We helped out a Tzu owner with barking issues and we felt that the following email exchange would help many of you!
My Toby is 8 months old and about 3 weeks ago...is barking like crazy. He sits at the window and barks if people walk by...sometimes cars driving by...or sometimes at nothing. I have been telling him its ok..and good boy..and then if he quiets for more than 5 seconds...i treat him. But sometimes his barking will just go on and on.
Also he has now started to bark and try to chase cars on our walks....he also becomes aggressive when walking by homes that have dogs barking. Toby barks and growls pulling on the leash. He only stops after a few minutes of picking him up and walking away...or pulling him away with his harness. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
This is Disturbance Barking at a severe level. When you say that sometimes Toby is barking at nothing at all, he is actually barking at something unseen to you. He can hear and smell 100's of times better than we can. In fact, if a female is in heat, he will be able to smell her from about 3 miles away. Since he is barking at just about everything, in all situations and just about all of the time, more intense serious training must be done to bring this under control.
When he first barks and is told "Shhhh, good boy", this is sending a message that he is a good boy for barking (attention) or it can appear soothing (sends a message that there is indeed something wrong and therefore there is a reason to be vocal).
Then, when given a treat so soon, he also thinks that he is being rewarded for this.
For smaller issues, a treat after a 5 minute "good time" would work, but it appears that Toby needs things to be stricter so that you can help him get things under control.
We are going to suggest different training. It is VERY important that it be done at ALL times. If anyone in the household does this on and off...or skips even doing it once or twice, it will not be repetitive and consistent. We are quite sure that you must be frustrated at this behavior...And believe it or not, Toby is probably also frustrated at having to feel that he must be "on guard" at all times.
Implementing the training each and every time that he barks and not stopping until he is under control will not only help you, but will also help Toby.
This is our suggestion:
First, it is suggested to eliminated situations (where possible) that cause him to bark. If a dog is allowed to sit at a window, even for 15 minutes, they will process hundreds of sounds and smells. It appears that, to him, these are threats (strange
voices, unfamiliar smells) and calls to action (sensing other dogs, sensing birds or cats that he would like to chase, etc).
Therefore, if at all possible, we would highly suggest closing the view from the window. He needs help to stop this out of control behavior and it may be too much on him and you to train him to stop with just too many distractions. So, if you can block the window view with curtains and direct him to play with toys or do another activity, that would be helpful for this.
You see, when he sees people walking by and cars driving by...he barks. Then the people and cars continue on their way...And he thinks that his barking caused them to leave. He feels that by being vocal, it worked to keep these strangers away from him, you and the house.
We will discuss barking while walking in a moment. But right now, let's talk about what to do when Toby does this at home.
We suggest teaching him the "Quiet" command. ANY time that he barks, you will say "Quiet!" in a very firm, strong voice. Just the surprise at your voice and tone will normally get his attention and he will stop for at least a moment or so. When he looks at you after you strongly say "Quiet!", wave a treat in front of you. Show him that you HAVE a treat, but he is not getting it yet. Then, if he remains quiet for a count of TEN, (literally count one Mississippi, two Mississippi, and so on so that it is a full 10 seconds), then say "Good boy" and give him the treat.
IF he barks again within that 10 seconds, again in a loud, stern, serious voice (without yelling) order him to "Quiet!". Again wave the treat. He will soon get the idea.
It may take a few tries, but he will soon catch on that when he remains quiet for a good amount of time (enough to calm down), then he will be shown that NOT barking is a good thing and he will receive his treat.
After he has mastered this, it is time to bring the time up to 15 seconds....and once he has mastered that, it will be time to bring it to 20 seconds. After he has mastered the 20 seconds, it is time to begin patting him and praising him after the 20 seconds, and making the treats smaller..
Then, when he is accustomed to that, slowly and steadily make the treats smaller and smaller and the praise and petting the focus of the reward. After some time, he should be happy getting your loving attention as his reward for not barking.
If this is followed, there will be the day when he stops barking at everything. At that time, it is best to stop from what you are doing every now and then and praise him and pat him...Just for being a good dog and not barking. This should be done at least 5-6 times a day....Or more...As often as you can.
This training does take time as you can imagine, however if it is not done, 1 month from now Toby will still be barking at everything all of the time.... IF it IS done, 1 month from now, his barking will be under control.
Now, about barking while walking....
As you said, he is hearing and sensing other dogs. This is a deep instinct. There would be training techniques IF the dogs were actually on the sidewalk with you. Then, proper interaction could be taught. However, since these other dogs are inside homes or in the backyard of homes, there is no training that you can do with the dogs 1-on-1.
We suggest avoiding this situation as often as possible. Asking or commanding him to go against his instinct here and not "sense" the dogs is nearly impossible. It would be a great strain on both of you. Surely not everyone owns a dog... Therefore, we would suggest finding a walking route that has the least amount of distractions and dogs.
If your new route does pass by a few houses that have dogs,we would suggest that you pay attention to the route and which houses have those dogs. During the walk, we suggest that you cross the street before you reach those houses. It should become a routine, of walking and crossing, to keep him away from the other hidden dogs that are there along the way.
He may still bark, but will be farther away. If he does bark at the hidden dogs while walking, we would suggest that you ignore it. To stop and try to give a "Quiet" command, waiting for the quiet and then give a treat will not work because during the entire time, he will be exposed to the trigger and other dogs are a STRONG trigger. It will be asking too much of him... Again, because the other dogs are not right there and you do not have a chance to teach him socialization skills with them.
Therefore, we would suggest ignoring the bark and without hesitation, walking right on, briskly following proper heeling techniques. With Toby on harness and not leash, he will be right at your side, you will quickly pass the house and continue on in peace.
Regarding the cars... This is trickier. This training should be done at a separate time than your regular walks. He needs to be trained to not be sensitive to the autos that pass by.
This is done by bringing him to a street that is very quiet and has very few cars that drive by. When the rare car comes by, you will firmly continue walking. When he barks, stand firm and give the "Quiet!" command. It may be hard to resist saying, "It's okay, it's okay", but that would be in a comforting voice...And he will see that as a type of reward.... that you are speaking in a loving voice while he is barking.
Therefore, it "Quiet" must be said with seriousness and firmness (but not yelling). You can get down to his level and wave the treat as described above with the "in house" training. Even if the car is gone and his barking stops, when he is calm give him the treat. When there are no cars and he is calm, stop to give him a treat every now and then.
Your reaction to coming cars is important. Toby is very able to read your body language and pick up on cues from you. Since his barking is now out of control, you may be tensing up when you see a car approach, knowing that you dog is about to bark like crazy....Therefore, it is important to be very relaxed and to keep walking as if nothing is wrong.
Doing all of this will help him become used to cars and not see them as a threat. When he seems to be in control when walking on a street with very few cars and little traffic...Then it will be time to go up a step to roads that have a bit more traffic and do the same training.... And then, when he masters that, it will be time to go on a route that has any sort of traffic at all.
To first go on a route with tons of other dogs and tons of traffic is just too much of an overwhelming experience for your Tzu. He must begin at the beginning and have a chance to SLOWLY get used to these elements and have the chance to become accustomed to them and to be trained at a slow yet steady pace to handle them without barking or trying to chase.
Please let us know how things are going with this training! And remember, consistency, consistency, consistency!
Love, Hugs & Shih Tzu Kisses,
The AllShihTzu Team