ClickerSolutions Training Articles

Barking During Stays

The self rewarding behaviour is barking during a stay. I reward the quiet and ignore the barking. He barks and rewards himself. So, the whole stay is rewarding. Whether it's a 5 second stay or a 5 minute stay.

Okay, someone who was a better trainer than me helped with a "problem" Q&A that has never failed.

  1. What is the problem?
    Barking on the stays. Roll your eyes here and I can immediately think of shelties who are really bad barkers on more than stays. Dachshunds, poodles and GSD are bad whiners. So this is not an uncommon problem, and many whining and barking problems have been solved without NRMs.
  2. When does this problem occur?
    Just on the stays? I know a aussie who likes to bark on stays and it also happens when the handler gives contradictory cues - termed as the dog "telling the handler off". But when does this dog bark on the stays? Any other times?
  3. When does the problem not occur?
    Which makes you go back and readdress the second question. Does the problem occur when other dogs are lined up with it but not on the sit stay for the recall? Does it occur when the handler lines it up with other dogs and doesn't leave the dog - but the dog still stays? Does it happen when the handler moves directly in front of the dog and faces it during the stay? So this question makes you examine the training log - you were keeping a training log, weren't you? - and identify the distance and time when the barking started - because most dogs don't start learning the stay with barking - it's a learned behavior.
  4. How did you teach the response you want?
    This question makes you break down the steps, look at the log, makes you examine the criteria, rate of reinforcement, and actual number of repetitions you have performed correctly and incorrectly. Sometimes, it's pretty obvious the dog hasn't the faintest idea what you want - sometimes a gap is found between the "here, but not here" and the way you taught it. Many times, it occurs during duration strain.
  5. The last is "show me."
    What is described and what the handler does frequently isn't the same. The handler says "I always ..." and then fails to get the dog to show the behavior - or when he thinks the dog will perform correctly, the dog flubs it.
    What the handler observes is not what the dog is doing.

In the case of barking or whining on the stays, there is usually a distance involved, usually specific to the line-up and not the recall (although it can sometimes occur with both), and usually occurs when the handler has progressed too rapidly at the point when stress started showing during the training. One of my dogs, even after years of donig the stays out of sight well, still sniffed as I returned, showing my return was still stressful since sometimes I returned and "corrected" her and sometimes I returned and praised and she didn't know the difference.

Can you fix barking on the stays without a NRM? Absolutely. A key is probably when she does perform a stay without barking. And your answer is not "never." You may only be thinking of the context of a formal sit-stay. The dog probably does know sit-stay without barking, just not in the context you are using.

Go to a park bench. Ask your dog to sit. Pull out a book and read a page. Did your dog bark? You have a sit-stay without a bark. Go to a line up of dogs. Ask your dog to sit. Pull out a book. Have the others leave, read your book while you stand there with your dog. Did the dog bark? You don't have a sit-stay-bark-when-handler-leaves problem. You have a dog in the line-up-bark problem.

Barbara Nibling
copyright 2001 Barbara Nibling


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