Does your dog thrash and squeal while you prepare his food as if to say, “Hurry up, human”? Bark at you when you don’t throw the ball fast enough? Protest when the treats or playtime ends? You may have a Bossy Barker on your hands.
Canine vocalizations can have a number of meanings, expressing everything from elation to fear. If you consider your dog’s barking a nuisance or problem, it’s important to identify the underlying emotions for the outburst. The Bossy Bark generally indicates frustration intolerance; that is, the dog gets frustrated because he wants that food/ball/attention NOW. By implementing a few rules based on force-free training, you can teach your pup patience, which will in turn reduce or stop the bossy barking.
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“Max coughed up two socks last night,” “Zippy’s sidewalk snacking has cost me thousands in ER vet bills,” and the horror stories go on and on. Teach you pup a reliable Drop It cue before you have a traumatizing story of your own.
Drop It instructs the dog to immediately spit out whatever is in his mouth. In extreme cases, it can mean the difference between life and death. The problem is, your dog put that half-eaten pepperoni pizza slice in his mouth for a reason -- he wants it! Once it’s firmly in his mouth, it’s really up to him whether he will drop it or not. So it’s your job to convince him that spitting out the pizza is actually more fun and rewarding than eating it.
Here are three levels of Drop It. Work your way up by increasing the difficulty in very small increments, to ensure your dog is successful at every step. In real life, do not tell your dog to “drop it” unless you are almost certain he will. If your dog is still a the beginner levels of Drop It and he picks up something delicious (to him) on your walk, use the Level 1 method to handle snacking emergencies.
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Kate Naito, CPDT-KA, MS, is an accomplished author and dog trainer with Doggie Academy in Brooklyn, NY. Her books, articles, and videos cover everything from house-training to leash aggression.