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Chaos or Chorus? Barking Blog Part 2

March 26, 2011

This tip is from Pawsitive Reactions.  Enjoy!

How your crew greets visitors can cause you stress or make you proud. Do you avoid having family over for fear of the barking that can ensue? Do you make workman call first so you can block your crew away from the doorway? And forget about parties, it’s just too much to deal with, right? Well, it can be better with some work on your part if your primary issue is barking and not aggression.

Alert barking, which is what this is, is a normal behavior in most dogs, especially guarding breeds, which is what most of my own crew is. I am not going to lie to my readers: as mentioned in my book, I have not really trained out barking at visitors with my crew. But reasons for that is a simple one. It’s not laziness. It’s just that I don’t really have many visitors that are not “dog people” and my crew is pretty comfortable with “dog people” right away.

For service persons, I simple baby gate them in rooms that said service persons will not be in. Occasionally, if the service person professes to be a “dog person” and I believe him, I will let Merlin in with us because he has been voted “most likely to bark at length if not permitted to greet visitors”. Merlin has a lot of opinions and he loves people so he is fine after greeting them with his opinion.

I actually have very successful parties despite mostly ignoring visitor training with my own crew. The reason for that may also be helpful for some of you. Once past the 3-4 visitor mark, my crew ceases to use barking as a greeting. Instead, they anticipate attention and potential food dispensing from any newcomer so they are on their best “we are too cute to ignore” behavior.

I always ask friends who my crew is familiar with to be among the first few to arrive at the melee and that helps my crew to feel more comfortable and helps to sets the stage for success. I have even had a successful Pampered Chef party with a PC rep who was afraid of dogs with this formula. Congrats to Dee for handling Siri (90# of Rottie mix!) being nosy while enthusiastically showcasing her wares!

So how is it possible to minimize the visitor barking? Easy. Will work for food is the motto of most dogs I know, especially those with this issue. You goal is to give your dog something else equally rewarding to do other than bark.

One of my very favorite food rewards to use for this issue is peanut butter. If you are allergic to peanuts, other nut butters work just as well as does soy butter. The sticking quality is what you need for a lengthier positive connection between said visitor and the yummy food reward. Any nut butter cannot be immediately swallowed so basically, you get more bang for your buck.

I have training tubes that can be filled with peanut butter and dispensed directly from the tube in order to minimize any mess that using peanut butter on a spoon can cause. They can be purchased directly at any R.E.I. store or you can buy them online. They are made for camping. What a great idea!

It’s difficult to do step by step training in this venue for this particular issue so I won’t attempt it. Steps are very much based on the individual dog. But if you keep certain things in mind, perhaps these tips can help.

-You must practice this with one dog at a time until each is pretty predictable. Then start with the two that are best at it together and progress from there. As long as your crew gets along well together, once at the all together point of training, you can use some competition to get the slower on the take pups to be faster at being quiet.
-You should practice associating the doorbell with peanut butter (or other food) before you need it. It takes time. Be patient and very consistent.
-You will need a helper or two. You cannot ring the bell and feed the dog at the same time!
-The peanut butter starts before the doorbell rings and until the door opens. There should be no ringing (or knocking) without food happening.
-It is important to talk to your dog while practicing this in order to keep the connection going. Use your best happy voice to verbally acknowledge staying with you/the peanut butter as well as choosing not to bark. Eye contact with you is a very rewardable behavior as well.
-If your dog heads towards the door at any time before the visitor enters, use your best happy voice to get his attention back on you. If he ignores you, get closer.
-Do not bribe him by placing the treat in front of his face but instead, prompt a head turn towards you and reward that, then head back away from the door
-Once your guest is in, you can allow your dog to greet your guest if he is not barking.
-You can give your guest treats other than peanut butter to offer your dog. Think high value such as boiled chicken, hot dogs, liver, etc.
-You can also implement a time out (just the removal of attention, nothing scary) if barking is excessive.
-Never use a negative word or tone to try and “correct” barking. Attention is still attention and negative (no, bad, etc.) attention still maintains or increase the behavior (barking).

One thing that I have found that helps with group greetings to visitors is allowing one dog at a time in to greet until every dog that can be there is present. This tends to take the excitement level down to a manageable level. You can use baby gates or simply another room to separate dogs until it’s their turn to come in.

You can also simply train your dogs, again one at a time, to go to a special place such as a mat, crate or dog bed when they hear the door. Then you have the option of inviting them from said place to come and greet guests on your pre-trained terms. Again, this will not happen over night and you must be patient.

