Noise Pollution

Posted on 01/20/10 50 Comments

Being that we are just wrapping up 6 days of camps in the last two weeks I need to make a comment about dogs that bark.

Yes I realize this may be a bit of the pot calling the kettle black because if you have seen any video footage of my dogs you will know that Buzz did, and Encore does love to announce their joy of life while working. It is not something I enjoy, nor something I even consciously “allowed” but clearly I need to take full responsibility of it as something I “trained” or it would not be there.

With Buzz I made the decision early on I would allow barking only while working and never in between nor could it be “at” me.  I also never rewarded behaviours while shaping if he barked. Sadly what that criteria lead me to was he was the first dog I owned that did very few tricks. It was just too hard to live up to my own rule so I did little shaping of tricks with him!

With Encore I thought I had the problem licked. Being that she is related to Buzz the drive to bark was certainly strong, however I worked hard to make sure she did not bark at all on course as a youngster. I just didn’t allow it right from the start . . .  or so I thought. I did, however allow her loud excited squeal while weaving. That turned into barking pretty well anywhere.

So I have made my mistakes, but never have I allowed barking prior to work, or while I worked another dog.  In my opinion there is barking while still being compliant and working, and then there is just being a jackass.  While you are trying to talk to an instructor and your dog is just barking for no apparent reason, that is not necessary and trust me it can make you unwelcome very fast. I am not being prejudice I know from experience how people equate barking dogs with rude owners.

So what about you? Do you have a time when it is okay for the dog to bark and others when it isn’t? What do you do to stop it?Personally I think the easiest thing to do is to put a muffler on it. When not working the dog give him a toy to hold in his mouth, just know that you are not training, you are just managing (which is okay with me). But let me hear all of your ideas, maybe you could help save someone the embarrassment of being at a workshop with a dog that others get annoyed by while trying to listen to an instructor.

Today I am grateful for quiet dogs. Feature is the first Border Collie I have ever owned that keeps the yapper closed while on course (however she does have opinions at other times). I really do view the silence as a huge blessing, because as a trainer,  history would point a finger at me to let the world know I am not any sort of an expert on how to stop a dog that wants to bark while working.


  1. Jenn says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 9:53pm

    I have to express my gratitude for all the folks that tolerated, more or less graciously, the classes Bailey and I attended while I worked on his bark.

    A rescue, Bailey started out barking constantly whenever he was out of the house. We were ‘those people’ at the PetSmart obedience class.

    And I was ‘that owner’ with ‘that dog’ during our first agility class — years later, when he was finally starting to mellow a bit.

    After three years of agility training we have started to compete, and his barking issues have been reduced to being in his crate, and it is occasional rather than constant. We are still a work in progress, obviously.

    But we would NEVER have found the sport attractive had folks in our class and teaching us not been able to see past his crazy worked up terrier issues.

    So the next time a dog is barking crazy, think kindly. Maybe he is on a path to a better self.


  2. Maggie says:
    Wednesday, July 7, 2010 at 3:34pm

    This is a fabulous thread and I’ve hopefully gotten a few ways to address my barking RED cavalier king charles spaniel. He’s a relatively soft dog, but VERY barky.. everywhere.

    It started initially with just on agility courses. I had an instructor watching me struggle with him and she told me I had two choices “deal with his barking or quite doing agility with him”. Finnigan barks for pure joy and agility was joyful for him.

    It turned in to though, a disaster! He barks every where. If we are going somewhere in the car, and arrive there, his barking is maniac style out of control. It’s extremely embarrassing. He barks at the practice jump. So much so, that if its close to the ring I won’t jump him to warm him up. I’d love to hear more suggestions about ways to deal with this!


  3. Gioca alla Roulette says:
    Friday, June 18, 2010 at 7:35am

    I absolutely hate it when I pay good money to go to a seminar and then cannot hear the speaker because someones dog is whining or barking, or because the handler is constantly fussing with them.


  4. Gemma says:
    Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 7:21pm

    Hey Susan, I don’t know if you will still pick this up or have time to reply but thought it was worth a try 🙂 I attended your seminars in the UK with my merle that was in the ‘reject’ jumpers group!

    My new eight month puppy is attending a foundation class and there is a BC that barks like crazy and lunges the whole time. It as also ran at and nipped at my pup twice now (the handler now keeps him on lead). When I am trying to work my puppy, I can’t hear myself and I can see my puppy is worried, he becomes stressed by the antisocial behaviour and that overides so much of my training, he still tugs great but has difficulty holding a wait when I leave him (perfect if I stay close and just throw toy/ play 123 or tease him with food/ toys).

    Ok so I know I eed to keep working on various habitats as I know dogs can lunge at trials but I guess what I want to know is can fear overide even great training?

    I don’t feel that I can say much to the owner as I don’t want to be ‘bubble wrap Mom’ even though I was so upset when the dog came to nip my baby. I feel like if I left the group I would just be avoiding my puppies issues.

    Thanks 🙂


  5. Melissa says:
    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 3:00pm

    I had to smile when I read the suggestion of a soft toy as a muffler. My dog doesn’t bark much, but he does “talk” continuously while playing with his soft toys. It isn’t nearly as loud as a bark but he is definitely making noises.


