Kathy Santo's Dog Sense Episode 1: Barking
Kathy and Sarah give tips and advice on how to stop your dog from barking!
Kathy: Welcome to Kathy Santo’s Dog Sense: “Episode One: Barking; The Whys, The Woes, And How To Finally Ditch The Earplugs.” I'm your host Kathy Santo, and I'm here to teach you everything I've learned in my over three decades of training dogs, their families, competing in dog sports, writing about dogs, and being a guest on radio and TV shows. I'm so glad you joined us today and I'm also so glad that one of my favorite people is here, too. And today my guest is Sarah. Now Sarah is one of my trainers and she started when she was with our facility in New Jersey and she has since moved, about a year ago, to Colorado and she's opening a branch of what we do up here with the dog training and the daycare out in Fort Collins, Colorado. Hey, Sarah!
Sarah: Hey everyone!
Kathy: So is it about a year that you've been gone?
Sarah: Yeah, it'll be a year midway through January.
Kathy: It feels like dog years.
Kathy: You couldn't have moved to like freaking Connecticut where you could have just come and visit. You had to go all the way across the country.
Sarah: Hey, we got a lot of dogs out here that need training as well!
Kathy: This is true and you know, this is a funny story. She moved to Colorado and, like, three weeks later one of my students from here said, “Oh, I'm moving.” I said, “I'm so sad. We're going to miss you. Where are you moving?” She's like, “Fort Collins, Colorado.” I'm like, “No way!” So she got out there, right? Lilo and then she started training with you. So we got to get more of those happening.
Sarah: Exactly, yes.
Kathy: Alright, so what are we talking about today?
Sarah: Alright, so today's episode, we're going to address a topic we get asked about every single day, whether it's in classes or private lessons at the school, or when we also got these questions from the online dog training program, as well as comments and messages on our social media pages.
Kathy: I think it's probably one of the biggest. I'd say it's probably one of the top three questions we get asked about and, like I said in the Intro, I've been training dogs for over 30 years and I hear this every day. Now, we teach seven days a week at our school, so we're pretty guaranteed this topic is going to come up, but there is such mystery and frustration surrounding the topic that, I thought that this would be a really good one to start off with to help people fix their barking issues, or not let them happen in the first place. So, if you're listening to this and you're like, “Ah, my dog doesn't bark,” keep listening because you may one day do the wrong thing and then you have a barker on your hands, which you definitely don't want to have. Right?
Kathy: So before we have to tell you the solution, we need you to understand why the dog is barking and that's pretty much how we attack all the training. People are like, “Oh my dog runs away!” And were like, “Well, here's why it's happening, and then here's the solution,” because I believe if you don't understand the why, you can't effectively use the solutions we're telling you. So here's some insight into what might be the reason your dog is barking. So, first, there's no single reason they bark and it can change day to day, so there's really no quick fix guaranteed cookie cutter method to stop barking. You kind of feel your way through it, and it's frustrating to live with a dog who bugs you or even next door to, or if you're an apartment, over or under a dog that barks, because once the dog is an Olympic barker it gets much, much harder to fix. And, so, if we know the motivation behind it, then we can better address the problem with a solution. So, we know that obviously dogs bark, a dog barks because it works and they're scaring somebody away, their self soothing and they're getting attention or they're releasing frustration, but the most typical reasons for that are, you know what, Sarah, I'm going to let you do a couple. Go for it. What would be number one?
Sarah: Right. So some of the common reasons for barking is definitely “Boredom.” So it's a way that they're going to self soothe, it sounds repetitive, or if the dog is under stimulated.
Kathy: Exactly. It's like, I know people like this. Oh, I just had an epiphany! Have you met people who just like the sound of their voice, and they just keep talking? Yeah.
Kathy: So, yeah, hopefully they don't have a dog like that, or maybe, hopefully, they do have a dog like that so they know what it feels like to others but, okay, carry on. What’s number two?
