I have just visited little Pug, Franklyn, for a second time because they have reached a plateau with his barking – both barking at TV and also barking in the car.
Franklyn can now be called away from the TV if it is people talking, but he is much more reactive to the adverts and still goes mental when he sees an animal.
Thank goodness for clicker training!
Starting with a low-stress programme, it happened to be Friends, I showed them how to click/feed Franklyn every time he looked at the TV and, though vocal, didn’t actually bark. Then we upped it to clicking the briefest moment of silence whilst he looked at the TV. Then we asked for slightly longer silence. We got as far as keeping him from barking – just grumbling now – during adverts. However, an elephant programme was too much for him and he regressed. We had pushed ahead too fast, so we went back to Friends again.
Using the same sort of gradual technique, we looked at the car behaviour. The existing plan had meant that they should have slowly weaned him into quiet car travel, but this wasn’t happening. We looked at how we can create an environment where he is more likely to be quiet and that is being held on a lap whilst not looking out of the window – a challenge! So, the plan is to teach him to ‘look’ at them, one of them to hold him and constantly feed him chicken whilst keeping his attention. Initially perhaps just with the engine running, then driving a few yards, then going further and stopping – and so on – until they reach their open space where Franklyn can, at last, again go for a run.
They can also introduce their barking at TV ‘Click for Quiet’ technique to barking in the car.
The problem with pushing a dog over threshold is that, just like in the TV example above, it sets you back and you need to recap. Driving a furiously barking Frankly to the field would do a lot more harm than good to their progress in the long run.
I am sure now that they will leap off that plateau and make some more real progress. Here is Franklyn’s story of a couple of months ago.
An email received a month after my second visit which proves what persistence and patience can do: ‘Just wanted to let you know that we managed to walk Franklin all the way round the block with no real incidents! What an achievement. We’ve even managed to get him to the park and he’s played nicely with other dogs off lead and his recall is starting to improve again. Thank you very much for helping us with our little boy.
And three months after my visit: Sorry for all the emails but I feel you should know about Franklin’s wonderful progress. As it was a beautiful sunny day today we decided to go to the seaside with Franklin. We drove to near Southend to a pet friend beach. Franklin sat on J’s lap in his bed. Other than a few whines and being fidgety he was good as gold. We put him on his long lead and he was an angel to walk. We passed lots of dogs and he had little sniffs and played with a couple. There was no barking at all. I kept the lead really loose so he felt free but I could still control him if it go too much. We had a wonderful day out as family with no tears at all. We even shared some chips and watched the world go by.
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Franklyn, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).