Courtenay in British Columbia is a Manners Minder aficionado. I admit I have not yet tried this wonderful machine but it’s not for lack of wanting to. It is not cheap but it’s helpful for this sort of thing if you do choose to train the “go to place” for door manners. Courtenay did this and it worked well for her.

Crystal in Indiana, PA has also trained her dogs to go to a place when visitors arrive, though her method differs. She has the crew first go to her couch and when they are calm, they are permitted to come and greet the visitors. Once they do this, they are sent to go lay in their individual places. When she has visitors that are staying a bit longer, the dogs are given Kongs or other high value distractions while they are in their spots.

Training dogs, especially a multiple dog household, to be calmer around visitors is not the easiest behavior to train but it can be done with patience and vigilance. Having multiple dogs at all requires both so give yourself credit for this feat and believe that you can persevere!


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Britnie Sorensen
Britnie Sorensen
18:11 06 Apr 24
This is our second round of training with Johanna! Our Bullmastiff Abbi is different from our previous dogs, and we knew Johanna would be able to help us. We reached out and were in excellent hands! Johanna was able to redirect our training efforts, majority of sessions were held virtually and supported with videos of us training Abbi. We will keep using Johanna no matter where life takes us. Her love and compassion for our puppy, and us, come through in every interaction. We are in a much better place and understanding of Abbi after working with Johanna!
Roberta Bonnell
Roberta Bonnell
01:37 24 Mar 24
My Australian Shepard had moderate separation anxiety and Johanna was able to help me get him to a point where I can see him being able to be home alone before the end of the year! Very grateful for all of her training expertise.
Karen Mara
Karen Mara
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I recently met with Johanna for help with my rambunctious teenager, Roger. We worked on coming when called, leash walking, and staying calm around other dogs when on leash. After two sessions, Roger made huge improvements, and he continues to improve as we practice on our own. Johanna really understands dogs and is very good at communicating with people. She knows how to make dog training fun. I've worked with other trainers, and Johanna is by far the best.
Wendy Nighswonger
Wendy Nighswonger
18:47 08 Jul 23
I have known Johanna for 13 years. She has helped me with several dogs, but she recently helped me train my new black lab puppy, Raven. I have moved to another state so all of my training with Raven was done online via Zoom. I believe that the one-on-one training I received through Zoom was more personalized and thorough, especially with the way Johanna placed every ounce of training and recommendation on a board through an app that I can refer back when I need. Johanna is very intuitive and knew when stress was on overload for me, therefore tailoring my training for that day around making Raven feel good while simultaneously taking my stress load down. Johanna has years of experience and while her knowledge is a gold mine, it is her gentle patience and love for her clients that make this training so perfect. I would hire her again and again. She is a true canine whisperer. Thank you Four Legged Scholars and thank you Johanna!Wendy N. ~ Oregon
Christina Richards
Christina Richards
18:13 10 Feb 23
Johanna at Four Legged Scholars is great. She tailored my program to fit my needs and was easy to work with. My puppy responded very well to what she taught us together over Zoom. She's patient and understanding. We're still utilizing the things we learned and he's a well-behaved puppy. Thank you!
Karyl Bennion
Karyl Bennion
19:49 05 Feb 23
I adopted Frida as a companion that I could travel, walk and hike with. She loves to hike and walk but pulled on the leash and jumped at distractions. I learned how to be calm and talk in a non threatening way to her. She responds to this much better than yelling at her. The click and treat method that I learned works so well in getting her attention as well as the "target" training. Frida has improved greatly with these methods. I will continue the knowledge I have learned with her. I did the live on-line training and it was very successful. I am so happy we signed up.
Rachel Giddings
Rachel Giddings
02:57 12 Dec 22
My dog was abused in his previous home and has always been afraid of strangers. I wanted to train him and help him to be more confident, but I didn't know how to do that if he was afraid of his trainer.Doing online training with Joanna was perfect for both of us! Joanna helped me learn how to read my dog and understand his triggers. We then worked together on BAT training, which taught him self-soothing behaviors and showed him how to confidently and safely handle difficult situations. I never thought I would have fun doing homework with my dog, but he and I benefited from it tremendously. Working with Joanna via Zoom was perfect for my dog and me.
Shawn McMillen
Shawn McMillen
02:09 24 Oct 22
My 2 year old doodle was struggling with people walking by the house, barking incessantly, tugging on walks, improving recall when off leash and , for me, how to be a better more engaging human for my buddy. The personalized, online sessions exceeded all my expectations. The review of video homework sessions was awesome. We saw improvement in each of the priority areas and I developed real, tangible, lasting skills/tools to be a better pet person. Thanks Johanna!
