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Canine Behavior/Commanding by barking

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Question
I have a King Charles Cavalier, Niko, who will be 9 years old in March. Niko is very lovable, passive, and typically calm. However, his internal clock sets him off every morning and late afternoon. Niko sleeps in his cage at night with the door locked. Each morning, he wakes up between 6:30 and 7:30am and barks nonstop until he is let out of his cage and someone feeds him.  We have tried letting hiim sleep out of his cage or even in the bed with us. No matter where he sleeps, he is up and barking when he is ready to eat. That is not the only time he barks for food. Every day at about 3:00-4:00pm Niko will bark because he wants dinner. Whether we are sitting on the couch or occupied in the kitchen, Niko will stare and bark until we feed him. I know his barking has become a learned behavior as it has been reinforced in the past but how do we reverse it? We need to gain control over his feeding times. He does not respond to "no", "quiet", or a gentle yet firm nudge. Please help!

Answer
No need for a 9 year old dog to be "locked in a cage" for any reason.  Stop.  This may very well have begun because of that situation but now has generalized because the dog has "learned" that barking is rewarded by food.  When he barks in his "cage", he needs to be taken outside and praised for eliminating, and then IGNORED until he has literally "given up" (in other words: if he barks, leave the room; when he has stopped barking, ask for "sit" and feed him.)

Niko has also learned to bark at a time he has no concept of but is somehow associated with movements in the home, slant of light, dinner preparations by Humans, etc. between 3 to 4PM.  Something is giving him a cue.  When he barks at this time, leave the room, become inaccessible, until he STOPS.  Then, ask for sit, feed him.

At age 9, you may (most likely will) experience from Niko response perseverance: this means, I have no idea how long this is ongoing but at his age it will be more difficult to counter condition.  ANY ATTENTION given to him while he's barking is reinforcing the barking.

If you want to quicken the rehabilitation of this problem, learn how to use a clicker. See the following video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IC367wKGi4M&feature=related

For a dog this age (any age actually), conditioning the dog to the clicker has to be done correctly AND then the clicker must be used at the EXACT MOMENT the dog has STOPPED the behavior you want to rehabilitate (which means: he is no longer "thinking" about it or no longer acting out a conditioned response).  To learn about clicker training and how to stop unwanted behaviors:

http://www.clickertraining.com/node/834
http://www.clickertraining.com/

If the dog has been properly conditioned to perceive that click=treat, then the clicker is the primary reward.  At that time, SILENCE can be "clicked/treated" casually and then the casual dismissed and moved to a situation where the dog is barking (for any reason other than specified in your question) and STOPS VOLUNTARILY, C/T (click/treat) the MOMENT Niko stops.  Repeatedly doing this (even if you have to set him up by someone knocking on the door which you don't answer) will condition Niko to the fact that NOT BARKING is rewarding.  Counter conditioning (by leaving the room or not giving him what you think he wants and leaving the room) along with "capturing" silence, should work.  I say "should" because of the dog's age and because I have no idea how long this problem behavior has been in place.

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.

Expertise

I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.

Experience

30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for ThePetChannel.com for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, K9Shrinks@egroups.com. Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Organizations
Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Publications
Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Education/Credentials
Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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