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The Listen Dog Blog

Welcome to the Listen Dog Blog!


I'll be keeping it up-to-date with regular catch-ups on what I've been up to, plenty of original articles on obedience training and behavioural best practice, plus top tips and ideas you can work on at home with your own four-legged friend!


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By listendogtraining, Apr 1 2016 02:26PM

Most of the time, urine-marking is territorial or sexual. The scent of a dog’s urine contains a lot of information for the next passing dog to pick up, including the reproductive condition of the female and the health or ranking status of the male – leaving their ‘mark’ in a new place, by urinating, is one dog’s way of telling any other dogs in the area of their presence, and sexual position. A female, for example may urinate more frequently when in season, to indicate her receptivity to any males in the area.

Another reason for urine-marking in a new area, however, could in fact be anxiety –a brand new environment filled with completely foreign sights, sounds and scents can seem overwhelming to a dog, so one coping strategy used by dogs is to mark the new place with their own urine, in order to surround themselves with a familiar scent – in other words, they are trying to make themselves feel ‘a little more at home’ by making the alien environment feel familiar.

Bruce Fogle uses the example of the veterinary surgery waiting room – in which otherwise housetrained dogs can suddenly cock their leg against a chair – to further support the idea that it is a response to an anxiety-inducing environment.

So if you are experiencing problems with unexplained house-soiling that you can’t seem to eradicate, try considering whether there is anything that could be causing anxiety for your dog in the locations he is urinating, or perhaps take note of the time of day or night when he is house-soiling, and try and establish whether there is any pattern to his behaviour, that may give you a clue as to whether anxiety is at work.

Remember, NEVER punish your dog for house-soiling – it will only serve to increase his anxiety, and encourage him to find hidden corners of the home to do it in. It will also only serve to make positive toilet training harder, because your dog will be less inclined to toilet in front of you (which you want him to do when in the garden, so you can lavish him with praise!) for fear of your associated response.

Don’t forget that there are many underlying medical issues that could cause your dog’s bladder control to falter too, so it’s definitely worth getting any of these ruled out by your vet first, before you approach a behavioural course of action.

By listendogtraining, May 28 2015 04:16PM

Nuisance barking – we can all relate. Whether it’s your dog or the neighbour’s dog… everyone knows the angst of trying to get Fido to hush up… to absolutely no avail. Well the good news is: it is possible! First of all – figure out WHY your hound is making so much noise. What’s the trigger, (passers by/noisy traffic/the neighbourhood cat/a potential intruder) and what’s the message? Is your dog barking for your attention, or is your dog barking a warning to the perceived threat to ‘stay out or else’? (For more help on deciphering your dog’s chit-chat, check out my handy guide at the bottom of this blog.)

If your dog is trying to communicate with you, the solution can be as simple as just investigating his warning and declaring the all-clear. Territorial dogs will often bark at loud noises or passers by near the perimeter of your home – in their mind, they’re alerting you to a potential invasion! Obviously in your mind, you’re sick of the dog waking the baby every time the postman walks by the gate. So in this case, when your dog barks, simply respond – check out the postman, (thanks for the warning Fido, I’ve had a look, and I can confirm that all is well!) give a finish cue ‘enough’ or ‘job done’ or whatever you feel is appropriate, and then replace your dog’s current activity with another, so he eventually links this verbal cue with the idea of leaving his guard post, and relaxing. For example, you could say ‘enough’ then ‘bed’ and send him to his bed. Once he sits quietly in his bed, you can praise him. If you are firm and consistent with this reaction, your dog should eventually respond simply to ‘enough’ by standing down and letting the postman finish his round hassle-free.

Just remember that with any kind of training, repetition is your friend. Don’t do this a couple of times and then get cross when your dog still howls at the postie on the third day. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Stay consistent with your reactions, and your dog will LEARN. I promise.

Of course, you can always teach a direct cue for silence, which you can use in any situation, if you practise and proof it consistently enough. Positive reinforcement is the BEST way to teach any command, so simply praise your dog for doing the right thing. The use of a clicker is ideal here, as you can accurately ’mark’ the behaviour you are praising.

If you have never used a clicker before, get your dog to form a positive association with it, by simply clicking and treating a few times. Your dog soon learns that ‘click’ means ‘well done!’

Then when your dog barks, immediately give a cue for silence, such as ‘hush’ or ‘quiet’. Say it forcefully but don’t shout – shouting can just sound like more barking to your dog, and whip him into a frenzy. Once he stops – even if only for a second, click and treat. He may well resume barking afterwards, but that’s ok. Simply give the command again. Do not click and treat until you achieve one or two seconds of silence. It can be a slow process, but with consistency and repetition, you can gradually build up the amount of time your dog pauses silently, before you click and treat. If at any point your dog goes quiet, but then starts barking again before you’ve treated him, then go back a step, and make the pause shorter. You must set him up for success, not failure.

It’s also important to remember not to inadvertently reward behaviour that you do not want; in other words: don’t cuddle or treat a barking dog (while he’s barking!) if you don’t want a barking dog.

Don’t forget – there are myriad reasons your dog could be barking, and the underlying cause will need to be addressed if your dog is bored, frustrated, anxious, or lonely. It is also worth remembering that some breeds can be a lot more vocal than others – many herding breeds, like border collies for example, are simply noisier, because they use their bark as part of their job. It’s a hard-wired response!

Tips to Remember:

A tired dog is a good dog – don’t leave your dog under-exercised or under-stimulated… the devil makes work for idle paws. Play games, walk and train. Dogs thrive when they are being stimulated and worked… and are less likely to try and ‘find’ jobs for themselves, to alleviate their own boredom.

Be consistent – if you want to stop nuisance barking, you must react to all of it. If your dog gets hushed up on 3 occasions but then gets left to bark on the fourth, he’ll simply learn that perseverance is key, and he’ll get his way in the end!

Reward the good – when your dog shuts up, throw him a bone… but make sure, once your training is underway that you are rewarding adequately long periods of silence – if you reward too quickly, you’ll end up rewarding the barking itself.

A Translator’s Guide to Woof:

The basic alarm bark – “Something is coming, everyone prepare for action!”: Rapid midrange barking; the rate of which increases as the potential threat gets closer.

An indefinite alert – the dog senses or suspects something or someone is there, but isn’t yet sure what or who it is, or the ‘suspect’ is not yet close enough to really be considered a threat: A rapid midrange string of three or four barks, with pauses in between.

“Stop that behaviour!” Often heard from a mother addressing her puppies, or an adult dog disciplining a younger dog: A singular short, sharp, low/midrange bark.

“What’s this?!” Surprise… Curiosity… A call for the rest of the pack to come and check out this discovery!: A singular short, sharp bark of a higher pitch.

A loneliness-induced call-out for companionship… “Is anyone there?” Often heard in cases of prolonged separation: bark… pause… bark…pause. In cases of extreme stress, this can become a high pitched yelp.

“Let’s play!” Usually accompanied by excitable tail-wagging, and a play bow: An elongated, almost two-part bark… ‘arrr-ruff!’

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