What about no bark don’t you understand?

Dennis and His old buddy Beau

I was recently hiking the Deschutes River Trail In Bend Oregon with my wife Pam and our newest rescue dog Cole.  I love this trail as it is pretty close to home and at times can be a very peaceful walk and other times I just have to shake my head and wonder what people are thinking when they take their dogs on this outing.  How many times have you heard someone telling their dog to stop or down or off or my all time favorite NO BARK NO BARK NO BARK? Do we really think our dogs know what no bark means or for that matter and of the other things we say to them during the day when we don’t want them to do something we don’t like like jumping, barking, digging, or anyother normal dog behavior. 

 I really try and educate my clients when it comes to using any of these meaningless words because just the implication always or at least most of the time means something negative or the words just do not work because sometimes the words they intend to stop the behavior become one very important link in a chain of behaviors where the dog actually looks forward and waits to hear the chosen word because they usually get some sort of praise like a treat or petting.  An example would be my dog jumps and I say off spot or down spot.  Now the chain is almost complete because as soon as the dog gets down they get praised or are given a treat, dogs are masters at linking behaviors together so this is why these words just create too much work.  Now back to the hike. Pam and are were about half way down the trail when we came across a nice litte small Poodle mix and his/or her people.  Their dog started barking up a storm while Cole(our dog) just looked as he rarely ever barks.  He was interested but no more than any other dog he sees. As we went by the little poodle, his mom must have said no Bark at least twenty times which I think made the barking worse.  It clearly was not working for her or her dog and to her credit this is probably what she has been told to do.  I am wondering how hard it would be to just keep a handful of treats for her dog so when their dog did see another dog they could actually try something that just might make more sense to the little dog like when he/shes sees another dog good things happen like praise or treats.  This can be so easily done but the information that is being given out there by either inexperienced trainers or others is creating so much conflict in the dog world.  I actually got a call from a person the other day that said she was told to hit her puppies on the face with newspaper when they jump as they need to know that the jumping is not acceptable.  I explained that there can be some fall out to this type of training and can cause the puppies to become very hand shy or reactive to children that might want to pet them because of the motion created by hitting them on the face with the rolled up newspaper.  I hope she got the concept for the puppies sake

Surely we can better educate the public so life can be made much simpler and less violent to their dogs and other pets.  I guess I should have said something to the woman saying no bark to her dog but in the past I have been told to mind my own business so now unless I really fear for the dogs safety and welfare I try and lead by example and when i walk by with my dog in a nice and calm way I just keep saying in a louder than normal voice ” good job good job and then just hope that they see how much easier it can be done. 


Dennis Fehling CPDT(KA) 

Friends For life Dog Training