Hobo's Advice Column
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Barking in the Car
This column included three sections - the last being a very helpful suggestion from an experienced reader, Julie Tilsen, - the result is that the topic is all in one place now. We are very happy to include our reader's remarks and suggestions. I have also added a link to a site where you can obtain the Gentle Leader mentioned. We have also attempted to bring the topic up to date as the thinking of behaviorists has changed since we first wrote this article (and the internet goes on unlike newspaper articles)
Stop Barking in the Car!
Well folks, you know dogs are very sociable and that gal is probably just saying hello to those people, or maybe telling her mom all about what's going on. Some hints are:
This is one of those problems where most giving advice will give you a "should have" answer. "You should have taught your dog while he was still a puppy." "You should have told the breeder that you didn't want puppies first ride to be a long ride to your home." "You should have started with short trips."
Well, most who write asking for advice have a dog who is already older, already experienced car sickness, or already barks in the car (or worse). That is the problem that I will address here.
In the past, I have passed on advice that I was given. This included the use of whistles, shaking a can full of marbles, squirting water (sometimes with vinegar) and all the while shouting "Quiet." Many people wrote back stating that this didn't work for them.
Sometimes the cause of barking (and getting sick) in cars is a result of fear. This may be fear of loud noise, fear of all those moving hunks of metal, fear of bumps, and so on. Maybe a result of a bad experience and association with the car. Why doesn't shaking a can of marbles work? Maybe the dog is so busy barking he (or she) can't hear the can. or maybe it just makes the fear worse (cars = loud noise?).
So what do we do about the barking in the car? It would be nice to use a positive method of Training.
1) A method that that seems less drastic comes from a statement made in Barbara Woodhouse's book "Dog Training My Way." She notes that it is difficult for a dog to bark while laying down. Her method is to
2) Here is the method that has been recommended as an alternative to those previously described. You must re-train your dog. You need to start off by taking the dog on short trips. Try to plan a trip to an area without much traffic (you will see why). Plan this in advance.
If you know other methods, let me know and I will add them here. We are interested in non-reprimand (positive) methods.
What I am most concerned about is this: If a dog barks (or does anything, for that matter, you have about a one second window of time following that bevavior to reinforce or correct it. that is, dogs will associate what they JUST did with what JUST follows. If a dog barks and you pull over, take it out and "discipline it" (whatever that may mean, as your column suggests, the discipline will be associated by the dog with whatever it just did - which may in fact be coming to you or with you as you call him or take him out of the car. Needless to say, we never want our dogs to associate a reprimand with coming to us.
Some dogs may begin to chain their behaviors. If in fact they would like the car to stop (quite possible for, as your column correctly indicated, barking, chasing cars is a phobia/anxiety response, a dog may learn to bark in order to get you to stop. (Now who's been trained?)
As for a more positive method, here is what has worked with our big girl who is partial to busses and large trucks:
Option 1: If your dog is crate trained and your vehicle allows room, keep dog in crate where she cannot see vehicles - out of sight out of mind. You have prevented the unwanted behavior which is always the most desirable intervention.
OPtion 2: Fit dog with gentle leader harness and attach light weight, 10 foot cord. When dog barks, pull up on cord. Release when quiet. this does 2 things: 1) provides a REMOTE correction that is, dog does not associate correction as coming from you (do not look at dog or give eye contact when doing this). 2) rewards quiet (the wanted behavior) with release.
You can "supplement" this by being sure to give no attention to barking (including yelling, "no", squirt bottles, etc.) and giving attention/reward (treat) only when quiet.
OK - that was a lot. I was just concerned about what I read. Lots of beardies are a bit high-strung in the car, I know this personally and from conversations with other beardie folks. They're lucky they're so damn cute!!
Hobo's Note: The Gentle leader can be obtained from Barden Graphics. Also note, we did provide information or suggestions about using the crate, shakers, etc.. And, we have been told that the method of stopping the car and correcting has been used successfully when all else fails - but we do prefer positive methods as suggested by Julie. Read on for previous suggestions.