My eight-year-old dog Zoe is part cattle dog and border collie. When we go for walks, she is very excited, grabbing on the leash and growling and barking. She is fine in half a block and doesn’t make any noise the rest of the walk. I have tried bringing treats to distract her and looking angry at her. She was born deaf and maybe she doesn’t realize how loud her barking is. Our walk is early, and I don’t want to disturb the neighbors. If I don’t pick up the leash and let her walk beside me, she doesn’t make a sound.
In the afternoon I take her to the park to catch a Frisbee. Again, she is excited, but now her sounds are high-pitched and crazy sounding. I call it the “park bark.” Do you have any suggestions to calm her down?
– Randy, Las Vegas, Nevada
Deaf dogs don’t know how loud they are barking and even if they did, like most dogs, they probably wouldn’t care. They aren’t thinking about the neighbors. But it’s nice you’re thinking about the neighbors and trying to find a way to calm your little yelper.
Zoe barks when she is anticipating a fun activity or when she wants you to do something, like drop the leash. Once she is into the activity, her mind settles down and she focuses on the fun. Let’s introduce some training. Pick up her leash for her walk. If she starts barking, put it down and walk away. When she stops barking, give her a treat, then pick up the leash again. Repeat these steps until she stops barking and you can attach the leash.
Next, pick up your end of the leash and head for the door. If she barks, drop the leash and walk away. If she doesn’t stop barking, remove the leash and start over. Repeat these steps until she walks to the door without barking. Use these same techniques for walking from the front door to the street. It will probably take about a week or so, but she will learn what you are communicating.
Once she understands, train her with the disc inside the house and at the dog park using the same steps above. At the dog park, simply put the disc down or hide it in a bag until she stops barking. She will remember her leash training and will know to stop barking if she wants to see the disc again.
This training requires patience, but most dogs are eager to please their owners. Let me know how she responds.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 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