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Training Cricket, Again

 

We are, once again, trying to intervene with Cricket’s bad behavior, but focusing small this time: just don’t bark on the way out the door. If she barks, I sit down and count to ten. The hardest part is remembering to follow through with the plan each time we take the dogs out. Cricket is very hard to train, and so am I. It’s usually the last trip at night, when other people are trying to go to sleep, that her barking is at its most inappropriate. She seems to think that I need to be reminded, even as I am getting her leash and putting on my shoes, that she really, really, really wants to go outside. And it takes her a while to notice that each time she barks, I sit down and start counting to ten, starting over at the beginning each time she interrupts the count. But I’m persisting with the plan.

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“I am Cricket. Hear me bark!”

It seems like a very small thing to try and improve about her behavior, especially because it has no impact on all of the other barking she does throughout the day: rushing to the front door of the apartment to tell the non-existent bogey man to go away; barking at boxes on our neighbors’ porches; and shadows on the grass fifty feet ahead; and, of course, barking at random humans who dare to walk in her yard. But it’s a place to start.

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Hmm. This method could work too.

Mom is trying to go along with the plan, but she’s set in her ways too. She tries to talk Cricket into being quiet, which just makes Cricket bark more, because she thinks they’re having a conversation. And Mom doesn’t like having to sit down each time Cricket barks, especially at night when she’s already exhausted. So I sit, and Mom stands, and Cricket thinks that means Mom can be convinced, so she jumps at her grandma’s legs and paws at her, in vain. Eventually, Cricket figures it out and quiets down, and we go outside.

I wish I could convince Cricket to stop barking at babies, and other random residents of the co-op, when they try to pass within five hundred feet of her; I wish I could convince her to keep her teeth to herself, especially when I try to wipe the goop from her eyes; I wish I could convince her that the bath tub is not a torture device. But my many, many, previous attempts at teaching her those lessons have been utter failures.

anger

Cricket has some anger issues.

I rarely try to train Butterfly in anything anymore. Early on, we had to teach her how to poop outdoors, and climb the stairs, and take pills. After that, I thought I’d try to work on basics with her, like sit and stay, but she looked at me like I was a crazy person. She has her own learning style and it doesn’t include responding to voice commands. I’d love it if I could teach her to be less stubborn when she’s walking on her leash, or maybe teach her to sleep past seven o’clock in the morning, but after numerous attempts she is still indifferent to my efforts. And she’s twelve years old. She never bites anyone, and only barks to tell me that she’s hungry or needs to go outside, so, I’ve decided to let it go.

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Yes, Butterfly knows how cute she is.

But Cricket is a menace. The noise pollution alone is at toxic levels, and I can’t, in good conscience, stop trying to protect my neighbors from the full panoply of Cricket’s behaviors.

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“Who me?”

One magical moment happened, though, a few nights into the new regime. After three barking eruptions, and three full counts of ten, with no sign of a let up, Butterfly walked behind Cricket and gave her a look that seemed to say, please don’t bark anymore, because I really need to pee, and that actually seemed to work. Cricket quieted down, and we all went outside in relative peace. But most of the time, Butterfly is too busy having one last kibble for the road to expend too much energy in teaching her sister how to behave.

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“Psst.”

So I guess it’s up to me.

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

106 responses »

  1. Good on you for trying Rachel. One of our dogs was viciously attacked this year by a pack of dogs off the leash, running around in a nature reserve. Now Teddy spends most of the day in my beading room on his mattress,looking out the window and barking and growling at any dog walkers. Teddy has turned from a lovely and mild dog into a scared dog I think, after the attack. I know it is difficult to count to 10 in the vain hope your lovely dog will stop barking but it is the only way I think. Our immediate reaction is always to tell the dog to be quiet but that just adds fuel to the fire. I would not be without dogs in my life. They are the best friends, are they not? jane

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  2. Cesar Milan says pet persons should hiss at bad behavior in their dogs. I can’t bring myself to do this. I think your system is better.

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  3. I’m sorry but this is hilarious! Especially the “Butterfly Intervention”. My hubby has a smaller dog who has a barking issue, also at nonexisting things but then she also barks at leaves, wind blowing the tree branches ~ anything and everything. I like the method you’re trying but it would never work in my house as my husband feels it’s his job to cater to Bailey B. As long as they’re both happy I guess it’s fine BUT we live alone in the woods part way up a mountain. I doubt if we had neighbors they’d be as understanding. I use earplugs sometimes and still hear her.

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  4. I’m having the same issue with our dog. Every time I pick up her least she starts to bark. I have to get her to sit down and then she stops momentarily. When she starts again I make her sit again. For some reason she doesn’t bark when she sits. I don’t know why she’s starting doing this. She’s almost 10 and she only started this about a year ago.

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  5. Good luck Rachel. I think your approach might work. Certainly worth a try.

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  6. Best of luck, Rachel! I hope Butterfly’s pressure tactics will aid your efforts.

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  7. Three Pups and a Couple of Kitties

    Keep trying and try not to get discouraged. It sounds like you are making progress!
    ~ Margret

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  8. Our doggies are like our children… with patience and love they bloom.