  6. Caroline McKinney says:
    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 2:29pm

    I have always found it interesting that some dogs will stop barking in a crate if the crate is covered. It does not work with my pwd. On the other hand I, have recently realized that he is much quieter if he can lie on a mat closer to the action (me working my other dog). Of course that is probably because, in addition to giving him the job of staying on his mat, when he is closer I can reward more frequently for quiet behavior. I love reading this thread and trying to glean helpful tips for a dog that easily gets frustrated and barks AT me.


  7. Soraya says:
    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 1:22pm

    I took on an 18 month old Jack Russell (from working lines). She came from a home that had a lot of dogs – all collies bar her, and she really picked up their noisy habits. I’ve managed to tone down the barking in the car to intermittant under the breath muttering that I don’t really notice. However, given that she never really got individual training time with her previous owner, any kind of training especially agility is really exciting for her.Being a terrier with strong working instincts as well, anything that exciting has to be shouted to the world. I can distract her with toys and food on the line, getting her to do little bits and pieces while we wait, but put her on the start line and the mouth goes into overdrive. This doesn’t cause her to break her wait, and generally she works fine while barking – except for the weaves where she hasn’t learnt to multi task that well, so we miss the weave entry because we’re too busy shouting! If I stop, turn my back on her and ignore her she shuts up – but obviously this is not really an option in the longer term. Its early days yet, I’ve only had her 6 months and she’s had a spay op as well during that time so we’re in the early days of training. However, if anyone has any tips on how to silence and extremely driven, highly motivated and self opinionated workie terrier I’d be eternally grateful


  8. Kari says:
    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 12:10am

    What a great topic, but also one of great frustration. I am one of the owners with a very vocal dog. I have found myself in tears many, many times because I have a reactive dog who loses his mind often in class as other dogs are running the course. I have tried so many things to get it to stop. I work constantly with him. I have tried everything from Leslie McDevitt’s Control Unleashed, I remove him from the training area, or work constantly with him on default positions and focus (I often miss most of the class myself just trying to keep him under threshold). I work very hard to stop the barking and never crate him ringside. I am constantly engaging with my dog to try to keep him focused on me. But I realize that I will likely always have to work hard to manage it.

    I have had rude people give me dirty looks and make horrible comments to me because of my dog’s barking, despite all of my efforts to work with him and have even had own person walk up and grab my dog and give him a severe correction (which only made things worse).

    He is the sweetest, most social dog I have ever seen, but is extremely motion reactive and very vocal (he does not bark on course, though, unless I screw up).This is the first dog I have tried to train for agility. We have so much fun training, but it is so hard when people treat us poorly because of his barking. Be patient with us and other owners who are struggling with the same thing. We would love to figure out how to get them to stop, but there is no quick fix. It is getting better with him, but is a lot of very hard work. I would really love to hear practical solutions that have worked for people.


  9. Gvmama says:
    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 6:39pm

    I don’t think it is something YOU trained. I have 3 BCs. The middle one is noisy…yap yap yap….always about fun stuff like agility, tricks, shaping new behaviors. She has never said a peep on sheep. She is an open sheepdog.
    The other two say nothing while doing agility other than a growl of enthusiam through the weaves or on a hard turn :0) Some dogs just like to express themselves vocally!


  10. Andrea says:
    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 4:47pm

    Just had a thought! I wonder if red dogs are more prone to barking? We know that red dogs have more spunk, but we find our only red is barky in her crate when other dogs play and barks in training. I wonder…


  11. Louise says:
    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 11:03am

    You don’t know how pleased I am to read that your dogs bark as well! My border collie is almost two years old, she is a very high drive dog, not so over the top that she doesn’t listen but the barking drives me nuts! She doesn’t bark at me and she doesn’t bark while in the line or when training short sequences but the minute we run a course after the second or third jump the barking starts, its especially bad whist weaving and on the see-saw. I suppose what stresses me more is that people frown upon barking dogs and I have comments along the lines of how can she perform to her absolute potential when she is shouting her head off etc. I did try putting her in the down every time she starts but I found that just slowed her down, made her worry and made her take the course very tentatively and slowly rather than attacking it as she normally would. I had a private lesson with Dawn Weaver (a top handler her in the UK if people don’t know her). Dawn is very honest, very fair and kind to her dogs and I just adore her training skills. Dawn’s suggestion was to ignore the barking as she is still listening to me. I have now made the decision to ignore the barking, I would rather have a noisy fast round with her enjoying herself than a slow quiet round with her worrying about every step, after all she is barking her head off as she is loving what she is doing!