Sarah: Alright, so the next one, It's gotta be that the dog is either attention or it’s demand barking. So, what that means is that. So the dog, it's either, they want something from you or they're hoping that the barking, and they're hoping that the bark and will get it from you.
Kathy: And you know what? A lot of people go, “Oh no, I don't do that. My dog barks at me to throw the ball and I won't throw the ball. And I tell him, ‘Stop it, I'm not throwing that ball’ ” And I'm, like, “That's it. There it is right there. There's the interaction!”
Kathy: You think they're only asking for positive interaction, but you're annoyed interaction is attention anyway, which is kind of just like kids, right? They don't care if they're getting negative attention or positive attention. Sometimes, they just want you to interact with them and so that's definitely, what's happening with that, number two, when people are fussing at their dogs. It's still attention.
Sarah: Right! They think that they're, they think that they're helping to deter the barking. But, in reality it's still perpetuating it.
Sarah: Alright. So next one is going to be “Excitement.” So you're prepping their meals, you come from home from work, you grab your car keys, you pick up their leash, any of those things, and the dogs are crazy barking, exciting. And a lot of people unfortunately they take it as, “Oh my dog is so excited to see me,” you know, they're just excited, whatever. But it's still, that's going to then translate to other situations.
Kathy: Exactly. And the thing about that is the dog gets what they want because most of the time the dogs barking and the people are making their dinner or their breakfast, the dog's meal, and they do it faster because they want the dog to shut up. And, so, the dog goes, “Hey, when I back harder and louder and faster, she makes my food faster. So that's awesome!” Or, if you grab your car keys and the dog's jumping around like a kangaroo barking because he knows you're going to take him somewhere, and you do, the dog goes, “This barking stuff. It really works!” Right?
Kathy: Number four.
Sarah: Alright, so this one, it's got to be, this might be my second top one that we hear most often. So an “Alarm Bark.” So, something that startles them. So the doorbell rings, the mailman comes up the front, you know, they hear the car, the mail truck pull up. That kind of thing.
Kathy: Right. And so, there's a lot we can do that with that one and we're gonna talk about later. But my big thing with that is I don't want, when I go somewhere, I don't like to leave my dogs in a dead quiet house or if you're an apartment, I like to have white noise to sort of buffer this stuff because, imagine if you were in a very quiet house and all of a sudden you heard a noise and, see the other thing is I hear the UPS truck and I'm, like, “Yes, Amazon! It’s here!” The dogs, they don't know you ordered something. They're, like, “Oh my God, intruders!” And some dogs, which you may or may not have one of, are more easily startled or pushed into a reaction from noise than others. I mean, my puppy he hears the doorbell, he's like, “Huh?” But other dogs hear it and there, boom, on alert, barking, acting.
Kathy: Whatever they act like and, and by the way, if you have multiple dogs and you bring one into the house who is a barker, you can actually change, teach all of them to bark. It will pass on. It's like the flu. They will all catch it. So you want to stop that ASAP. Oh, number five. That's my favorite one. Go ahead you can say it.
Sarah: I was just going to say that too!. Every time we go down this list, I'm like, oh wait, no THAT one’s my favorite.. “Window TVs” at the front of your house where the dog has easy access to, whether it's on the back of the couch or they could just put their front paws up on it and look out of it, but that that huge window at the front of the house.
Kathy: Wait, people are hearing this and going, “What the hell is a window TV?” Some people want to order one now. Some people are like, “I don't get it.” Okay.
Sarah: It's TV for your dog!
Kathy: Yes. We refer to open windows, meaning, not open-wide open, like, ones without curtains. Anything your dog can see out of. We call that a window TV, and the dog gets to watch the best TV show on earth, which is your neighborhood show and then they'll find things to bark at and we're going to explain why that's a problem, but it's a pretty easy fix.
Sarah: Yeah, and then the other one, which can relate to all of these is that the reason that they bark is “Because It Works.” Whatever they're barking, whatever the reason is for barking, it works.
