We have a Border Collie/Aussie shepherd mix. She’s a wonderful dog, and will be eight-years-old this September. We adopted her when she was two. We love her, but her constant barking when we take her for her daily walk is really getting on our nerves! It starts as soon as we put her leash on, and lasts for about a block of walking. Almost everyone in the neighborhood has a dog, so when our dog barks, it gets the other dogs doing.
There is no word in the English language that will shut her up. We’ve tried talking to her in a quiet voice, and also yelling at her, and nothing works. A friend suggested we muzzle her, but I think that may be extreme. I would hate to do that, but if nothing else works, then we may have to go that route. If you have any suggestions, I would sure appreciate it!
— Janie Apodaca, New York
Dogs bark for all sorts of reasons. She could simply be excited that she is going for a walk or eager to alert her canine friends that she’s got great parents who walk her daily. Thankfully, it doesn’t last the entire walk.
I am a big believer that most dogs can’t “chew gum and walk at the same time,” so I recommend distraction and training when you walk her. Start with the leash since that is the trigger for barking. Put the leash on her. If she starts barking, take it off. As soon as she stops barking, “click” with a clicker (available at pet stores) and give her a treat. Dogs quickly learn that the “click” is the acknowledgement of the good behavior and the promise of a reward to follow and adjust their behavior to earn a “click” from you.
If she doesn’t stop barking or barks at you to put the leash back on, call her to you and ask her to “sit” or “down.” Assuming she knows these commands well, she will likely stop barking long enough to comply, so “click” and treat her. Do this routine over and over throughout the day or next few days until she no longer barks when the leash is put on.
Now that she knows what a click is, she will be easier to train on her walk. If she barks on the walk, shake a can of coins or use a Pet Corrector (a product that emits a “shhh” sound that interrupts the behavior. She will likely stop for a second, and that’s when you “click” and “treat.” Do this throughout the walk. If she can’t seem to get the hang of this, then practice closer to home, so you can go back into the house if she doesn’t stop barking. She sounds smart, so I think she will understand after a few sessions.
I don’t recommend muzzling her. Most muzzles close the mouth and keep dogs from panting, which is needed to stay cool while walking.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal