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The Nuisance Barker


© 2003 Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation

Based on a question posed at the KerryBlues-L Newslist.

The response to my post regarding the nuisance barker was wonderful--22 responses in all, with some excellent input. Many of you offered more than one suggestion, so here's the tally of "votes" for behavior modification training techniques and other possible solutions.

Keep in mind that this list does not include any of the things the dog's owner has already tried, such as the can with the pennies, squirt bottle, correction collar correction, diversion from distractions, crating, and the electric no-bark collar. We are dealing with a very difficult dog that has remained impervious to all the standard solutions.

Prozac--5 votes.

Prozac, a drug known to suppress obsessive compulsive behavior in dogs, was suggested by 5 different people, several with experience who claimed dramatic improvement, even with incessant "panic" type barking. The dog behaviorist who was consulted recommended an "anti-obsessional" drug, such as Ametropelian (spelling?).

The citronella collar--3 votes.

Although the dog behaviorist mentioned that she's had no luck with the citronella collar, 3 different people recommended it based on their experience, and there was an additional recommendation from a vet. One person reported that the dog "doesn't like wearing it, mopes and refrains from play, but doesn't bark when the collar is on." The citronella has to be refilled frequently the first week, and apparently it can be "pretty messy" in the house. It was described as being "very humane and effective."

Hearing test--3 votes.

Several people suspected a hearing problem, including hearing loss, and recommended a vet check or an exam by a specialist. Apparently partial deafness and other hearing impairments can result in barking behavior.

Debarking--3 votes.

Although the owner said that debarking wasn't an option, 3 people asked that it be considered. The new laser procedures are very effective and much less invasive than the old surgical process. One explained that a good debark does not completely remove the bark, just the harshness of the bark. It was suggested as a last resort, short of giving up the dog, when all else has failed.

Ignoring the dog--2 votes.

Two people suggested that the owner might be inadvertently rewarding the dog for barking. Since the dog gets lots of attention when he barks (even if it's, "No, no, no"), he keeps it up. The solution is to pointedly ignore the dog completely when he barks, and even leave the room, emphatically closing the door with a loud bang. Only when the dog stops barking should he be lavished with attention.

Plastic soda bottle--2 votes.

A couple of people recommended tossing an empty plastic soda bottle (or one with a couple of pebbles in it) at the dog. The idea is to surprise the dog (not hurt it), which results in cessation of barking. The technique was recommended by one respondent's dog trainer, who emphasized that the dog should never know that the bottle came from you.

Hold the muzzle--1 vote.

One Kerry breeder recommended the following simple but effective behavior modification technique: Each time the dog barks inappropriately, the owner should say No or Hush (whatever command they chose), then place their hand calmly over the muzzle and gently hold it closed while repeating the command. This is followed with lots of praise. The dog will soon learn to accept the command alone.

Animal communicator--1 vote.

Another Kerry expert suggested a local pet communicator (and animal health technician), Lydia Hiby ( Lydia (who is nationally known) and people like her are often able to provide insights that help owners understand their animals, and learn why they do what they do.

Pinch collar--1 vote.

One person had just attended a training workshop with dog trainer Pat Muller who advocates the proper use of a pinch (or prong) collar with the "Settle" command. The writer reported: "I went in a non-believer and came away convinced that with consistency and fairness, this collar and this command could be a valuable addition to MY training repertoire."

Another dog behaviorist--1 vote.

This person pointed out that the dog behaviorist the owner had already consulted (the one who refused to help because "Kerries are barkers") should be summarily dismissed and a better one consulted.

Reverse psychology--1 vote.

This Kerry breeder suggested teaching the dog the "Speak" command, followed by the "Enough" command. Teaching the two commands together helps the dog make a connection between why they are praised (for obeying a command) and why they are corrected (for disobeying a command). Once taught, the dog understands exactly what is expected of him and how to get praise and attention.

Companion dog--1 vote.

This person suggested that the dog could be bored and would benefit from having a canine companion to interact with.

Additional inforamtion can be fund at:

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Today is May 23, 2019

On this day in 1993:

Kerrydom lost a beloved friend, Ralph A. Thorpe of O'Tamarac Kerries. Ralph and Fran bought their first Kerry in the 1940's.

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