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  9. Love this. Training doggies is hard work!! I’m working with Phoebe on sitting to get her leash put on (instead of jumping like a loon)…there’s a lot of turning my back and counting to ten.

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  10. Snowy will bark at strangers in the block and the aforementioned hisser. Oh and one of the other dogs. As telling him off got nowhere, we resorted to good boy Snowy, thank you for telling us and he stops barking, trots back, tail wagging looking pleased with himself.

    He runs to the door when he wants to go out, but if he doesn’t receive sufficiently prompt action, he will start to bark. He’s naughty though, sometimes he’s asking to go out because another dog has gone out, so it’s nosiness rather than essential.

    Good luck with Cricket. Doesn’t sound easy.

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  11. Don’t forget to give her a most favourite treat the second she gets its right, then she knows what you want her to do! 🐾

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  12. Good luck with the anti-barking training. Young Nico always barks at approaching dogs or people: perhaps he’s warning them he’s so small they might tread on him otherwise!

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  13. My sister’s labrador is a barker, hence we call him Sir Barkalot. He barked all the time we visited, then we looked after Mum for a weekend and with my sister out of the way, we barked back! Every time he started, so did we, then we added ‘the glare’. It’s taken years, but now when we visit, he barks once, see it’s us, then retreats to his bed in the corner without so much as a whimper. Can’t say this would work for Cricket, but the count to 10 seems to be for you, so stick with it. Good luck!

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  14. I’ll send Teemu over. He is the original Zen cat. All he has to do is give Parker ‘the Look’ and she calms down. I’ll call you before we come over…. 😀
    Poor Cricket–she’s just an excitable gal. Good luck, Rachel.

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  15. Counting to ten seems like a good plan, let us know if it works!
    If not, maybe Brandon McMillans (Lucky Dog) method of shaking a bottle of pennies to catch her attention, then praising when she quiets would work? I really like his methods.
    With my dog, I would thank her for alerting me to whatever danger she had discovered (usually walking over to “check” and acknowledging “it’s okay “). She would think her job was done and we were all safe! When I wanted her to bark (like a scary person at the door), I just didn’t say “it’s okay” and she would shower that person with doggy expletives. The unwelcome person never stayed long!

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  16. It has been my experience that dogs do a great job of training us 🙂

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  17. Lol, I was in stitches by the end of your story! It is so funny, in a talented way! But training can be stressful!

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  18. Our new dog Charly is a Cricket knock-off evidently. We adopted her five months ago to have a sister for Spike and a rescuer for me. We have decided she embodies the worst characteristics of her predecessors including barking inappropriately.
    Red had barking issues, too, whenever people came to call, but his were limited to front door barking. Once you got into his house, he just jumped around on you in a friendly way.
    But CHARLY barks incessantly before and AFTER you come inside which can be quite unsettling for people who consider themselves to be close friends and family. I wonder how they will feel when I tell them to come in, sit down and count to ten? 🙂

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  19. This made me laugh. My neighbor’s dog is little and white, too. It barks at us all-the-time. They have an electric fence and it stands at the edge and barks its head off every day. Makes me smile. Must really be telling us something important!

    Your dogs are adorable!

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  20. I am no expert, but I have found that teaching not to bark is the hardest thing to train. I finally had Lexi – at four years of age – trained to “inside voice.” when I had to get her to bark inside for her role as Toto. Talk about confusing a little dog!

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  21. My daughter’s rescued Maltese/chihuahua lives next door and barks nonstop when my husband is in the yard. My granddaughter maintains “it’s because Snowflake loves him so much!” There’s a new perspective.😂

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  22. How old is Cricket? She may be a bit long in the tooth to change now. BUT. A sharp NO in a loud voice with aggressive eye contact (staring hard at the dog. Dogs don’t care for eye contact and consider it an act of dominance apparently) helped me to ‘cure’ Toro (my boy chihuahua whom I adopted at his then 10 years of age. He has passed on now and yes he’s missed!) Plus the experts say that a small dog is often intimidated and voices their concerns by barking a LOT. Toro grew to know that he was loved and secure and he got plenty of attention (I think he spent a lot of time in a crate with his old owner) and eventually his barking dwindled to a reasonable amount, but he never stopped barking altogether. I hope your count to 10 method works with her. That can be annoying. But I’m sure too that your neighbors aren’t quite as sensitive as you might think they are. Maybe ask them if it’s bothering them (especially when she does it at night) and see. You might be surprised? Take care and yes they are both DARLING!! Makes my whole week to see your weekly post and pictures!

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    • Thank you so much! Cricket is nine years old, but she’s just as stubborn as she was in her puppy class a million years ago. Our neighbors have been very understanding about her behavior, but I still feel bad about it. I’m not expecting miraculous changes, but a few little improvements would be nice.

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  23. One day my dog is looking out the window in our sun room and banking wildly. He doesn’t usually bark for no reason, only to save us from an invasion by the mailman or the utility meter reader. But this time I couldn’t find what he was barking about as there wasn’t anyone in the street that I could see. After several minutes of this I discovered the problem. The garbage men had dropped out trash can curbside and the wind was blowing it up and down the street. Once again the dog saved us from imminent danger.