Kathy: Exactly. And it, we know it does because they keep doing it. If it didn't, they’d stop. They’re very black and white about that stuff. Alright, so let's keep these few things in mind when we're working on this. Number one, “Don’t Yell At Your Dog To Be Quiet,” because it sounds like you're barking and you know they like to be in packs!
Sarah: They have confirmation now.
Kathy: Right? It's, oh my gosh. I hear this all the time, right in front of me in class, “Stop it! Be quiet. Cut it out. Cut it out!” And the dogs, bark and louder to get over the person. It's futile. Also, “Stay Consistent.” Everybody in your family has to do the same thing. So if you're ignoring your dog when he barks, but your husband looks at him and slides him a piece of pizza crust, you never going to get it any better. It's going to be bad. And, and you'll be, you'll be able to out the culprit pretty easily with stuff like that. Whoever the dog is looking at when they're barking, that’s your weak link. And the last one is, “Don't Make Eye Contact Or Interact With Your Dog While He's Barking.” I like to say that when my dog barks, I become invisible and I walk away and he's like, “Where the hell is she going?” But, it's really the barking and that drives me out. Alright, so, let's get to solutions. First one is “Remove The Reward.” And you and I, we both agree that when a dog barks, he's getting some sort of reward, which we spoke about a little bit earlier. So let's talk about the dog who barks and somebody walks past your house. Easy peasy, right?
Kathy: Block the access to the window. Close the shades, put up a gate. I have said to people, alright, so this is also storytime. Anytime we do these podcasts, it just jumps into a story. Of course.
Sarah: I was gonna say. Are you gonna tell the story about the woman who had the garbage bags up?
Sarah: This is so good!
Kathy: So I had a student with three little Maltese. They were triplets, meaning they were all from the same litter. Don't ask me why she kept all three, but she did. And they lived, their house was facing a street that people turned into, like, it was the first house on the corner, and so at night when a car would turn the headlights would momentarily go through the front glass door and then carry on. And the dogs would lose their mind whenever that happened. So she would try to bust up, keep them away from it with crate, um, try to barricade them. Uh, she would, when she saw the lights, she would be, like, “Oh! Oh no, don't bark, don't bark,” and get up from her TV show. And she was watching some series that was annoying for her. She even tried putting them upstairs in the room with her and watching Netflix on her laptop. But for whatever reason they still could tell and it was just, it was crazy. The lengths that she was going to adapt her life to have this not happen.
Sarah: Instead of fixing it. It was futile.
Kathy: Yeah. And it was such a pattern. Did it happen during the day? No, it did not, cause there were no headlights. Oh, PS, this is probably important backstory. She taught them to chase a laser pointer!
Sarah: Oh my! Well that’s where it starts!
Kathy: Don't do that! Especially with dogs who have quirks who like to chase little things like that. So, this was like the biggest laser pointer ever. Anyway, I went over there and I'm like, “Dude, the gates aren't working. They don't care. We're just going to block their access.” So we got trash bags, black trash bags, and we duct taped them to the doorframe from the top all the way down to the bottom. It was beautiful. And all of a sudden there were no headlights and the behavior stopped. Now, that's not the end solution, because she didn't like the way that looked. So what we did was we would roll it up an inch every couple of weeks. And they'd see a little light and we got better and better and better. And pretty soon it was no big deal. What we also added into that was when the lights would come by, when we started rolling it up an inch, she had a handful of treats and when the dogs would see the light, she'd say “Headlights,” and throw a handful of treats, which was, I don't know, I wouldn't have chosen that word, but it is what it is. And so to this day if you say to the dog, “Headlights,” they look at the ground like, “Where's the food?”
Kathy: So, we reconditioned them to, when you do this something good happen. So, and now it's a couple of years later and it's done. So that was a really quick fix for her. Although, the dramatics beforehand were pretty intense. We talked about this, “Don't Reinforce Barking With Attention.” So, if their demand barking don't look, don't touch, nada, nothing. And when he's quiet, then you give them attention. But, Sarah, I find that people don't leave enough of a bumper between the barking, the silence, and the reinforcer. Do you?
