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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Why does a dog bark at you when he wants something? Well, because it works! Your clever dog will learn that, when he makes a fuss, you might give in. Then he gets extra treats or a longer game of fetch. The solution to this is simple but takes consistency. You will teach your dog to say “please” by sitting (or offering another polite behavior) whenever he wants something. Should he start making a racket or jumping on you, you will give him the opposite of what he wants: he will get ignored. If he is consistently given only two scenarios — sitting gets him what he wants and being rude gets him ignored — he will learn to make the right choice on his own. With time, he will automatically sit for whatever he wants, right off the bat. Now that’s a polite dog!
Rude Behavior is Ignored
Starting this moment, any time your dog demand-barks at you, he gets ignored immediately. Avoid saying anything, including “shhh,” as even negative attention can encourage him. Follow these steps.
Ignoring will teach your dog what he shouldn’t do, but that’s only half the equation. Say Please teaches him how to perform a polite behavior instead. For most dogs, Sit is the universal polite behavior, but a Down or Stand will work just fine, too. Your dog is welcome to request his toy, food, or leash, but you will only respond if he sits first. Follow these steps.
Repeat these steps every time your dog wants something from you, whether it’s an object in your hand or a “service” such as getting a door opened, getting invited on the couch, etc. By being consistent on your end, you’re giving your dog clear guidelines by which to live. If you give in once in a while, keep in mind that it will confuse your dog in the long run. Rules are much harder and more frustrating to follow when they are enforced intermittently. Stay strong and be consistent, and you’ll reap the rewards with a more patient, quiet dog.
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.