Solving Problem Barking (Dunbar)

This post is part of the series in response to Dunbar’s 2012 Australian seminars. See index.

Dunbar advocates putting problem behaviours on cue.  That goes for barking, too.  The idea is to teach your dog to bark on cue (through lure-reward training) and then teaching your dog to be quiet on cue (again, through lure-reward).  For example, you could use the sound of the doorbell or teasing the dog with a treat to elicit a bark and act as a lure.  For the opposite, you could simply present a treat to a dog (they normally start sniffing and they can’t bark and sniff at the same time) and you have lured the silent behaviour.

Young border collie puppy barking.

The idea is, firstly, you can tell your dog to quiet if it is barking inappropriate.  Secondly, by putting ‘bark’ on cue and rewarding it, when the dog barks of its own accord, and doesn’t get rewarded, it may realize that is not a desirable option (i.e. negative punishment, the removal of a good reward).  Finally, by having barking on cue, it means you can sometimes give your dog permission to bark!  It is unfair to expect dogs to never bark, but allowing them appropriate venues to bark (when cued) means that you are not denying your dog its natural desire to bark.

Though Dunbar believes dogs should be taught bark/shush as a matter of course, he believes that Kongs are one of the simplest and easier solution to preventing and treating problem barking.  For someone who ‘doesn’t have time’ to teach cues for barking/non-barking, they can easily throw a stuffed Kong to their dogs.

That being said, Dunbar admits that it is difficult to teach an alarm or ballistic barker to quiet.  As always, he advocates prevention through attentive puppy training, rather than trying to remedy a problem barker.


Put your Problem on Cue (Dunbar)

This post is part of the series in response to Dunbar’s 2012 Australian seminars. See index.

Dunbar advocates putting the 8 big behavioural problems on cue, and then training the opposite.  The idea is that you can cue the ‘opposite’ (non-problematic) behaviour when the dog is displaying the problem behaviour.  The problem behaviour should be taught first, as he thinks dogs are more likely to display ‘the most recently taught’ behaviour.  These 8 behaviour problems, and their opposites, are:


Large white and brindle wire haired cross breed sleeping

“Settle down” – a useful behaviour to cue dogs to perform when they’re jazzed up or over enthused.

1. Jazz Up / Settle Down

Often dogs can be over excited, over stimulated, or generally ‘worked up’ and this can be problematic for owners.  For this reason it is useful to have a ‘settle down’ cue, but Dunbar of course suggests that you teach the opposite, too – a ‘jazz up’ cue.  You could turn this into a class game where the winner is the person who settles down their dog the fastest, or meets a 3 second deadline.  Teaching a dog to ‘jazz up’ is also easy, and often inspires and motivates class members to train.

‘Settle down’ is useful when trying to prevent problematic behaviours, such as excitement at the front door, or fence-fighting behaviour.  ‘Jazz up’ could also, potentially, be useful reward in the obedience ring.  Diane Baumann, in her traditional training book Beyond Basic Obedience, encourages owners to have an exciting cue (like ‘jazz up’) to mean an exercise is finished.


2. Woof / Shush Continue reading