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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-22-2013, 03:16 AM Thread Starter
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First barking "incident"

Okay, so Mucho has been very quiet so far. He's now 12 weeks old and the only sounds he made was minor growling/throating when he was rough playing with his toys, a single bark or two for unknown things in familiar places (really funny, an upside down shoe, the reflection of a garbage bag behind a glass door etc).

This morning he did his ritual walk-around-the-balcony-checking-out-the-neighborhood (we live on the 4th floor so he really likes to check things out from above!).

He then started barking repeatedly, loudly to something I couldn't quite understand. There was another dog in a balcony across the street that was barking (unfortunately a lot of dogs in Greece spend their lives confined to a balcony because of irresponsible owners. Better than becoming strays I guess).

I remembered reading that you are supposed to acknowledge their barking by going to see what they alert you about, and that should calm them down. However Mucho just kept on barking, even when he went back inside and we closed the door. We didn't try to talk to him or pet him to calm him down (to the best of our effort).

The whole incident lasted less than a minute, but it was a bit of a shock as it's the first time he's done something like this. One thing I loved reading about the breed is that they aren't yappy.

Is this expected? Should I have done something different?
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-22-2013, 05:23 AM
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I don't think it qualifies as yappy that he's trying out his chops and responding to other dog barks. If it becomes a persistent problem then I would worry.

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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-22-2013, 07:02 AM Thread Starter
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Just now he barked really loudly to another bag hanging from a kitchen countertop.

I agree it's not yappy or an issue yet - I'd just like to know how to address this. He obviously is trying to communicate something, but I just don't know what or how to respond.
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-22-2013, 07:15 AM
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My pup started doing that around 5 months old. We put her in her crate for a short time out when it happens then let her out when she calms down. We're also desensitizing to the noises that set her off the most by clicking and treating when he hears them without getting worked up. We especially play the "knocking game" pretty often. Knock on something, then click and treat if no barking response. And doing shaping games when she barks at objects. Two months later, she is already getting better.


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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-22-2013, 07:21 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the suggestions - rewarding for behaving correctly is very good, I'm doing this verbally whenever I see Mucho trying to nibble something "forbidden" (a duvet cover, the corner of a wooden stool) and deciding not to.

What are the shaping games? I've seen a lot of references to shaping here but I haven't understood what it means though. Is it clicker training?
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-22-2013, 08:08 AM
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Originally Posted by orestis View Post
What are the shaping games? I've seen a lot of references to shaping here but I haven't understood what it means though. Is it clicker training?
It involves a clicker. First you have to "load" the clicker; i.e., teach the dog that the clicker means he did something right. You can do this by clicking and giving a treat over and over. Click treat, click treat, etc. The dog will quickly learn that a click means good and you won't always have to follow up with an edible snack. It's also helpful to use the word "yes" when clicking so you can use the verbal marker at times when you either don't have access to the clicker or it's too hard to hold because of the particular behavior you're working on. The clicker is way more accurate than our verbal cues can ever be, but it's helpful to have both options.

The idea of a shaping is to get the dog to explore an object or offer behaviors. When it does something close to what you want, you click. Then click again when it gets a little closer/more accurate. You can find more detailed explanations online. When the dog is used to this, you can pull out the clicker any time and it knows "oh boy, I'm going to try new stuff and see if I can figure out what mom wants me to do because it's super fun and I will get treats."

Zelda often gets really annoyed if we put an object on the floor that doesn't belong there. She's a neat freak. Like if we have a guest who leaves a suitcase in the hall or shoes on the stairs, she will get barky. But if we pull out the clicker, suddenly the object is a good thing and she will investigate and try to figure out how we want her to respond to it in exchange for clicks and some treats.


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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-22-2013, 08:45 AM
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All dogs vocalize. It's a species thing, not a breed thing. So it is perfectly normal for a dog to use his voice to communicate. The difference between "yappy" and communicating is two fold. The dogs accused of being "yappy", often have high pitched, annoying voices. (not really their fault! ) We are lucky there, because, for their size, Havanese tend to have fairly low-pitched barks, like a bigger dog. (though your little puppy is probably still pretty high pitched, just because he's a puppy!) The other reason for calling a dog yappy is because he uses his voice inappropriately, often barking without apparent reason, and not willing to stop. Some breeds are more prone to this than others, and some individuals are more prone than others. As a breed, Havanese are not big barkers, (in comparison to other small dog breeds) but there ARE individuals who bark more than others.

One thing that can be VERY useful, and your little guy is JUST the right age to start this, before he develops bad habits, is to teach him to "speak" (bark) on cue. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is often easiest to teach behaviors in pairs, so you have an on/off switch. So once he understands to "speak" on cue, you also start alternating with "quiet" on cue. Then you have a built-in "off" switch!

As far as him barking at the other barking dog, this is something that will be very hard to teach him not to do. Two confined dogs are hurling insults at each other. Your best bet is to bring him inside, where at least he can't see the other dog, and then distract him with a training session, to take his mind off the other dog, and tire his brain out. That way you can be rewarding him for something positive, (paying attention to you and doing what you ask) while preventing the unwanted behavior. It is MUCH easier to teach them to DO something than to "not" do something!

It sounds like the other barking he is doing is largely "alarm" barking, where he is barking at something that is (to him) novel in his environment. In those cases, try to calm him down by getting him to approach the item. (don't force him, but offer treats for getting closer) Once he has checked it out, he will probably stop barking on his own. This same idea works with people at the door. I have NO problem with my dog alarm barking at someone at the door, but I want him to stop once I have answered the door and greeted the person as an "OK" person. So when he was a puppy, I always had cookies in my pocket. When I answered the door, I would give a few cookies to the visitor, and ask them if they would help me train my puppy, by squatting down (you don't want them looming over the puppy, because THAT can be scary!) and giving him a couple of cookies. Before long, he realized that when I said "Thank you, Kodi, I've got it!" that this was a "friend". He now settles immediately for a known person, and very quickly if I acknowledge the person as "OK".

Finally, it is pretty common for puppies that are VERY quiet when you first get them to suddenly "find their voice", and be rather noisy for a while. It is a normal part of growing up. It is how you handle it that will determine what happens later. Help him learn to use his voice appropriately, to warn you of perceived danger and tell you when the water bowl needs filling. Teach him that it's NOT such a good idea to be swearing at the neighbor dog!


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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-22-2013, 10:09 AM
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This goes a long the same line of what I was mentioning on your other thread. Sometimes it is a lot easier to reinforce normal positive behaviors that you take for granted then ignore the unwanted behavior. So if he is quiet when in a situation where he could bark but doesn't reinforce that.

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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-22-2013, 10:24 AM
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Great advice thus far. I just wanted to add that Timmy was a very quiet puppy but did start to bark when he was about 5-6 months. His barking was what I referred to as "bossy" barking when I wouldn't or couldn't give him attention, but that's a whole different thing. He is also an alarm barker, which is okay since he will quiet down once I say okay. One thing I did teach him was "speak" and I must say it helped since he also knows quiet which is both a verbal and hand cue so I would recommend that plus its fun to teach.

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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-22-2013, 11:09 AM Thread Starter
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I've read about teaching "speak" - but I'm a bit confused as usually it's suggested to use the doorbell as the trigger to bark, but Mucho doesn't react to that at all. Should I just say the command whenever he does bark at something?
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