Friday, May 6, 2011

How to get rid of the barking problem in your Labrador using Clicker Training?

Are you a Labrador retriever owner and fed up of the barking problem of your beloved labby? Then you are not alone, there are thousands of frustrated Labrador owners around the globe who go through this same annoying experience day in and day out.

Have you ever thought why your Labrador turns into a racket sometimes? There are multiple reasons for the unruly and incessant barking behavior in your Labrador.

  1. Your lab is under-exercised and has a lot of pent up energy in it that needs to be used up.
  2. Or may be it is having an underlying medical physical problem that needs to be addressed.
  3. Or it might be just bored of being pent up in the backyard or crate.
No dog will bark without a reason, but some dogs are instinctively less barkers, may be they are genetically designed that way. I have seen most Cocker Spaniels bark very less, and so do Great Danes. I don’t know whether it is true with all Spaniels and Great Danes around the world.

These are some of the most common methods adopted by the owners in order to get rid of the barking problem in their Labradors.

  1. They will yell or shout at the dog or call out it’s name or say ‘shhh’ to get him distracted from barking – But this only helps in reinforcing that behavior and your dog will end up barking more.
  2. Some may use negative or aversive methods like bark collars or shock collars – Using aversive ways are not only inhumane, but unsafe and unhealthy for your dog. Using shock collars are physically and mentally dangerous. The electric shock – no matter how low it is - can develop physical problems as well as fear and anxiety in your dog.  And it can also ruin the healthy bond between you and your dog.
  3. And some dog owners play ‘deaf’ and just ignore the problem like an ostrich - Barking is a result of boredom or lack of physical exercise, and it is highly reinforcing for your dog to bark. So if you ignore it, you are unknowingly allowing it to get reinforced and it ultimately aggravates the problem.
No matter how safe the bark collars are - as claimed by the manufacturers – negative reinforcement or punishment based training has a lot of side effects that can ruin the mental and physical health of your dog. 

Please watch this video

Clicker Training or Positive Reinforcement Training
The most effective, humane and safest way to train your dog is through Positive Reinforcement, and the most popular method of positive reinforcement training is clicker training. Clicker is a small box like device that produces a distinct loud ‘Clicking’ sound. You can easily find a clicker at your local pet shop.

In clicker training method you click and treat a desired behavior offered by your dog which ultimately reinforces the desired behavior (after many repetitive sessions). You can use clicker training to correct behavior problems as well as use it for regular and advanced training purposes.

How to solve the barking problem in your Labrador retriever using clicker training?
Labradors are not only powerful and energetic dogs but also extremely loud barkers. A lab’s bark is not only annoying but it’s also a tremendous noise pollution for you as well as for your neighbors. But fortunately you can easily correct this problem with clicker training.

If your lab is physically fit and is also properly exercised, then it’s not barking due to an underlying medical condition or unused energy stores.

Quick Exercise Tip for your Lab
By the way you need to take your Labrador for a long walk every day – morning and evening to keep his energy levels under control and also to keep him physically and mentally fit.

But if you feel that your lab is an unruly barker and barks at anything and everything he sees or hears, then probably that behavior had been unknowingly reinforced over a period of time, and you need to start training him at the earliest to get rid of the problem.

Some easy steps to get rid of the barking problem in your Labrador

  1. You can interrupt your lab with a loud abrupt sound when it starts off on an incessant barking session. For this you can use an empty soft drink can and put some pebbles in it and seal off the opening. When your dog starts barking you must give a strong shake with the can which produces a highly distractive noise for the dog which should stop the barking – and when it stops barking you must click and treat him immediately. Your treat must be really tasty and meaty for him to respond to the training. Try to avoid dry treats as much as possible; wet treats work better like chicken or beef or beef liver.
  2. Otherwise you can even give him a ball or a good Kong toy for him when he starts barking, and when he begins to play with it, you must immediately reinforce it by clicking and treating him.
  3. You can wean him off from the treats gradually and replace it with lavish petting and praises, but only when the training has progressed considerably. And gradually your lab will learn that barking is less rewarding for him and your lab’s unwanted barking will finally go away.
This is how you can correct an unwanted barking problem in your Labrador retriever using clicker training or positive reinforcement. The same method can be used for correcting the barking problem in all other breeds as well.

Clicker Training method is not just faster and effective than all other reward based training methods but it also develops a strong bond between you and your dog and you will learn to respect each other. Clicker training is also the most humane and safe way to train dogs and other animals.

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