shift at work was over, and he did not cause you to come with the barking.

So how do you solve it? By introducing an undesirable consequence to the behavior. Here’s my method, step by step:

1 - prepare the following: a chair, a book, a 3 hour period, tasty dog treats, and a squirt bottle full of water.

2 - put the dog in a room alone.

3 - stand right outside the door. It could be an interior bedroom of your house, it could be the front door.

4 - the moment you hear the smallest bark, open the door quickly, yell NO! at the top of your voice.

5 - immediately close the door again, staying outside. do not interact in any way other than the NO!

6 - wait until the next barking. Go back to step 4.

7 - if a 5 minute period passes with no barking, open gently, praise the dog, play a little… then go back to step 2.

8 - once the dog is consistently quiet, start doing the praising at unexpected intervals. 5 mintes, 2 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes. Here’s where the chair and book come in. You’ll have to stay out there a long time.

EXTRA STEPS: in case you simply can’t reach the 5 minute point after 20 minutes, accompany the NO! with a spray of water.

By now you probably see how this works. You teach the dog that barking will bring undesirable consequences. You also teach him that you are always just outside the door, and have not in fact abandoned him. He also learns that it is your wish that he stay in the room, and that he not bark.

Do not EVER give love or affection after a bark and a NO! This just reinforces that if they endure what ever punishment they get for barking, there will be love after, and all is lost.

You will need to re-inforce this for several days, but every person I’ve ever given this method to, if they are consistent about it, has reported success.

Remember, feeling sorry for the little fellow because you yelled at him and squirted him is nothing compared to the feeling of feeling sorry for the little fellow because you had to give him back to the shelter due to your neighbors’ complaints.

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