Arf, Arf, ARF, ARF!!!
They were driving down the street and neither of them gave even a glance at the huge dog, just inches behind their ears. Said dog was barking away at everything and, frankly, nothing.
I cannot imagine being in such close quarters and having that huge amount of noise pounding away in my ears but they seemed totally oblivious. What was happening?
Well, “they” had appeared to accept the behavior. What about the pooch? Without a doubt “it” too had decided that his/her behavior was quite acceptable so she continued. Dogs do what works. We all continue to produce behavior that is rewarded.
Just what is a “reward”? Well, this may surprise you but a reward is absolutely anything that is perceived as a reward. Such as: Your dog jumps on you. You push the dog away. REWARD!!! Ah, but, you say. I told her NO and I pushed her and I really meant it! Sorry, folks, but what you meant and what she received from the scene are not matching up. Dog barks and you, the human, shouts in return, intending to stop the behavior, right? Dog receives the message that, Hey! I bark. She barks! I am on track! Result? Yup. More barking and, probably, of even greater quality and intensity. Yikes! A plan gone astray.
“She” got attention – precisely what she sought.
You saw punishment, right? Well, punishment really means that what you did stops the behavior. Did that happen? No? It was not punishment – it was REWARD! Punishment is risky since it can backfire but it is also very, very much misunderstood. What I find interesting is that people will continue to do the same thing – such as hollering at a dog to stop barking or shouting for it to Sit!, Sit!, SIT!!! when it is jumping all over the visitor. One would think that the critter with the bigger brain would come up with Plan B since what they are doing is clearly not working but, sad to say, they usually just do more of the same.
Back to the Doggie in the Window. In this case – a car window. What I understand to have happened is that they (the people) hollered, screamed, etc., for all the unwanted barking. The big, wonderful, critter, received the “information” as a REWARD for the barking! The dog’s take clearly is: Cool! We are all singing the same tune. What a good dog I am. I got 100% on this lesson! The people simply gave up. At least they didn’t seek a “home in the country” for behavior they caused to be really wild.
So? What to do? If one knows what the triggers are for the barking – loose dogs, motorcycles, etc., take the dog in the car, park it where all the action is and toss tasty food treats any time the scary thing passes. As soon as it is out of sight the “kitchen is closed”. Yup. Sounds crazy, I know, but it works. It changes the dog’s attitude about the issue to one of: Hey! Those dogs mean treats for me. Pretty soon your dog sees another dog, looks to you for a treat and you are on your way to solving the problem.
It is helpful to have some one else in the car with you during training so they can be the supplier of good “stuff” while you safely drive.
A couple of management tools include crating the dog so it cannot see out of the car or buying a Calming Cap from Premier Products. The cap allows the dogs to see light but not much else so they do get, well, calm! And, one can work on training dogs to respond to Quiet!, Leave it!, Enough! It is more difficult to break a well established habit than it is to teach proper behavior right from day one.