How To Stop Your Dog From Barking Out Windows

It is not uncommon for people who share homes with a dog to complain about their furry friend bursting into a barking frenzy as a response to seeing or hearing something outside the window. Understandably the noise can be really annoying to human ears, especially when it comes at inopportune times.

There are so many reasons why dogs react to stimulus by barking, panting, running side to side, and have accelerated heart beats. It could be territorial or fear or barrier frustration, or for herding dogs, it could even be due to your dog’s instincts to herd.

If this happens on a regular basis, you may want to take steps to modify your dog’s behavioral reaction.

Here are a few suggestions. Please note that behavior is always the study of one, with differing environments, stimulus and animals. These are some general considerations to think about.

Let’s look at this behavior modification plan from the standpoint of the Humane Hierarchy, a ranking of training methodologies going from least intrusive for the learner to most intrusive. For more on this, please see my post.

Antecedent Arrangement

If you have ruled out a medical or nutritional variable, then let’s begin with antecedent arrangement. What can be done to manage the environment so that a) your pet will not have access to practice that unwanted set of behaviors and b) your pet will have less motivation to do the unwanted set of behaviors.

Remember, practice strengthens behaviors and if your pet has access to seeing and hearing those outside stimulus when you can not be in teaching mode, you will be setting your pet up to keep practicing and getting reinforcement from those behaviors.

If your dog is barking at what he sees out the window, then consider blocking access to that window. Drawing the curtains may not be the solution as curtains can be moved by a pushy nose. Some suggestions are preventing access to the window or applying a cling film (that can be easily removed) to the window (purchased at a home supply store).

If your dog reacts strongly to outdoor noises, playing white noise or a radio may help.

As a motivating operation, if you increase your dog’s mental and physical exercise, you will be making resting more valuable to your dog. Think in terms of exercising your dog’s mind and body through training, thinking toys and games.

Positive Reinforcement

In a controlled setting, when you are fully focused and in training mode, you can teach your dog behaviors you would like to see in him when he sees something outside.

A friend of mine saw trouble ahead when her neighbor began letting two dogs out to run and bark on the other dog training tips: how to stop your dog from barking out the windowside of the fence. Karen first saw Baxter, who is a certified therapy dog, running back and forth and she anticipating the barking that would come next. In that moment, she averted his attention quickly and then started putting together a plan. With high value treats, she began teaching Baxter that the cue ‘doggie doggie’ was for alerting (turning his head to look at them) to the other dogs, and then running to Karen for something awesome. She began teaching this inside, behind a window where Baxter could succeed before moving to outside.

What Karen was doing was very similar to Leslie McDevitt’s Look At That Game beautifully detailed in one of my favorite books, Control Unleashed. In a very simplified description, Look at That teaches your dog that *when* he looks at a stimulus, *then* something awesome happens like a pretty tasty treat getting delivered by a well liked human. As your dog’s teacher, playing this means being in a location and at a time when your dog will not be over threshold (in other words BEFORE the lunging, barking behavior begins). Begin by teaching your dog to look at something more neutral. As soon as your dog notices the stimulus, then you mark that behavior such as with a verbal Yes! or a click, and then follow it with a high value treat. As you have continued success, you can first move this game to a more distracting environment, and then a more distracting stimulus. (Leslie recommends teaching this with a cue.)

Very important here is the timing and consistency with which you teach this. Before going any further, I encourage you to read my post on classical conditioning.

As for timing, remember, for your dog to learn that one stimulus (in Karen’s case, the barking dogs next door) predicts another stimulus (tasty food), then the dogs barking must come before the tasty food.  Marking the very moment your dog sees the stimulus is very important as the quicker that consequence occurs after a behavior, the easier it is for an animal to build the association between behavior and consequence.

The management portion of this plan is important because if you allow your dog to practice reacting to his environment outside of your limited training time, you will make behavior change very difficult.

As for Karen, with enough practice, instead of barking back to the dogs next door, when he hears them outside, he runs to find his housemate.

In your house, you can practice classical conditioning without the cue as well.  In a controlled learning environment and without the cue, practice having your dog see stimulus such as people walking to your door or riding a bike down the sidewalk and immediately follow that with giving your dog a super tasty treat. (beginning this at a distance from the window or with people at a distance from your house where your dog will not begin barking and progressing only at the pace at which your pet can succeed at remaining calm – having relaxed body muscles and normal heartrate). The changes you are seeking are internal, involuntary responses. As trainer Kathy Sdao says, the emotional response to the second stimulus infects the emotional response to the first stimulus. You can do this exact same process only with sounds instead of visual stimulus.