  12. joyce says:
    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 9:00am

    jackie…a big AMEN! to you sister. the incessant barking/whining drives me crazy, especially at a class, seminar etc. this is probably because i have never had a dog that does this, and i find it very rude, also inconsiderate to others who are paying good money for information and doesn’t bother me as much at a trial, except for the one time we were “in the hole” behind an aussie that would just not shut up. my dog shut down because of was just overwhelming to him. he is a soft dog and having a dog that was so close and barking her head off was more than he could handle. would not even take food or a toy after that. so i think that is something for owners of noisy dogs to consider. some of us have the polar opposite problem, and the frantic out of control barking will sometimes do our dogs in before they even get into the ring. i’ve never owned a bc, but it seems to me that this does become an OC behavior. i used to think it might be desirable to have your dog bark on course,but after reading rebecca’s comments, i can see how it can actually work against you.
    i train with someone who has a wonderful working bc. who i have NEVER heard bark on course. when i asked her how she trained her to be quiet, she said the VERY FIRST time she barked while training, she removed her from the room where they were practicing. second time, same consequence. said she never had to do it a third time.


  13. Mary M says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 9:40pm

    Love the discussion….and seems everyone else does too  Not sure if I have much to add hear but there is much for me to think about, and ask for feedback on!

    The two dogs I currently run with in completion do not bark on course, nor are they typically barkers……however I now have a puppy I am beginning with foundation work, shaping behaviors with, etc, etc…..AND she loves to bark when she is excited. However what I see from her is that her threshold is much lower then my other two….she isn’t just “excited” when she barks it actually seems to be more “anxiety”….which I do not want to promote by any means. Of course, I am looking for a confident girl in her work with me. This has been her temperament from day one, always a bit unsure of herself and we have worked through this and continue too.

    So when it comes to her barking (usually when I first bring her out of her crate to work in class) I simply have decided to remove her from the stimulus….back in the crate, wait for a sit and then we try again…..I have worked crate games with her and find this is VERY helpful as a tool with this issue. I will ask her from some duration (impulse control) in a sit with the door open before she is released out of the crate to play/work….this so far works like a charm.

    The flip side when we are working is that I am vigilant about her level of anxiety, if she is offering me really good stuff we get to play really fun tug games, often as a release for her, etc. If I notice her getting “too high” I simply remove her again from the stimulus and take her back to her crate, repeating the above….I am really liking the results I see so far. But again this is a first for me in my training world, my other boys are more confident in their worlds, so not too much of this issue for them.

    Would love others feedback, as this is my approach because I don’t know any other way and this seems to be working and increasing her focus in her work with me.


  14. Jason says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 7:52pm

    Wow this seems to be a hot topic.

    In agility our dogs almost never bark. The rare exception is a handler mistake that confuses the dog. In freestyle Lilli barks in anticipation of play and then not again. Leila barks randomly during freestyle because she is still unsure what she is supposed to do. Kai does not bark during work/play.

    There is rarely barking during shaping. The exception is Lilli when she is backing up. Probably because when we first taught it we thought it was cute that she barked and rewarded the behavior despite the noise.

    Another mistake we/I made was when the dog was excited or crazy I would play or encourage. I didn’t know any better. Some of those first experiences are challenging to retrain.

    My state of being has a tremendous impact on my dogs. Not just my surface emotions but the underneath stuff. If I seem calm but I am feeling stressed I notice less than preferred behavior from the pack.

    All 3 dogs alarm bark. When the doorbell rings, the mailman comes to the door, and for a split second when the neighbor dog says hello.

    Kai and Leila eat grass to displace frustration/confusion.

    The sit is the best tool we use for keeping the beasts under threshold. We put them in a sit and there is no fun until they are quiet. Also helps us to get clear and focused and present.

    Leila and Lilli and Kai barked at times during Susan’s seminars. Kai was out in Linda’s trailer though. I think I would have barked too. Like “hello! It’s been 3 hours! There are 50 weird dogs here. That one keeps looking at me funny.”

    Some dogs are far more likely to bark than others. Lilli is very bossy. Leila is sweet but wild. Kai is passive. The new cattle dog is gonna be a maniac.

    Heck Andrea and I bark at each other sometimes.


  15. Myla says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 7:16pm

    Working with dogs that bark incessantly I do not allow barking of any kind at home. I have 2 borders and if they even let out one bark it makes me mad, so they are very good and neither will utter a sound even if someone has walked in the yard. As in competition, I only trial one and she barks like a lunatic on contact equipment when in her “position” if i am standing still, if i keep moving forward then no problem. When training when i ask her if she is ready when she barks in response i know she is ready to go with gusto. But it is not enough to annoy other club members. As for during a course she rarely barks unless I stuff up, she seems to keep quiet when she is concentrating. Which in the end is what i want, she can’t concentrate she barking her nutter off. As for staying quiet in her crate when at training, that’s another story…..


  16. Judy says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 6:41pm

    I have a 10 year old border collie that is a terrible barker when I’m in the ring with one of my other dogs. I have found no way to stop it. Even the best raw meaty bone in her crate will be ignored as long as I’m in the ring. I love shows in the cool weather where I can crate out of the car. I know it’s annoying, I hate it, but am helpless to stop it. Fortunately my youngest is not a barker. But he’s not highly driven either:-(


