The root cause of attention barking usually starts with an excited or bored dog combined with frustration and a big reward. Very often people reward this inadvertently because it’s instinctual to look towards the sound, now the dog has got your attention. Good consequences reinforce bad behaviour every time.
Determination, consistency and good timing are key to stopping this behaviour.
Plan of action;
1) Improve dogs’ emotional state. Keep him calm, no playing rough or winding him up. Improve mental stimulation through feeding him with enrichment toys and training.
Do not play endless high energy games with a ball slinger, not only is this likely to cause injuries, it could also cause CCD (Canine Compulsive Disorder) and can cause a hyper active, super fit dog that’s continuously ‘wired’.
2) Teach the dog that barking doesn’t work. What’s the motivation behind it? STOP reinforcing it.
No more looking at the dog when he barks,
No more attention when he barks,
No putting the lead on to go for a walk when he barks,
No opening the door when he barks,
No putting his dinner down when he barks.
EVERYTHING that’s been rewarding the barking must stop!
This may cause more barking before it stops (extinction burst), be strong, don’t give in! If you respond in any way (eye contact, saying No) you’ll be reinforcing it.
Desensitisation techniques and impulse control exercises will also be very helpful.
3) Introduce a marker word or clicker.
This can be the word ‘Yes’ or click with a clicker and is followed with a reward immediately after saying it or clicking every time. When the dog finally quietens down, even to take a breath, mark with the ‘Yes’ or click and reward.
A cue word like ‘Quiet’ or ‘Shush’ along with a visual cue (placing a finger over your mouth), can be eventually added when the dog is understanding what he’s being marked and rewarded for (being quiet). There’s no point saying a cue word until the dog understands what he’s being rewarded for because if you say it while he’s barking, then the word will mean carry on barking! Train the behaviour first, then add the word.