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Question
Hello expert,
I just adopted a year old Shetland Sheepdog from a friend. She told me that he will bark at anyone (except the owners) who holds anything in their hands. I am guessing we haven't spent enough time with him yet for him to be totally comfortable with us, so when I was holding a small envelope he got all defensive and barked at me.
I do want to correct this behaviour so he doesn't bark at anyone even if he stops barking at me; would anyone be able to give me some advice on this?
Thank you for your time!
Jennifer

Answer
Hi Jennifer,

You didn't say how long ago you adopted your dog. It can take a month or so before the dog feels a part of it's newly adopted home.

Your dog has come to you with an ingrained habit. You have to be very consistent in your response and how you offer "corrections". Be sure you're not inadvertently reinforcing his bad behavior. Do not offer praise, treats, eye contact or attention when your dog barks. Do not respond to your dog's barking by talking or yelling. Dogs learn through praise or reward. When your dog does something you want to encourage do just that! When he becomes quiet (even if it's just 5 seconds), give him praise and a treat. Continue to do this every time he barks.

Does your dog know any commands? Use a command that requires him to do something when he starts to bark. For example, you might ask your dog to "sit" or "down" the moment he starts to bark. Offer praise or a reward when he responds. Teach your dog the "Quiet" command:
http://www.dogtrainingbasics.com/BARKING.htm

Since you only recently got your dog, it probably wouldn't hurt to enforce your position as "pack leader". If you lead your dog will follow, but right now it's not working that way. "Nothing In Life Is Free" is a really simple training regimen you can begin. Read about it here:
http://k9deb.com/nilif.htm

Barking is often the result of pent-up energy. Be sure your dog is receiving the proper amount of exercise he needs: an hour and a half a day total every day and play time too. Enrolling in an obedience class would be a good idea, along with learning to obey your commands, obedience counts as mental stimulation, which is important for the Shetland Sheepdog breed.

If reading about possible fixes aren't helping, it's then time to consult with a dog behaviorist. Hands on help by a trained professional who can actually observe your dog (and you) is most effective when nothing else seems to work, and to fix an existing problem as quickly as possible. If your vet or a local boarding kennel can't recommend a dog behaviorist, you might locate one here:

http://iaabc.org/consultants

http://www.apdt.com/petowners/ts/default.aspx

http://www.animalbehaviorcollege.com/dog_trainer_search.asp


Best of luck,
Patti  

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Patti

Expertise

To date, I've owned 7 dogs, all of which have lived into old age. Having cared for them in all stages of life, I feel I can offer sound advice to other pet owners, and people considering getting a dog. I am knowledgeable about the AKC (American Kennel Club) dog breeds, training and exercise, caring for sick and elderly pets, feeding, as well as many holistic treatments pets can benefit from. My only request is that you write me using standard English and punctuation.

Experience

My life experience in this field is more like "on the job training" rather than an actual degree in animal welfare. You may benefit from my experiences over the past 30 years. Aside from the dogs I've owned, I'm also involved in "breed rescue" and have fostered several dogs, all of which have been adopted to wonderful "forever homes". I find helping people who want a dog very rewarding.

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Real life experience, based on over 30 years of dog ownership.

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