Clean Run - August 2012 - (Page 23)

© DIANE LEWIS PHOTOGRAPHY Solutions and Answers – The Bark Stops Here By Leslie McDevitt MLA, CPDT, CDBC, photos by Lynne Brubaker ® My dog barks at me before a run as we are setting up, to the point that people roll their eyes. I get embarrassed, and my dog does not start the course with a clear head because he’s so wound up. He also barks at me when I’m trying to teach him something new, or when I’m asking him to do something that he doesn’t want to do. It feels like he is telling me off in class. Someone suggested that I squirt him with water, but it only stopped him for a second; it didn’t actually solve the barking problem. Now I’m trying to ignore him until he stops barking and then give him a treat for being quiet, but that hasn’t really helped either. What can I do? This is a funny question for me to receive as I sit here waiting to go into labor any day now. I have read a lot about infant care and development, and one message I keep hearing about newborns is they cry when a specific need is not being met—and it’s up to the parent to figure out which need that is and how to meet it. It is a situation not unlike what I see happen with this type of dog that gets easily aroused or frustrated in a learning or performance situation, and manifests this arousal or frustration by barking. I see many working and herding breeds fall into this habit, but it can happen with any breed or mix. We can look at solving this problem with a program of: reading and meeting the dog’s needs; adjusting our training; establishing predictable rituals; and reinforcing wisely. The last three things in this list are really just different ways of saying the first thing: meeting the dog’s needs. In Control Unleashed (CU) classes, if the dog is frustrated or aroused, then we look at this as important information from the dog. We need to adjust either the environment or our training structure to help our dogs settle themselves and get in the right mind space for work. CU is a very “conversational” philosophy and training system. I don’t want my students to just tell the dog what to do and then reward or not based on the dog’s compliance. I coach my students to listen to the dog and figure August 12 | Clean Run out not only the best way to communicate what they want the dog to do, but also to receive feedback from the dog’s behavior on how effectively they are communicating and what they might change in how they present their training. Within this conversation, the style of barking described here is just more feedback from the dog about how he is feeling in the moment; not something to squash or correct, feel embarrassed about, and not a problem, either—just information. So if we want our dogs to change their behavior, we need to look at changing ours. To get ready for their turn some dogs need to warm up before going into the ring both in classes and trials. Some need to check out their space or do some active work like practicing tricks or playing tug, whereas others need quiet time like bodywork and a nice bone or Kong to chew on while watching the action from a distance. Whatever your dog’s personality, figure out the best way to help him get ready and then establish a ritual. Sometimes in my advanced CU classes, where we integrate agility into the CU exercises, the dogs that are “talkers” go through a ritual of CU foundation exercises on their way into the ring. These foundation exercises can be faded when the dog keeps his head for longer periods, and can be added back in as needed—for example, if a change in the environment makes things more challenging. 23

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Clean Run - August 2012

Clean Run - August 2012
Editorializing: On Insanity
Tip of the Month
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Agility…
Backyard Dogs
The Information Highway of Agility
Analyze This!
Footwork for Agility: Rear Crosses
Control Unleashed Solutions and Answers: The Bark Stops Here
Knowledge Equals Speed: Start-line Positioning & Lead-outs
Waiting for Your Turn in Agility Class
Agility Mind Gym: The Competition Mindset—Creating Power and Flow
Building Blocks: Weave Entries at Speed
From Hoof to Woof: What Riders Can Teach Handlers
Seesaw Training: The Bang Game and the Pre-Bang Game
But He’s Perfect at Home

Clean Run - August 2012