Recently I had someone ask me if I thought it would be a problem to let his dog bark while he shaped behaviours. First of all, the barking could be a sign that your dog training skills need to be sharpened. Perhaps have an experienced trainer watch you and give you their opinion.
Buzz was my first introduction to vocalizing while working.
I wrote about some of the lessons I learned from the experience of shaping a verbally enthusiastic (how PC is that) working in my book, Shaping Success . If you haven’t read it, that is a good place to start.
Barking is a “cheap” behaviour in that it has a low response cost to the dog, the effort needed to do it is minimal. If a dog had to nudge a switch on his butt every time he wanted to emit one bark, there would be far less barking in this world, (there would also be more flexible dogs and a lot of weird head near butt while walking in the woods responses).
Because barking is so cheap, of little cost, it will attach itself to any behaviour if you allow it to go on while you are shaping. Once there it becomes extremely difficult, if sometimes impossible to extinguish. Get rid of it before you shape for each reinforcement you give the dog while he is vocalizing will help to connect the barking or whining stronger to the behaviour you are shaping. This doesn’t mean I NEVER allow any vocalizing, but if the all out barking, especially staring in my face barking goes one, I pick up my cookies and turn my back to the wall until it stops. The odd woof during a “dry” spell because the dog is frustrated, or a bit of whining while thinking of what you want I allow. Just watch for patterns.
I would not use a clicker while shaping a dog that wants to bark. I actually only use a clicker for very specific skills since it is a very specific tool. However while shaping a “barky” dog you will get times when you will inadvertently click and the dog barks at the same time. You now are faced with a choice of either rewarding the barking or not rewarding after the click (which can dilute the effectiveness of using the clicker). So in order to avoid this dilemma do not use a clicker while shaping a dog that wants to be “gobby” as my British friends call it.
Today I am grateful for stiff and sore muscles showing me I have been working hard at my morning workouts:)