  17. Sarah says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 5:27pm

    As an instructor I find it extremely frustrating when students allow their dogs to bark during class, and they tend to do it most when I am talking. I typically solve it by teaching the humans to engage the dog in SOMETHING while I talk, usually it is a down-stay (with frequent reinforcement in the beginning to keep it a hushed stay) since the students can usually listen and enforce a down-stay at the same time. For my own dogs, I have a dog that is quiet most of the time (except in times of extreme excitement, and even then if I ask him to lie down he shuts up), and I have a younger dog that likes to express her opionions frequently. I have found that if I leave her crate door open *thank you crate games* while I work my other dog or teach she is quiet, since she is actively engaged in the choice to stay in her crate, whereas she will still whine and make general monkey sounds if I close the door (earning her a blanket over the crate, of course). Anyway, I find replacing the barking with another behavior works best for my dogs and my students–and I do allow it during agility and shaping to a point–like you said, never AT ME. Great post, and GREAT pic of Miss Coriander…


  18. Melissa Blazak says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 4:39pm

    Thanks again Linda. We have not done any trialing in anything yet. He is only just 14 months old. I will be taking him to class tonight where I will watch part of the class before me with him in the crate practicing our crate games and being quiet in the crate.

    At this point with him being barky in the crate I have not brought him to any event to crate and practice being quiet. He is my first performance dog and I thought that since we were not entered I couldn’t bring his crate due to limited crating space and that space being reserved so to speak for competitors.

    We are entered in our first obedience sanction match at the sub-novice level at the end of January. I’ve scheduled a run for the morning and the afternoon and he will be crated at that event.


  19. Jenny Yasi says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 4:06pm

    Love these interesting comments. I like the muffler idea for my dog, who DOES bark when someone is walking by the house and the ball in her mouth makes it sound funny, like “umgumf! umgumf!” But one more thought is you know how people always say “just train one dog at a time!” “just work one dog at a time!” Well that is SO true, to a point, but I guess it really has helped that I knew I needed to either reinforce the crated dog while I was in the ring, (tricky, but not impossible) or else ask someone else to feed my crated dog while doing whatever with my active dog. And in freestyle, that idea of working all three dogs at once, in really structured exercises, makes them less easily frustrated, and I can also really use “working” as a reinforcement there too, where one dog spaces out and barks at a crow, and fine, I crate that dog and work the other one. The one in the crate KNOWS that I am not going to work that dog is s/he’s barking, and if for some reason they didn’t know it, they find out if I have to put them in the house.

    I know what people mean about barking and “excitement” but think about it, when do dogs run and bark in nature? What is the more efficient hunting behavior really? What is the shape of a barking dog’s body compared to a dog who is just running. The running dog seems sleeker, in my mental image, but I don’t really have hard evidence of that, barking maybe gives dogs some sort of audible environmental information, the echos, and it also interferes with information, by obscuring other audible cues.


  20. Aliza says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 4:05pm

    I find that my dogs barking at me can be a positive in training. Moslty because they only do it if I’m not where I should be or moving fast enough.It also lets me understand if there is a whole in training somewhere.
    My male is a stress barker and has a very high pitched,girly bark. He’s really tried my patience but I always remind myself that there is a reason WHY. If I find that his barking is getting higher pitched and overwhelming for me I put him in a down and do focus/it’s yer choice exersises with him. It’s helped; it calms him and gets his mind back.

    Rebecca, I agree. Barking is a stress behavior and with that much pent up tension it’s hard to believe that there are no sideffets. I’ve been through it with my male and it did snowball into a redirection of his his frustration on me(biting). It’s been a long road but we are getting there


  21. Linda says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 3:51pm

    Hi Melissa, I felt it was important that the cover not remain down for any length of time or they learn to bark through it. So a function that you need to be actively participating in is not the best place to initiate this training. Go to a trial or class that you are not participating in so you can be spending your time and attention on training. It is MUCH more important to be catching them quiet (and in my case I add lying down as a criteria) to be able to reward that.


  22. Melissa Blazak says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 3:46pm

    Thank you Linda. That’s what was done at puppy camp. Cover up, cover down….although it mostly stayed down!

    I am hoping by doing this crating thing before classes that it will help. I had also thought of a sign. Seeing that it worked for you I will definately make one up for the top of his crate.


  23. Lisa says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 3:07pm

    I have a barking dog that is quiet outside the ring unless a sibling is running. The huge issue I have had from the beginning is that she barks like a demon while running. Part of it was caused from inexperience on my part with my first shaping dog (huge lesson learned!) and I am sure that part of it is breeding. My question is, how, while on course do you tune them out? If someone could help me out with that I would be eternally grateful!


  24. Linda says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 2:40pm

    Another comment on keeping your dog quiet in a crate in a crowded noisy place.

    I kept a sheet over Xane’s crate where only the front was open. Initially I stayed within hearing distance, as soon as he started barking I calmly walked over to the crate and dropped the sheet in front. After 2-5 minutes the front was open again, didn’t take long for him to figure out open was better than closed. I also made a point to drop cookies in the crate many times when he was quiet and laying down in his crate.

    After several weekends of trials when I had not had to drop the sheet. I placed a bowl of cookies on top of his crate and a note “IF I AM QUIET AND LYING DOWN PLEASE GIVE ME A COOKIE, IF I AM BARKING PLEASE DROP THE SHEET”. I continued this for several months. There were a few rare instances that I would return to his crate to see it covered but more often than not the cookie bowl would be empty.