Sarah: No, because if you don't leave enough time, or you're not consistent, which we talked about earlier, then it's not going to be fixed.
Kathy: Exactly, and to this point, when I have a new dog in the house, and I do right now, I have a puppy who's five months old, and when I start meal prep and he's bouncing around, it's not barking, but he's bouncing and spinning and all the other dogs are there too, I stop the process, put the ball on the counter and go sit down at the kitchen table and all the other dogs are like, “Crap, the new guy!”
Sarah: “The new guy!”
Kathy: “It’s gonna be hours before we eat!” And, so, what they know and what he's learning is that that kind of behavior, it makes everything stopped. It doesn't make it go faster. It makes it stop.
Sarah: Right! And each time you do that, so someone's doing this at home. The first time can be five minutes, then the next, if you then go back and you start to make the bowl and they start doing the same thing, then the next time you go sit down, it's 10 minutes.
Kathy: Right? I think that's the key. The unexpected outcome, like, “Hey, I used to do this and I would get faster service, but now they closed the restaurant. That sucks.” And I think people need to keep in mind how long this behavior has been going on...
Kathy: ...As a good expectation for how long it's gonna take to fix it. If they've been barking five years. It’s not gonna take five years to fix it, but it's gonna take a little bit of time. It's the toothbrush thing, right? So if every day you go to your bathroom, the toothbrush is on the left. You reach for it, put toothpaste on, brush your teeth. If I take your toothbrush, move it to the right side of the sink, every morning, for awhile, you're going to reach for the left. You're going to say, “Dammit, it's on the right!” Right? It's, like, when you lose power to your house, how many times, you know, the power's off and try to turn on the damn lights.
Kathy: So it's a pattern behavior. It's reflexive. They're almost not even thinking of it. So be patient when you make changes. I don't want to hear you say, “I did it for a week and it didn't work. Kathy Santo, you suck.” Don't say that! It takes a while. I know this stuff! I see it every day and it will work! And a lot of it depends on you. Let's talk about keeping them occupied, for the boredom barkers.
Sarah: Yup. So some of the top things we suggest for students. Because also, so if they are barking from boredom, that's what you've determined it to be, you now want to be proactive. You want them to not be bored. So then the bargaining isn't happening. So, a lot of things we like to use our food dispensing puzzle toys, we love a good antler, stuffed Kongs, which are the, and these are all gonna provide stimulation and an activity for your dogs that they could focus on that instead of the barking.
Kathy: Right. And that Antler, I want to make a point. Sorry I left you hanging before I was taking a drink. I put the antler in warm, or hot, chicken broth for like 20 minutes. It's sort of reconstitutes it, you can do straight warm water to. And then let it cool off and then dry it and give it to your dog and sometimes people get antlers and they’re, like, “Oh it was great initially and then my dog was, like, ‘I don't care about it,’” but, you can do things to make them more interesting and you know, it’s chicken broth now, it’s beef brother later. You can even put them in the freezer for a bit, especially for those teething puppies. But those are things you'd give the dog before they’re barking. Can we just talk about the fact that sometimes dogs bark and people give them things to chew on?
Sarah: Oh my God. Yeah.
Kathy: So, that's exactly what we're talking about earlier.
Sarah: But, if your dog’s barking and then you give them something, they are learning, “When I bark, I get this!”
Kathy: Right! That's like your kid yelling at you, “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom,” and you give them 20 bucks and they're like, “Oh, now I know how to get 20 bucks.” Yeah, we're not doing that. Alright, let's hop over to, “Make Sure Your Dog Is Getting Enough Mental And Physical Exercise.” So...
Kathy: You and I created the Canine Gym Program. Why don't you speak to that about the physical exercise?