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  24. Have you tried shaming her? Tell her that she’s behaving like a cat.

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  25. Good luck. I had a beagle mix that I got from a rescue. He was a crazy barker. There was absolutely nothing we could do to make him stop. It was purely instinctual. Like trying to make me stop talking…. 🙂

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  26. Keep trying your method it should work eventually!

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  27. Ha! My favorite part: “Cricket is very hard to train, and so am I.”

    So true, so true. After all, who is training who?

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  28. My issue is when I come home or when anyone knocks at the door and my 3 little ones go crazy! I have tried ignoring them, I have tried waiting for them to quieten down, I have tried hand signals instead of verbal commands…no success!! They are however, my babies and it’s ever so hard to stay mad at them for long…

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  29. They have a good mom in you. They are naughty, but you manage to reveal the humorous part of their behavior. Hope it gets better. Now, if I could just “persuade” my three felines to play mid-day instead of from 2 to 4 a.m. !!!

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  30. I think you and your mom are going to make this work. I’m awful at training, though Jack, Lulu and Stanley listen to me most of the time or maybe half the time, I take what I can get lol.

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  31. I think you’re doing all the right things, it just has to be a habit for you and for Cricket and as we all know good habits take time. Gee, why do I sound like an 1800’s school marm??? LOL Anyhoo, we all know Cricket is smart, it’s just breaking her bad habits. Would a kibble help if you gave it to her AFTER she successfully stopped barking? Or would that add to the craziness? Just wondering.

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  32. In the words of Red Riding Hood, the little one, “My Cricket, what big teeth you have!”

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  33. Cricket and my Gizmo sound like kindred spirits. Good luck! Maybe Butterfly’s intervention will help. I know my Munchie often attempts to put Gizmo in his place but more often than not I notice that Munchie has picked up some of Gizmo’s bad habits (like barking at neighborhood dogs on our walks and chasing the cats). Ah, but we love them with all their foibles!

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  34. You might try a product called Pet Corrector. It’s a little orange can of air that makes a noise when you spray it. If you spray it when your dog does something bad it gets their attention and they refocus. When I got my dog Piper from the animal shelter she was unsafe to take out in public and a menace to anything that crossed our path when taking her for a walk. I signed her up for a dog training class and the trainer there recommended it. It only took a few times of using it for a complete change in her behavior.

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  35. Tallulah is about to repeat her Level 2 training class . . . or should I say her human is about to repeat the Level 2 training class with Tallulah along for the ride. The human has gotten a bit lazy over the past year. It’s a constant struggle, and I have to remind myself that she’s a smart girl and I just need to be consistent, even when I’m tired or in a hurry or whatever. Good luck with Cricket. Maybe Butterfly can be bribed into helping you out!

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  36. Yes I have little barker,, he is a bichon,, barks when you leave a room, barks when you talk, you know ,, he has gotten this way as he got older,, my little guy is 13.. so I feel your pain,, lol

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  37. That is very nice of you to recognize that a barking dog is disturbing to your neighbors. I thank you for thinking of them and trying to change the behavior. Yay you!

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  38. If you succeed let me know. We have a few little barkers here.

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  39. A dog trainer recently told me that (because of our language barriers), trying to teach anything to a dog is like asking them to put together a puzzle but letting them see only one piece at a time. And that it’s really pretty amazing that they can ever figure out what us crazy humans want. Patience and consistency are key. Keep up the good work… P.S. How could butterfly NOT know how absolutely adorable she is? 😉

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  40. your doggies are soooo adorable!!!!

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  41. Keep at it Rachel. You’re already making such a difference!

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  42. oh. My husband wants to take a dog too… 🙂 An adult from a shelter. He believes the dog will be already trained ;)))

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  43. I was just thinking about training my dog too! He was a pretty quiet dog until around the time he turned 3 years old. Is it because he is an adult now and feels confident to voice his opinions? hehe I dunno. Anyway good luck with training!

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  44. I am currently reading “Never Give Up” by Joyce Meyer and that sounds like a good catch phrase for your efforts with Cricket. Our next door neighbour bought an incredibly yappy dog recently and we’ve come close to taking action. She lives in a villa and the villa in front has just sold and when I checked the place out, the dog was completely silent. It’s been sold and I can’t help wondering how the new owners will go with it. This dog barks at the air.
    Our dogs aren’t perfect. Bilbo barks ferociously at the post person, anyone of a bicycle going past and went totally troppo when the kids caught the bus. He’s also not happy when people picked up the kids or even brought them back and also backs when I drop the kids off . I suspect he’s telling me off for being a lousy parent!
    Lady wags her tail so much, that can wake you up as well.
    xx Rowena

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  45. Well done on your efforts. Sounds exhausting! Dogs barking really stresses me out. Terrier next door goes crazy at birds. New dog the other side, too tiny for his bark to annoy as yet…! 🙂

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