    At this point I have a very large, very vocal male GSD who will lie quietly in his crate under the noisiest most hectic conditions without any issues. This includes those rude dogs who come up sniffing right at his crate door.


  25. Hannah Banks says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 2:28pm

    I’ve found this subject very interesting, because recently I have come across a number of handlers who have encouraged their dogs to manically bark and lunge when they get near agility, because a top handler/trainer here in the UK has advised them that that’s the thing to do. I have confidently been told that it makes their dogs faster. It might look that way, altough I also have noted that these now faster dogs also do not seem to be going clear. My conclusion therefore is that it is easy to confuse confident ‘happy’ drive (something we all want, produced by good highly rewarded training) with hype, over the top hysteria (something none of us want surely?). Getting the dogs barking at the sight of agility in such a hysterical manner (as these dogs most definately are) might seem like a shortcut to speed, but in reality it is not only annoying and damaging to everyone else in the queue, but also long term has many negative effects on the dogs it is supposed to be ‘improving’.
    Having said that, my first dog was (and still is) a barker while she worked (and is talkative aka noisy all the time), although I taught her a ‘quiet’ command which I still have to use very frequently! I don’t want that again! My current working dog is Feature’s sister, and like her is completely silent despite the terrible role model she lives with! Astonishing really, I know many related dogs that are noisy so maybe we have Dave and Sharon (who raised them) to thank for that! My new puppy has started playing crate games and I followed Susan’s advice in the crate covering game when he was noisy. Also all games have always stopped if he is noisy. If there is something that is distracting him (making him bark) I take him away from it until he can concentrate again, then work back in until we are back where we were, but with no barking. In this way, I hope to keep the barking managed! Any help with stopping the barking in the back of the van while I’m driving would be welcome though!


    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 8:21pm

      Hey Hannah, great to hear from you, I would love to see pics of Zazzy!


  26. Linda says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 2:25pm

    I really like the muffler, it gives somewhere for the excess drive to leak. Yes, it is a pacifier and a crutch. BUT when I’ve paid a LOT of money for a seminar then I want to hear what is being said and not deal with my LOUD barking boy. So at the end of a sequence, he has his tug, ideally I will be hanging on one end so he is being rewarded while I’m taking direction. If said direction is extended then I will put my end of the tug on the ground and he is allowed to lay down with the toy and wait until I’m done. I do not want to disconnect from the dog at the same time I want/need feedback from the instructor. At this point Xane rarely barks at other dogs running, and has never been allowed to bark at other dogs for any reason, as I too agree with Rebecca that you are playing with fire in regards to aggression to allow that to happen.

    With the addition of a new puppy, I’m sure Xane’s limits will be tested and much time spent working on tolerance that the world no longer revolves around him alone. But I am expecting that and plan on spending considerable time reinforcing what I want (quiet) versus punishing what I don’t (barking or general temper tantrum throwing). We will both be learning.


  27. Tori Self says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 2:12pm

    Never having dealt with a barking dog on course, I got nothin’. (very anxious to read everyone’s ideas though!) Just wanted to add, my older bc Chase gets pretty excited when dogs make noise on course…once we were behind you and Encore all weekend. Chases’ times were faster than they had ever been previously 😉


  28. Kathy Smith says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 1:57pm

    Interestingly enough, my dog that barks on course rarely barks at home or in practice. He started barking in his first run at a trial. My dog who barks a lot is silent on course, never says a peep! The dog who is vocal with squeals and squeaking noises is the same at home and in the ring. My newest boy barks a bit but won’t be as bad as his older Brother.
    At first it was off-putting since he is a soft dog and there is no way that I would ever correct and especially at a trial. I asked a ton of people what I should do but in the end I just decided that this is who he is. It doesn’t get in the way of anything and he barks the whole way through the weaves with very fast weaves. I know others that would never allow it. Problem is, he never barks at home so I could not stop the barking when it started and had no idea it was there until our very first run. He does well but I prefer a quiet dog as sometimes he is VERY loud but enthusiastic, LOL. I have noticed that he is less noisy when he can really open up and go fast.


  29. Christine says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 1:32pm

    Great discussion. I recently passed on an older puppy because while talking to the breeder everything sounded perfect about this pup until she said, “she is a bit of a talker”. I wondered if the pup had started being a talker how hard would it be to stop the behaviour vs. nipping it in the bud before it starts. I wondered if some pups were just born talkers and if it were something you could tell early on.


  30. Michelle says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 1:21pm

    Well I know for one that Susan doesn’t put up with barking dogs when she is running a training session. I was working one dog and the other was barking his fool head off in the crate. Well he got to rest in the van instead!! Probably better for him too. He barks himself into exhaustion at agility trials too when I run the other dog. Then when it was his turn he didnt have the oomph because he used up so much energy saying he wanted it to be his turn. I had to have babysitters watch him. Bark collars were recommended but at his age I let it go and now he is retired. My young one is not a barker but then she doesnt have the drive I would like either.

    I agree with Rebecca on what I see in breeding high drive dogs. Its not only in BC’s either. You have your high flying Goldens too, not pretty, but fast. Certainly no typical family’s pet either. I wonder if there is a surplus in rescue because of breeding for drive. Structure and temperament should be first. Do the drive breeders only sell to performance homes I wonder.

