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Old 11-04-2008, 12:27 PM
BTmom BTmom is offline
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Default Yappy Chihuahua...Help?

Hi all, I'm currently fostering a Chihuahua for a local small dog rescue.

She's your "typical" yappy, barky Chihuahua and I want to train her out of this behavior (I put quotes around typical b/c I know not all of them are like that, but it's a misconception).

She is seven years old - is she still trainable? I've been told by the rescue that she has been allowed to bark at visitors, dogs outside, and other strange noises from her previous owner. It gets pretty annoying, esp. when we're out walking and she yaps at other dogs. I have a Maltese and never had this problem, so not sure how to fix it.
(Did also another Chi of my own who since passed away but I finally found something that worked and was able to nip the problem at the bud)

At least one interested adopter has turned down adopting her because of her barking when she visited. She will bark and bark and bark until the visitor stoops down and pet her. Once they stop, she will bark again. As soon as they move, she will do it again. If I keep her in the bedroom, she will bark each time she hears the new voice and can do it for hours (no kidding). Can anyone please help?
She is otherwise a nice dog and I want to help fix this so she can find her forever home.

So far, I've tried:
spray bottle
getting her to stay quiet and then treating, but as soon as she gets the treat, she'll go right back to barking
have everyone ignore her
isolate her in a room when she barks and only letting her out when she is quiet, but she'll run straight out to the visitor again and bark once she is released

I'm at my wit's end.

Thanks for any comments!
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  #2  
Old 11-04-2008, 02:27 PM
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Doberluv Doberluv is offline
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If your dog has a poor socialization history or insufficient physical and mental stimulation, training will not be as effective or may be completely ineffective. Here's the method I've used and it works if you're consistent:

Put the barking on cue...say "speak" or "bark" (whatever cue you want, just keep it the same) You can use a hand signal too if you want. I open and close my fingers against my thumb like my hand is imitating a mouth, like you'd do with kids when they talk too much.

Immediately after you cue (not more than a second or two after, get the dog to bark by having someone knock on the door or whatever else will make him bark.
Dog barks.


Praise..."gooooood!" (no treat, just a little praise)


Give cue...."quiet" or "enough" (I use enough, but whatever you choose, just make it the same.) And immediately after, show the treat to prompt quiet....hold the treat in front of his nose...get him distracted until he is quiet. Hold the treat for 3-5 seconds and then give it to him.

Repeat with less and less visibility of the treat prompt but still give it to him after perfect 3-5 second quiets.


Repeat with longer and longer durations of quiet before giving the treat.


Practice with lots of visitors or whatever else triggers the barking. Vary them.
Do it over and over till the dog gets onto this game. And it is a game. It my take a few sessions so keep it up. You'll know that the dog gets it when he barks on the cue and doesn't need the door knocking or other noises to set him off. And he quiets on the first cue to quiet without being shown the treat. Still give him a treat but take it from somewhere he won't notice so much, like your pocket or a table top. (later, once reliable, you'll put the treats on a variable reinforcement schedule)

If he ever starts to bark during a quiet time with even a half attempt at a bark or a tiny soft bark, tell him "woops" (a no reward marker) and start your count over again....1,2,3,4,5...He has to know that barking during the quiet time lost him the treat. He needs to give you 3-5 seconds of perfect quiet after you cue the quiet.

Practice this by going back and forth, back and forth between the cue to bark... and the cue to quiet...lots of times before trying it out in real situations. Set up the situations so you can practice better. Expose him to a wider variety of sights and sounds if he is especially easily set off.

Many people give up because they never get past the hard part. Memorize the instructions and understand them completely. Practice, practice. This process works if you give it ample training. It can seem like it's going nowhere the first few times and most people never make it past the initial hard part. The first few times, the dog will respond poorly so you must be ready with some very tasty treats. If he messes up once you've decreased the visibility of the treats for a while, go back to showing him them again for a bit. (Often, dogs that have been trained using more traditional methods take a while to get onto the game because they haven't learned about doggie zen) They***8217;re not accustom to controlling their own behavior because someone else is controlling it for them.

When he's been doing this for a while and he barks after being told to "quiet," he must get an instant time out away from the action, which most dogs find fun and stimulating. Having to leave the excitement really bothers most dogs. Timing, of course is vital as always. Once you've given the "quiet" cue and he barks, he must immediately get a "Woops" (too bad for you) and he is quickly removed to the isolation area. Do not let him out if he barks. Wait for a lull of about 5-10 seconds first after having been in there for a minute or two.

You can also do a down-stay. A lot of dogs don't bark when they're lying down.
It is very likely that it will get worse before it gets better. Your dog has been barking for a long time this way and when something has been working and then it doesn't, he's going to try and try some more. The sudden shift in the rules will likely cause some confusion at first. But then there will be an extinction burst where by he tries and tries and the last time he tries before he gives up because it's not working, he's going to give it all he's got. Keep at it. This will pass. Once he finally gives up for good, the behavior will extinguish. It will extinguish because it doesn't work to bark. Nothing satisfying comes from the excessive barking and no behavior exists when there is no motivator. BUT...something better happens, that works better when he hears the word, "quiet." So that new behavior will be taken on.

