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DOG BLOG - I'm not indecisive, just training my dog

Thursday, May 25, 2023


I’m not indecisive, just training my dog….


I’ve never really had a “barky” dog before, so was clueless when Daphne (my Sussex Spaniel) morphed into quite the barker as she passed the 12-month mark.

I think it’s related to Sussex Spaniels having been developed – more than 100 years ago – using the Basset Hound and two other spaniels. Yes, Sussex Spaniels are the only spaniels that howl - regularly throwing their heads back and singing the song of their people!


Along with this, lots and lots of barking:  barking with excitement when we arrive for a walk, barking at passers by, barking when dinner is fractionally late, barking, barking and more barking!


I realized early on that I needed professional help. Nothing I tried seemed to help and yelling at her – haven’t we all done that – just made things worse. The kind of barking that bothered me the most was the excitement barking whenever we arrived somewhere. Imagine a car pulling up at a parking lot, with the sound of a dog barking making the vehicle almost vibrate with noise. Onlookers always looked alarmed when we arrived, and if they had children and dogs with them, quickly made their escape. Of course, once Daphne exited the car, all there was to see was a cute, fluffy spaniel happily trotting along on her walk.


Lisbeth Plant from Cowichan Canine once remarked, sotto voce, as we were leaving after a play group, “you should see a trainer about that!” as the car began to vibrate with Daphne’s barking.


So, the plan, outlined by Lisbeth, was deceptively simple. I would drive towards our favourite park and – the minute Daphne started barking – I would turn the car around and drive away. I would continue to drive away until Daphne stopped barking and then turn back in the direction of the park. Every time she started to bark on our approach to the park, I would turn around and drive away.


Timing was important: I needed to turn the vehicle around quickly as soon as she started to bark. The minute she became quiet, I needed to turn the car around again and return to the park. Fortunately, the neighbourhood was quiet, and I drive an electric car, as it took EIGHT tries the first time! EIGHT attempts before we finally reached the park in silence and started our walk. Magically, Daphne did connect the fact that we were moving away from the thing she wanted the most – her walk – each time she barked. I found it extraordinary that she managed to make the connection so relatively quickly.


Of course, the next day it took 9 tries, the following day 5 tries, the following 3. Consistency – as with so much of dog training, was critical. If I gave in just once, it would take me a few days to get back to no barking.


I’m not indecisive, just training my dog.


Of course, it must have been very puzzling to onlookers: someone drives up with their dog, enters the parking lot and then suddenly leaves, only to do the same thing again and again.


Sometimes it must have looked as though I was “casing a neighbourhood” as I would drive up and down streets several times, waiting for Daphne to became quiet. Again, we got some glares from neighbours and even one comment as we drove by.



What worked, and what didn’t?


Consistency and regular practice worked. Daphne goes out twice a day for walks, and so we practiced twice a day. Results happened quite quickly, although if I wasn’t consistent, we would be back to driving around again for a few days.

One problem was when Daphne was in the car when I drove my husband to his appointments. We were invariably running late and so sometimes I had to choose between getting him to his appointment on time, and taking the time to make sure Daphne didn’t bark.


Today, we typically drive up in silence, although just occasionally, the excitement gets too much, and Daphne starts barking. I don’t say a word, just turn the car around and drive away. Instantly, Daphne will give a little half whine and then keep silent, as if she knows she has caused this delay.


Most importantly, this method has not involved any yelling, making a noise or spraying her with water, or any other aversive method. Just patience and consistency and a little time.



A Cowichan Canine instructor’s take


Lisbeth Plant, Cowichan Canine’s Behaviour Consultant, leads a Barking and Jumping Up class in which you can learn to manage various types of barking – including demand barking, attention-seeking barking, and barking when the doorbell rings. 

‘It’s important to understand why your dog is barking. Dogs bark as communication. They do not bark “to be a nuisance,” or to be “stubborn” or to be “dominant.” In this class you will learn to understand why your barks and develop the skills and knowledge to redirect your dog towards more desirable behaviours. Dogs can also bark in fear – which can look like aggression – when meeting other dogs or people, and if that’s the case, then you really need to see a professional, such as a behaviour consultant, to work on solving the problem.’

 - by Anonymous Student


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I cannot say enough wonderful things about cowichan canine!!! My pup went through the puppy start right and then onto the foundation classes. Stef and Stephanie were fantastic!!! Both classes are well run, organized, they are excellent teachers and spend time with you and your dog. The class sizes are small which makes an excellent learning facility. Stef and Stephanie are patient and kind. The knowledge is second to none. You are able to ask questions and have one on one time as necessary. Did I mention how clean the facility is...? Holy you'd never know dogs are there all day. We wanted to give our pup his best chance and cowichan canine certainly facilitated that.

Elizabeth Butler-Smythe and Matt Tregear
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I adopted an adult dog and had no idea what I was getting into. The dog was terrified of everything, seemed as if she had never been walked on a leash, and hid from everyone. I called Cowichan Canine for help and Lisbeth came over that very day. With her gentle guidance, my dog is gaining confidence and I am feeling hopeful that I can help this dog to become a happy friend. I am very thankful for all the support I have received.

Lyn Merryfeather (Diva)

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