    Good discussion, hopefully we can find some answers.


  31. Melissa Blazak says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 1:20pm

    Update with a little more background info: My dog is a standard poodle….not that that makes any difference as barking may not be breed specific…but also apparently temperament and drive specific, no? We live in a single dog household. The first time he was ever crated in a room full of working people and other dogs was at puppy camp. (not that I’m using that as an excuse!)

    He rides in my SUV in a crate and is fine. He has been crated for several hours (with breaks) in the SUV and is fine with it. I am also not saying he is a barking maniac, as he does have good control and the only time he barks in classes is when we are doing restrained recalls to his toy (not the formal front recall) and he really enjoys obedience.

    The crate barking is my real pet peeve. If crating for 2 to 3 sessions of 8 week classes in this busy training hall doesn’t fix this problem then I don’t know what else to do. I would never want to subject my yappy dog to others. If he is at least quiet with a cover on the crate then I can live with that, although I will try and work up to uncovered and see where that gets us.

    I have to keep reminding myself that “Excuses Prevent Advancement” (as per Helen King), but I’m just a newbie dog trainer wannabe alternately sinking and swimming in this sea of canine information.
    Melissa and Rudy


  32. Jessica Schick says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 1:10pm

    So what methods do you use when you are micro managing the barking? I have a 14 week BC puppy and would like to reinforce the appropriate behaviours now. She is wonderfully focused and quiet when we work and in the crate. We have started crate games but aren’t at the point where she can watch other dogs work. However, if she wants something around the house and can’t get it, she barks at it. She’ll stare at the food bowl, a toy, the cat, even me and bark at it a couple times. Very pushy. To manage this, I have ignored the behavior, waited a few moments, then distracted her with something else to do. If she barks at ME in request to work/play, I immediately stop what we are doing and put her up.
    Any suggestions on how better to manage or train this?


  33. Arlett and Arie Geenen says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 12:24pm

    I really ,really hate it when I can not hear my agility teacher because other students let their dog bark while they also have to listen. When my dog is working and barking I am not clear to him so I must work on that. And I also hate it if someone let their dog bark on their leash and the owner do not hear it anymore even “famous”dog trainers here in hte Netherlands.


  34. Jenn says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 11:49am

    Rebecca: I found your post very helpful in many ways. It is very well written, and in a way that its not offensive, but full of information. I would like to add my thoughts about the ” muffler” to it though. I agree that dogs that are over the threshold of being able to think and perform clearly need to be taught to just chill out. I have seen some dogs that that do bite work and it is quite impressive. But I do not agree that NO DOGS should be allowed to have a toy to muffle. For example, my own BC usually has a toy in his mouth if he won’t shut up ring side. I have tried every method possible to keep him quiet, but it seems that this is the best way. I won’t lie, I tend to be a bit lazy and this is far easier at a trial or seminar than to micro manange his every movement. On the flip side though, he has never ONCE barked at me on course or during ANY other excersise. He’s always focused and wanting to do what I ask of him. He is a soft BC compared to most so perhaps that has something to do with it. I believe that if you can have a balanced dog in the ring, who needs a muffler to be able to watch, thats ok. Just don’t allow the dog to work himself into a state of frenzie. Its an unhealthy and unnatural state of mind for dogs.

    Also wanted to add that if I am at a trial or seminar and I KNOW my dog is a barker, I WILL micro mamange if I have to. It is my responsibility to know what my dog can and cannot handle. If he can’t sit and watch he needs to either leave or be quiet. There is no reason everyone else has to put up with the barking.


  35. Devora says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 11:33am

    Barking is something I would love to cultivate in my dog, to build drive. I know that barking can be put on command, since I’ve done it before. Once trained, then I am told by those wiser than me that one should be able to train further, and get to the point where not giving the command would keep the dog quiet. I am apparently not good enough as a trainer to have ever gotten there, though, and have often seen that not allowing the dog to bark can produce some even less desirable results. 🙂

    So we manage it, as best we can.


  36. Jackie says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 11:31am

    Rebecca … interesting comments that gave me an ‘aha!’ moment with regards to my border/jack that does competition frisbee. I’m visualizing that tight/tense running look and I can see Rowdy clear as day ….. he is over the threshold for peak performance & it is affecting his catch ration and leading him to displacement behaviour (which in his case is circling). Now the question would be … how do I stop him from going over threshold?