Once the behavior is quite well on it's way, practice this in different environments, locations, contexts and various triggers. Get the dog to generalize this behavior in any kind of situation, anyplace.

I have two yappy Chihuahuas and one loud mouth mix breed... and believe me, if any dog can bark, they can. LOL. I used this method and was lazy with one of my dogs. In the last week or so, I've been practicing better and let me tell you, the second they hear, "enough"....they all three stop barking in unison...absolutely suddenly and exactly together at the same second. It's great. They got the initial behavior going quite well in just one or two sessions. It took some more to get the cues independent of the prompt and the door knocking person.

It can also double as a fun trick to show people. "speak" and "quiet."
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Old 11-04-2008, 04:22 PM
BTmom BTmom is offline
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Doberluv, thank you so much for taking your time to write and explain all that!

I believe it's true that she has had insufficient socialization and it's something I should work on more. Her behavior outside towards strangers and other dogs is another story altogether...<sigh>

Since you said that training may be not effective unless she is properly socialized, should I hold off on training the "speak" and "quiet" cues until I feel she is better socialized with people outside?
If I start training these cues now and it doesn't help due to her being wary of strangers, will I ruin this "trick" altogether?
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Old 11-04-2008, 07:54 PM
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No, I'd go ahead and work on those exercises. What I mean is that a poor socialization history, the fear from that, feeling pent up and anxious due to lack of exercise, any excessive boredom etc...are like handicaps and can interfer with her "education." Or slow it down. If she's super reactive to people, you need to get to the root of that fear or wariness for her to be able to feel secure enough to stop reacting so much. Think of it like this: if you were phobic of spiders and screamed everytime you saw one, someone could probably talk you down and teach you ways to control your screaming. But your fear of spiders would still be there and unchanged. You'd simply stop reacting. But since the fear wasn't dealt with, it is quite likely that the screaming would come back. It would be much more effective if you could over come the fear itself by gradual desensatization, then the skills that you learn to stop screaming would be more effective because you wouldn't feel so compelled to scream so excessively. Does that make any sense?

I think she can still learn these "tricks" and be thrilled with getting the high value treat and make the association between the quiet and the treat and so on.

However, I would not try to train her in real life situations. Set the stage at home at first. Use triggers that cause a more mild reaction, if you can.

Is this happening mainly when you're out on a walk or do people coming to the door affect her a lot? What else?

Yes, you should try to very gradually socialize her more, making everything pleasant and non forceful. Try to set it up so when she sees people, you can keep her at a distance where she is not so aroused. Reward her for seeing people, but keeping calmer. When she sees people that she's wary of, drop treats for her so she can equate them with good things. If she becomes highly reactive, you've gone too close to her triggers. Don't force anything on her.

Unfortunately, when puppies don't get ample socialization prior to about 4-5 months of age, that lost critical time can not be re-couped. It's very difficult to overcome that, although some improvement can be made and often is to some degree if done with care.

A very good book that can explain the desensatizing-counter conditioning process very, very well is Click to Calm, by Emma Parsons. It's a lot about aggressive dogs but those techniques can help here too. You should probably give it a try for a few months and see. You might just be suprised.

But seriously or from a practical standpoing, at her age, and because you may not be her permenant home, if she is extremely upset by and fearful of dogs and people coming too close, I'd almost be inclined to try to protect her and keep my distance from those things, making her walks pleasant as possible rather than try to make up for that lost critical period. It can really be an uphill battle. And sometimes it's just not worth the stress. (if indeed this is a severe problem) It's really hard for me to tell you what to do. It's too bad you can't adopt her...so difficult for her to be passed onto someplace else where they are likely to punish her barking when it is probably due to fear of novel things. You're doing such a good thing to foster her and try to help her. Kudos.

It's hard too, on the Internet because things can be missed or misinterpreted by simply reading and writing.
Quote:
Her behavior outside towards strangers and other dogs is another story altogether...<sigh>
What is she doing exactly...what's her body language like?

Quote:
If I start training these cues now and it doesn't help due to her being wary of strangers, will I ruin this "trick" altogether?
If you use cues and you can't get her to bark or quiet upon the cues, then yes, the cues can lose their meaning. So, you need to be pretty sure you can prompt her. For example, if she is reactive to the door bell ringing and doesn't stop barking, you can set up the practice session by getting a family member to ring the bell immedately after you say, "bark" or "speak" whatever. That association must be made between the word and the behavior and it can only be made when the timing is right on. Then you need to be ready with the quiet cue and treat and be quite sure you can cause her to quiet by holding the treat in front of her nose. Use chicken or steak, something extra tasty.

I wouldn't try to attempt to use the cues or try training the "trick" out on walks where you're not able to control when the triggers are about to happen...not until she can get a good handle on it in a controlled setting. You don't want to have her miss the association. That sequence that is written out above is very important.

Well, I hope things improve and that she can be a happier more stable dog. Are you also practicing a little NILIF? That's basically having her do things that you teach her, like sit before she gets her dinner or a toy or some of your affection etc? That helps. Also, when she's faced with these triggers, try to remain calm and don't talk too much to her. That sometimes helps too.
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"When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty."

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