Within a relatively short time of Ray moving in with us, we could have called him Ray Barker. In fact we called him Ray Anatolian because, apart from sounding quite aristocratic, we believed at the time that he was part Anatolian Shepherd.
A DNA test clarified that he was a mix of German Shepherd and Rottweiler, but Ray Anatolian is still on his veterinarian records!
Ray Barker would have been more appropriate because he barked for many reasons but, in the context of this Post, it was when he could not get his own way. Over the course of the first year with us, he slowly got his barking in general under control however, this was one circumstance which continued.
Ray had always been very amiable as long as treats were involved however, if he decided that it was time for another treat, and none were forthcoming, he would bark! Our response was very predictable and consistent. He got nothing!
It seemed to take him quite some time before he realised that barking did not serve any purpose. He even tried adding a little lunge with the bark, but he eventually seemed to understand that intimidation tactics did not get him anywhere either! (I have had kids. I am immune to intimidation tactics!)
Everything was working out fine until we started working on his socialization issues, particularly with people. Ray’s background was a total unknown however, he was obviously very uncomfortable when close to people he did not know. He would present his standard bark and lunge routine hoping that they would go away! When we eventually got him to the point where he was more comfortable around strangers, he slowly progressed to allowing them to touch him.
Part of his training at this point involved the stranger giving him treats, and local Pet Stores were perfect to start working with as they freely handed over treats to visiting dogs and were very comfortable doing so.
The first negative situation that got our attention was at Lululemon* which we just took as an isolated incident. We were having a conversation and took our eyes off Ray at around the same moment as he decided he wanted another treat. Our lesson from that was simply to try and avoid being distracted. He gives lots of body language “messages” but, if we are not looking at him………………..!
There were isolated repeat performances but we have recently noticed a slight increase in them! He has not done it to us for the longest time, presumably because he knows it serves no purpose. He does not however apply the same rationale to other people even though he has no track record of it working in those circumstances either!
We are now watching him very carefully after he has been given a treat and, as soon as he tenses up, we intervene with a diversionary tactic or simply remove him from the situation. If another treat was forthcoming (but just not on his timing), then he has to work for it. He’s a smart boy. He’ll get it eventually!
*See Post “The Lululemon Touch” – Nov 24, 2014