    With regards to border collies barking I think it often starts as a frustrative behaviour when crated/watching other dogs working. And as a border collie breeder I have noticed that certain lines are more ‘reactive’ and prone to barking than others. I think that dog sport breeding & training, has in a sense created this overcharged over-reactive dog. Many of the top flyball dogs are very “over the top” when it comes to reactivity and people encourage this crazy over threshold super charged behaviour because they equate it with being “fast”. And fast dogs are bred to fast dogs (as opposed to proper breeding where we should be looking for ‘balance’ between dam & sire) and therefore the genetic component for reactivity is being passed down the line and intesifying with each generation it would seem. I find this very intersting in the border collie breed because this is a working dog and the work it does, does not include the barking or over threshold reactivity that we see in many sport bred border collies. Can you imagine the chaos if a bc was over threshold working sheep??
    I think that in dog sports the frustrative barking, reactivity, and tendency to go over threshold is a combination of poor breeding choices in regard to ‘balance’ of temperaments between dam & sire; and/or the tendency of trainers/handlers encouraging this hyperactive nut bar behaviour because they mistakenly equate it with being “high drive”. This is especially evident in flyball dogs. Many dogs that display frustrative behaviour & over reactivity have been unwittingly created. I see it all the time.
    As for my cobblers children > I crate them ‘away’ from ringside no matter the sport. I do not let them watch other dogs working. At seminars I only bring the dog in when it is time to work …. other than that they are crated where they can relax and not become frustrated. Unfortunately once you have one nut case, the others seem to follow suit and then they feed off eachother 🙁
    I absolutely HATE it when I pay good money to go to a seminar and then cannot hear the speaker because someones dog (crated inside) is whining or barking, or because the handler is constantly fussing with them (shhh, lie down, shhh). I consider it extremely rude to have ones dog inside whining/fussing/barking during the lecture portion of seminar. And also disrespectful to the speaker to have to try to speak over that distraction.
    That’s my rant for the day 🙂


  37. Beth Bowling says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 11:23am

    I have a barking Parson Russell, you will get to meet her in a couple of weeks Susan. 🙂 But she does not just bark during agility, she barks while she is playing, (any play). Barking while she is playing is what she did from the day I brought her home, although if she is not playing she is very quiet. I did teach her a couple of tricks like to “hide her nose” under something and also to put her head on her paws since you can’t bark for either of those, but if she can’t bark then her tail wags, so I guess something has to be moving on her little body. I also do Rally with her and when we are a bit more serious she never opens her mouth, completely quiet. Allowing her to bark in her crate is one thing, but I never mind her playing/barking with me during agility. She is also quiet until we walk into the ring and she knows we are about to play agility, she could really care less about watching other dogs, she just wants to play with me and earn her favorite toy after the run. Honestly I have never tried to change her, I like her just the way she is.


  38. Andrea says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 11:14am

    A fix I found for one of my dogs was giving him some responsibility while I was training my other dog. Basically from crate games, stay on a bed while I work my other dog and in this situation he doesn’t bark but as soon as I take the job away and put him in a closed crate he barks like a fool. So again just managing it with him verses training him not to bark in a closed crate. I have trained him not to bark at other dogs running when he’s in a crate but just haven’t put the effort in to do it when I’m running my own dog, easier just to make him be responsible for something and it seems to keep him quiet.


  39. Melissa Blazak says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 11:00am

    As you saw at puppy camp….I have a yapper. I would really prefer he keep his yap shut and have been working on that even more. He has 3 main areas where he likes to “talk”, but other than these areas is actually very relaxed and pretty quiet in the house. I can deal with some barking while playing tug, fetch, etc. but that is interspersed with control activities like sit, down, wait, etc. and I will not throw a ball if he is barking.
    1. First thing in the morning when he is let out of his crate and all full of himself and the joy of being awake. He trots through the kitchen to the back door yodeling and yapping most of the time. If I am quiet and don’t talk to him he will sometimes get up quietly, but that is rare. He does not get fed if he is barking.
    2. Shaping. He frustration barks while shaping if he gives me his known behaviours and doesn’t get rewarded. This leads to me ignoring and turning my back, which then frustrates him, which leads to more barking, which leads to less shaping……etc. Consequently I have not done nearly as much as I would like. So I am going to create a better plan of action and get out my digital timer (which I bought from you!).
    3. The Crate. He loves his crate and will go in no problem, but when he thinks you’re leaving he will yap for a few minutes. He’s been quiet at night since the day I got him and has been crated at dinner and he’s quiet. He has a hard time with action going on around him when he is in the crate and spent most of puppy camp with a cover over his crate. I admit I have had little opportunity to bring him to places where I can crate him with other dogs working around (or in a noisy enviornment). To hopefully help fix this problem I’ve signed up for obedience lessons at a facility that has 3-4 rings going on at a time and will bring him early and crate him for a while.
    He’s so different from my other dog and this barking and mumbling and groaning and yapping while cute at times is something I definately want to get a handle on. Apparently some of his brothers and sisters are barkers too (he is from a litter of 11)
    If anyone has any suggestions they would be much appreciated! Any comments on my strategies especially the crate thing would also be good!
    Melissa and Rudy


  40. Lianne says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 10:54am

    Any good suggestions on how to train out the barking while watching and in the very specific scenario you mentioned – just ran a sequence, talking to instructor and dog is standing there barking? Thanks!


  41. Mette says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 10:45am

    Yes she did 😉


  42. Marianne says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 9:54am

    Just curious, did Encore clear that jump?