Sarah: Okay. So what we like to do with all of our dogs is not just the mental and it's not just the physical. We like to combine both of it so that both parts of the dog are getting the stimulation, the exercise, everything that they need in order to truly tire them out. If you just take your dog for a long walk in the morning and then you put them back inside and you go to work, they're not truly tired. Sure, that walk was great. They got to potty, they got to do some sniffs. But, unless you're adding in the mental side of things, you're working their obedience, you're working their impulse control while you're on that walk, they're not going to be truly tired. And then when they get home and you leave for work they're going to look for other things to do to entertain themselves. I.E. barking.
Kathy: Exactly. Now, I had a student whose puppy would bark when she put it in a crate at night, and I really felt bad because, she came to me with this idea and thought it was, like, genius. She was, like, “I have the solution!” I'm, like, “Okay, great. What is it?” She's, like, “Every night before I put him in his crate, I go for a walk around the block four times and I get home and I put them in the crate and he's out.” Now, major problem with this, although I paused a moment to see, to think about how I was going to deliver the bad news so that she didn't cry or start, start drinking. Um, so, a couple of days ago I went to something called Cycle Bar and it's like a cycle bike place. And the first day it kicked my butt, the second day kicked my butt, but not as much. By the third day I could do faster and I could turn the knob up to give more resistance to it.
Kathy: And, so, the more I go to Cycle Bar, the more training I'm going to get. So, think about this with the dog. He's, like, 12 weeks old, he gets four times around the block and he's tired. What happens when is endurance increases? It's going to be eight times around the block.
Kathy: She's going to be walking and jogging for hours before the dog goes to bed.
Sarah: By the time he’s a year old, we’re going to be doing marathons!
Kathy: Now, if that's the goal, you go, girl! You're going to hit it. But if it's not considered doing two blocks and adding and training or some physical fitness where he's getting his paws up or, or just like train him to do physical things and wear at his brain, his body at the same time. And then you'll get the solution that you're hoping for.
Sarah: And also what you teach in classes all the time, nose work games. Those are exhausting for a dog.
Kathy: Exactly. Yep. And, and people, I don't think they think that, because there's not a lot of motion. They associate exercise with exhaustion.
Kathy: But, I'm telling you I could go to the gym and workout and come home and be like ready for the day, and I could sit in front of my computer and work on my book, or whatever, and be exhausted after a couple of hours, because it's brainwork. Imagine though...ooh, great idea! What if at Cycle Bar I could have my laptop with me...
Sarah: I knew you were gonna say that.
Kathy: And I can be peddling!
Sarah: Thinking, “What can I do, and work?”
Kathy: Oh, my God. That would be amazing. All right, so let's get to the last thing. The last thing is, and I'm sure nobody does it, is “Reward Your Dog When They're Quiet.” Much like a baby being quiet, or a toddler when they're playing, you don't want to disturb it because you don't want them to focus on you. But, I really feel strongly that if you walk by the crate, your dog is quiet, or he’s hanging out in the house, I would just throw a cookie and praise them, “Good. Quiet.” So that you'd get more of that.
Sarah: And that’s something that people never think about! They never think that they need to teach their dog those kinds of things like rewarding the quiet behavior, or, you know, praising them when they're just hanging out and not reacting to whatever's going on around them. And it's so important.
Kathy: It is, it's just, it's everything, because people get really good at telling their dogs what they don't want them to do, but they kind of suck at telling them good job because they're just relieved and if they notice more of the good stuff, it’s like that Beyonce song, right? If you like it put a ring on it. If you like it, put a cookie in it, or put some praise on it. You're going to get more of that. So, alright, this was awesome. Yay, for the first episode! We have been talking about doing this podcast forever and, finally, I'm glad that we finally got around to doing it. So, anyway, that's it for this, our very first episode of Kathy Santo’s Dog Sense. Thank you so much for spending time with us and I hope you'll join us again soon. If you have comments or show ideas, you can reach us through our website at kathysantodogtraining.com. As always, if you like what you hear, jump over to whatever subscription service you downloaded from and like rate, subscribe, tell a friend and share this episode somewhere to help spread the word so we can continue to create an awesome community of dog lovers and learners. Happy training everyone!