Courtney Daniels
Courtney Daniels
19:59 12 Sep 22
12 years ago I got a puppy and quickly realized I was in over my head. I wanted to have a good, well trained dog, but I was overwhelmed by methods and my puppies behavior.I joined the four legged scholars puppy training with my little 4 month old puppy Bowie, and saw immediate understanding with the clicker work. It gave us this incredibly ability to communicate and she excelled.We went on to take several courses that established general obedience, helped me turn a STRONG leash puller into a loose leash master (I took that course twice because it was a huge issue for us and I NEEDED help and reassurance from Johanna that I could do it) as well as skill class, that helped solidify a beautiful relationship between us. Learning clicker shaping allowed me to confidently teach complex and unique commands on my own as well, like waving hello and closing kitchen cabinets.My Bowie has climbed to the top of mountains for me staying right by my side never pulling on her leash. I've targeted her off trails to protect her from startling a mama moose and her baby. She's loved on my kids without jumping on them and knocking them over. She's allowed the neighbor girl who has always had a fear of dogs to walk her without pulling at whatever pace she was comfortable with. She shows off with all her fun little tricks Johanna gave me the tools to train my dog into an amazing companion.I feel so lucky to have found your training program and to have the relationship I do with my Bowie girl. These courses have a profound and lasting impact on the lives of families and their pups, thank you for that gift.
Megan Pond-Maxwell
Megan Pond-Maxwell
16:02 18 May 22
I am so grateful to have found Johanna. She was with us every step of the way as we tackled separation anxiety training and reactivity training with Daisy, my Mini Australian Shepherd. As a first time dog owner, I felt at a loss about how to manage my very vocal, scared, stressed, yet loveable dog. She had all of the typical puppy behavior, such as jumping, nipping/biting, leash pulling, as well as barking. On top of that, she was also not able to be alone without feeling terrified, as well as vocally and behaviorally reactive to other dogs, adults, and kids. I felt completely overwhelmed and Johanna created programs that felt manageable and doable. Each training session, I felt understood and empowered working with Johanna. Over the course of our programs, I felt that we accomplished the steps of the training process, strengthened the dog-human relationship, and increased my own awareness of my dog's emotional cues so that I could better work with her. My dog can now be on her own feeling relaxed and playful, her problematic puppy behaviors have significantly improved, she can walk on her leash loosely, listen to commands, and she can better tolerate other adults, dogs, and children as compared to where we first started. Our online experience was very positive. I look forward to continually implementing the tools and skills we have learned along the way to move forward in a positive direction that strengthens our human-animal bond and reduces distressing behaviors and emotional stress and overwhelm. Thank you Four Legged Scholars! I highly, highly recommend working with Johanna.
Emily Harward
Emily Harward
03:36 24 Apr 22
Our rescue dog is sweet and playful with us, but her behavior around other dogs and people could be unpredictable. She would act aggressively around adults (lunging and barking), and would sometimes be aggressive toward other dogs. We chose to do online training with Johanna. I was skeptical that online training would work, but it ended up being very effective. Johanna taught me the skills I needed to train my dog, and provided resources that I could use throughout the week as I worked on the assigned tasks. I was also able to send her videos of me working with my dog, so she could provide feedback and help me improve. Johanna personalized the program and made changes as needed to ensure that I could meet my goals. Since working with Four Legged Scholars, neighbors have commented on how much better behaved my dog is, and I don't have to worry about her lunging and barking at people or other dogs when we are out for a walk anymore. We still have a lot of work to do with our dog, and I feel like doing the personalized online sessions with Johanna has given me the knowledge, and resources to continue training my dog.
Angel Lanoy
Angel Lanoy
15:22 16 Jun 21
We have a large family, including three big dogs. So when our biggest dog Obi, the Rottweiler, started showing aggression we panicked. The vet suggested we put him down after an experience in the office. He then said we could also try training and gave us Johanna's business card. Just a phone call with her made us feel like there was hope. We signed up to do the online sessions with FourLeggedScholars. The process from the first contact to the last was well oiled and very helpful. Obi gets to stay with our family now and we feel like meting with her has given us the guidance and knowledge we need to keep our family, friends and him safe. I was a tad worried about doing the training online, but it really worked out great and we were able to fit such a big task into our busy schedules. I feel like she set us up for success from the very beginning. Thank you.
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