Helpings Dogs Who are Barking at Male Guests
Change Your Dog's Attitude About Men
Why Are Men so Intimidating?
Often owners of rescued dogs assume dogs are scared of men because they possibly were abused by men, however, this cliche' doesn't always hold true. There are dogs with a perfect history of being raised in loving families that are still scared of men. So what gives? There can be several explanations. One plausible explanation is that the dog may have not been socialized with different types of men much, especially from puppy hood, during that critical time between 4 and 16 weeks. Another explanation may stem from the fact that men from some dogs' point of view, may appear to be more intimidating.
Men are often taller respect to women, they may have much deeper voices and have facial hair, and what many of may of us may not realize is, that men also often move in a more assertive fashion. Applied animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell also mentioned studies were done where men were found to be seen as ''coming closer at higher rates or stronger intensity'' respect to women. Also consider that coming in and out of doors is one of the biggest triggers for many reactive dogs and this is one of the areas in the home that needs managed the most.
I will offer a behavior modification program that may help your dog cope better with men entering your home. In order to accomplish this, you will of course, need some men to come over and help volunteer. You will also have to equip yourself with a nice treat pouch you can clip to your belt (to be practical) a leash, and the tastiest treats out there. These are not your regular kibble or those stale dog biscuits forgotten a month ago in a jar. You want to invest in in freeze dried liver, slivers of hot dog, small chunks of steak or grilled chicken. You need them in very bite size pieces (and if you give a lot of them or do this often, you will need to adjust your dog's feeding ratio). Now you are all set to get started!
A great read for defensive aggressive dogs!
So many behavioral problems in dogs result from fear, but fear-based problems can become worse if treated incorrectly. This booklet provides a step-by-step dog training program of desensitizing and counter classical conditioning. It can help you solve minor dog problems and prevent serious ones, whether your dog's fears include the vacuum cleaner, people with hats, or the stranger at the door
A Successful Behavior Modification Program
First of all, make sure please, please, please that your dog cannot get free. This both for safety and from a behavior standpoint. If your dog has a history of barking/growling/lunging/nipping consider these behaviors can be quite reinforcing, in other words, once a dog realizes that by barking/lunging/nipping a guest, the guest leaves or moves away, and the dog feels like repeating the action because he was successful in making the guest go away. Always work under threshold.
Conditioning to the Smacking Noise
Step 1: Do this exercise a few days ahead before engaging the male volunteers. Basically, make a smacking noise with your mouth and immediately after, drop a treat or give it with your hand. You want to repeat, repeat, repeat, until he starts to associate the noise with treats. You know this has happened when upon making the noise your dog looks at you for the treat. At this point, congratulations! you have classically conditioned your dog! This is Pavlov's law, if you want to read more about classical conditioning and Pavlov's dogs here is an interesting read:
Conditioning to the Doorbell
Step 2: Have somebody practice on ringing the door bell. You will stay seated in your chair with your dog at a distance of several feet away. You want to initially work from under the threshold, this means from a distance where he is a bit less likely to react. The moment he hears the door bell immediately make the smacking noise with your mouth and deliver a treat. Repeat, repeat, repeat until you classical condition your dog to love that sound. You know that happens when upon hearing the door bell your dog looks at you anticipating the treat. You are basically, changing your dog's emotional state about the door bell.
Dogs mainly live through associations,indeed many live on these equations: can opener= food, leash=walk, doorbell=guests, and so forth. What we are trying to accomplish here is to associate doorbell and men with treats and good things happening!
*Note; if your dog is still barking at the door bell and does not accept treats, you are working too closely and he is too aroused, try to work from the farthest room of the house initially.
Conditioning to Opening the Door
Step 3: Have a volunteer ring the door bell. Proceed as usual giving the treat upon hearing the ring. Now, have the volunteer open the door a little bit. Before your dog goes in a barking frenzy try to toss two-three treats on the floor. Have the volunteer stand there until the dog eats all the treats. Then have the volunteer leave. What we are trying to accomplish is to make the dog learn this equation: ''when the male guest appears I get treats, when he disappears the treats are gone''.
Conditioning to Presence of Men
Step 4: Continue the exercise but have the volunteer gradually open the door more and more. Repeat giving 2-3 treats the moment the door opens and then have it closed when the dog is done eating. At one point, have the door completely open with the man there not looking at your dog with his head turned sideways not making eye contact, and not talking. At this point, give 4-5 bite sized treats and have the man close the door and leave when he is done. Repeat this sequence of opening the whole door and closing it. Be good in your timing! And never have the man leave if your dog barks. If he barks, get his attention back on you by making the smacking noise with your mouth and giving treats for stopping.
*Note: if at some point your dog is getting increasingly nervous, step back a bit in the program and go back to having the guest just opening the door a bit. Every time you note your dog has a set back, go back a few steps in training.
Conditioning to Men Coming Inside
Step 5: Have your guest now open the door- and hopefully your dog by now has learned to look for treats- and have him take one step into home. Continue giving 4-5 treats and once the dog is done, have the man step back and close the door. Yes, you got it: your objective is to continue until your guest can walk inside your home without your dog going into a frenzy. At some point, you want your guest to take over and be the one to toss the treats upon opening the door and stepping in. The more the person comes close the more high value and more treats are delivered. If you can, actually invest in a Kong, stuff it up and have your guest toss it towards your dog. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
If you want to be extra successful, you can also set up your volunteers with mealtime. Have them come over when your dog needs fed and have them open the door, come in and place the food bowl down, watch him eat from a distance and then toss a nice treat before leaving. All good things start when the guest is over, and all good things end when the guest leaves.
One thing about dogs is that they do not generalize well. Therefore if your dog learns to accept males as guests, he may not accept males on walks. You therefore, may have to make the smacking sound with your mouth every time a man is walking nearby and then have some men on walks volunteer in tossing treats. May I recommend a great read? ''Cautious Canine'' by Patricia McConnell, which gives details about a similar approach.
With time, your dog may associate men with good things, and even though he may never trust a man fully, he will likely learn to tolerate him and be less and less likely to resort to his old defensive aggressive behaviors, and mostly because there is simply no reason to! Men bring good things!
Disclaimer: if your dog is exhibiting behavioral problems please consult with a veterinarian specializing in behavioral problems or a dog behaviorist. By reading this article you accept this disclaimer and fully assume responsibility for your actions.
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