To see a fun example of the effectiveness of classical conditioning, please watch this video.

On a last note, remember, if your dog jumps and barks at the sound of your doorbell, chances are pretty likely he has learned that jumping and barking at the doorbell causes the door to open and either – incredible people or scary creatures to walk in. That is another lesson for another day.

 

Dog Research: Do Dogs Want To Work For Their Food?

Have you ever had an Aha Moment? Also known as a Eureka Moment, it is that incredible feeling you get from deep inside when a life event gives you clarity, or when suddenly you understand a previously incomprehensible problem or concept. To everyone who has Researchers in Sweden recently investigated which a dog prefers – an easy paycheck or one that requires him to problem solve to achieve. Guess what they learned? Yep, dogs much prefer the opportunity to control their environment and have to earn their keep.experienced it, you know how profoundly that moment can change your day…or even your life.

Now think about how you typically feed your dog his meals. More than likely, you feed your pet at least some – if not all – of his meals in a bowl on the floor. Yes, I know, you are probably thinking right about now what an Aha Moment could possibly have to do with how you feed your dog, and why that matters. Well, I’ll explain.

Researchers in Sweden recently investigated which a dog prefers – an easy paycheck or one that requires him to problem solve to achieve. Guess what they learned? Yep, dogs much prefer the opportunity to control their environment and have to earn their keep.

(“Positive affect and learning: exploring the ‘Eureka Effect’ in dogs” by Ragen McGowan et al, University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden)

About the study

The research looked at six matched pairs of beagles who were taught how to manipulate three of six pieces of equipment in a room. Their success was marked with a distinct sound and followed by a treat.

A week after their training sessions, the dogs were tested in a new environment. Each dog was an experimental dog for half the time and a control dog for the other half. The testing room included a start arena with all six pieces of equipment and a gate leading to a runway that led to the reward. After leading the experimental dog into the room, an assistant turned away offering no additional interaction. When the dog did the behavior it was previously taught to do, the gate opened which gave access to the ramp leading to the reward. With the control dogs, the gate was opened after the length of time it had taken for the experimental dog to solve the puzzle, so the dog spent the exact amount of time in the room as its pair. The only difference between the two conditions was whether or not the gate opening was contingent on the manipulation of the equipment.

Among the findingsdog behavior research from Sweden on enrichment and training

Interestingly, dogs were quick to enter the test room initially but the control dogs became increasingly reluctant. By the end of the test sessions, the control dogs even had to be coaxed from a handler to enter the area. Also dogs acting as controls were observed to chew on the operant device on several occasions, but not when acting as experimental animals. That chewing tended to occur more toward the end of the study during the last matched pair of testing after they had already served as the experimental animals three times. Researchers hypothesized this behavior may have been caused by frustration because no longer did manipulation of the equipment (a behavior that had in the past resulted in a valued positive reinforcement consequence) lead to the door opening.

Experimental dogs were more active in the start arena than control dogs despite the fact that the dogs had equal knowledge of the reward at the end of the runway and thus should have shown similar levels of anticipatory excitement. In other words, “the dogs were experiencing a learning process that they did not experience when they were acting as controls.”

Also, researchers found that experimental dogs wagged their tails more. More than that, researchers found the dogs wagged their tails more when expecting a food reward or contact with a human and less when expecting contact with another dog. (Keep in mind, these dogs were never deprived of contact with other dogs, but they did not receive treat items regularly and they received less human contact than other dog contact. All of these motivating operations may have contributed to where the dogs had the greatest value.)

Their scientific conclusion

“The experimental animals in our study were excited not only by the expectation of a reward, but also about realizing that they themselves could control their access to the reward. These results support the idea that opportunities to solve problems, make decisions, and exercise cognitive skills are important to an animal’s emotional experiences and ultimately, its welfare.”

What is the take home lesson for you?

When we bring animals into our homes, we need to remember that enrichment is such an important piece of setting ourselves, our pets, and our relationship up for success. Providing our pets with opportunities to problem solve, exercise their minds and bodies, and use their senses allows them to expend energy they need to use in positive ways and also adds to their quality of life.

And, I don’t know about you, but I happen to love seeing our Sam’s tail wag.

Always remember…be creative AND have fun!

I’d love to hear from you your ideas of how you engage your pet in active learning.

 

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