  43. Rebecca says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 9:54am

    I disagree about allowing the dog to hold a “muffler”. This actually increases the likelyhood of barking while working or on course as it allows the dog to practice unloading on the toy. The dog should have solid “off” behaviors which include calmness. The dog should also have an “on” switch. The toy should be used as pure engagement with the handler and not take on drive building properties outside of working directly with the handler. To allow a dog to hold a toy and frantically regrip and chew while watching another dog run is priming the dog mentally in a direction that is loaded with frustration and can lead to aggression. When you then go to run on course and the toy “pacifier” is no longer in the dogs mouth it will bark and scream out of frustration and displacement. For those that really want to get a true grasp on this take a break from agility and attend some sessions with those that trial at the top levels of Schutzhund, Mondio, or French Ring. These biting sports and the understanding of canine behavior in regards to what goes on in the dogs minds is very valuable. In biting sports a dog that practices hectic behaviors unchecked by proper behavioral shaping is one that in trial is dirty (bites or nips) when they are not supposed to, are slow to out, and do not perform at their best. Many times these dogs are so overloaded that their muscles tense up and they lose the fluid ability to move gracefully. In agility overloaded dogs can be seen if you watch closely in their performance fast and furious but they do not have a fluid look as they perform. It is like their entire bodies are tight. Clear headed dogs are actually faster as they work with no conflict and are 100% aware of handler cues and the brain is in a state of the best ability to give their all. In agility some runs are short so many people do not pay attention to the damage done on the dog. If its fast and clean then woooohooooo! Make sure the definition of clean also involved their drive state. The dogs body in an overloaded state takes punishing hits on joints, muscles, and ligaments etc. The best athletes in any game are those that are in the peak performance zone and not operating over the top. I think we all have screamed at the TV when a sports star at a major championship blow a simple forward pass as in the super bowl. The anxious jerky movement almost hurried of the quarterback is to blame. The player over the threshold for peak performance blows it. LOL! For dogs I do suggest you spend time watching video of bite sports and you will see the difference in dogs much more clearly, step outside the agility box and get to know arousal better and for those that think otherwise bite sports can be trained positely as well 🙂


  44. Lora says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 9:41am

    I’ve always said if my dog barked at me on course I would run to the out gate right away… and throw her a party! Guess the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I want a dog who’s enthusiastic enough about running that she has to tell me about it. For those of you with barkers, be thankful you have a dog who loves the game that much! I’ve gone so far as to teach her to bark on command and use it at the start line to try to jazz her up.

    It would be nice if my other dog wouldn’t tear apart the bed in her crate when I’m working someone else. It’s a soft crate, so I guess I’m lucky that she’s confined her destructiveness to the bed, and not the crate itself. It’s a little sneakier than barking though, since I don’t know she’s doing it unless I happen to look at her.


  45. Jenny Yasi says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 9:34am

    A question: esp. in border collies, is barking maybe sometimes a genetically canine compulsive disorder, an ocd that once it gets going, people get stuck with it? I wonder if some lineages just have that issue, and maybe breeders should watch out for it. Maybe it is associated with certain fur swirls or something.


  46. Jenny Yasi says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 9:27am

    Because I train in freestyle, where barking while working is not allowed, and also because I have a hearing impairment that makes it so that loud noises actually physically HURT my ears, which is weird but true, I can’t allow barking while I train. That would ruin training for me, and when I am in a class where someone’s dog is barking their brains out from the crate, I just can’t believe it when no one does anything about it!

    I always reinforced my dogs for being quiet in the crate, and I practice working with each dog in front of the other dogs, and reinforcing the inactive dogs for being quiet and stationary while work with the active dog. Tigerlily barks while backing up, I guess it’s a bit scary/exciting, so I’ve had to go back to kindergarten and get one step backwards with no barks. I have taught both a “conditioned encouragement” (keep going) signal as well as a “conditioned discourageagement” (oopsie) signal, and I don’t have a collie!

    Sometimes I think how much I want a collie and then I see some insane collie barking it’s brains out running around a course and I wonder how people can stand it! I guess you get used to it, but I could never get used to it. And when guest dogs bark at me, or dogs bark for breakfast or whatever, forget it! Barking just doesn’t work on me, I have to leave the room!


  47. Deb Bogart says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 9:22am

    But you being critical is the kick in the butt I needed to get Storm to stop barking while in his cage. He went from barking non-stop at skills camp to being completely quite 5 months later at foundation handling. We’re still working on it when I’m working his brother and almost have it licked. Part of coming up to Canada to train with you is for your criticism and to learn from your own mistakes. Thank you!


  48. Ingerid Margrete Klaveness says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 8:49am

    I don´t have any answers, but would certainly like some. A friend of mine has a border collie who was almost ready for competition when she started squealing through the weaves – which evolved to hysterical barking through front crosses, now screaming her way through agility. The handler has been working hard on this, making the exercises easy enough to get silence to reward, and occasionally lying the dog down if it overheats. But it doesn’t seem to help…
    Do you think it is at all possible to get rid of the verbal enthusiasm, or is she working her ass off for nothing?


  49. dawn says:
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 8:44am

    I am OK when my dog announces there is something in the yard, tell him thank you and he stops (usually only one bark). Still working on a quick ‘quiet’ but it is coming. He will give a couple of quick barks if i have asked him to do something and he is not sure what i want after he gives a few tries, but it is not an ongoing barking.


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