The days are getting shorter, and the autumn fog is creeping in on your dog’s adventure hours. Maybe it’s raining just a little too much for your taste today, or you’ve caught a cold and need to stay in bed for the weekend.
You need something to keep your pup’s brain busy during these long autumn nights - ideally, something you can train in front of the fireplace. With Halloween around the corner, why not teach your dog to howl at the moon like her ancestors did, or to stay vampires with her ferocious bark?
Here are the eight steps to teach you to howl or bark.
Step 1: Find something your dog LOVES.
This can be a delicious treat, a brimful dinner bowl, or a toy your dog is crazy about. Don’t work on this trick with a boring morsel of kibble – it’s time to bring out the big guns.
Step 2: Get your dog excited about the object of her desire.
Show your dog what you’ve got! Remind her how much she likes what you’ve got while keeping it just out of reach. Tease her a little. Admire and salivate over the treasured treat together.
Step 3: Wait for her to make a sound.
As her desire and frustration grow over your unwillingness to share, she will try various things to get what she wants: how about sitting? Nope. How about jumping up on you? Nope. She’ll resort to telling you in no uncertain terms that your lack of sharing is NOT okay. Depending on your dog’s temperament, this may be a whine, a bark, or a howl. Give her the treasured treat the moment she opens her mouth!
Step 4: Repeat!
Repeat steps 2 and 3 until your dog speaks up as soon as you pick up the treasure: she has understood that the fastest way to get what she wants is to make noise.
Step 5: Increase the duration of your dog’s song!
Up until now, you’ve given your dog the treasure the moment she started making a sound. What you’re really looking for though is a much longer song. Beethoven wrote an entire sonata about moonlight. You dog should give it more than one measly “Woof”!
Gradually increase the time your dog has to sing in order to earn the treasure: in the beginning, 1 second of barking or howling was all that it took. Now, you’ll wait for 2 seconds of the same behavior, then three seconds, 4 seconds, 5, 6, and 7 seconds.
Step 6: Select for the kind of sound you’d like your dog to make!
There will be a natural variation in your dog’s barking, whining, or howling. What parts of her song do you like best? Once you’ve achieved your desired duration, zoom in on the way she is expressing herself. Rather than waiting a certain length of time, now you will always and only give your dog her treasure the moment she makes the kind of sound you like best. You can shape your dog to bark, whine, or howl this way – just select from her natural vocal repertoire.
Step 7: Think of a cue!
Once you are happy with the type and duration of your dog’s song, you’ll need to trigger it with a verbal cue. After all, you want to be able to get your dog to howl at the moon anytime – not only when you’re holding up her favorite treasure.
If you selected for barking, you might need her to bark at vampires and other Halloween monsters at your doorstep. Clearly, it’s better to establish this behavior on a solid verbal cue and be able to call on it before the vampire has had time to dig his fangs into your neck. It’s a basic safety question. You wouldn’t want to fiddle around for your dog’s treasure in a critical situation, losing valuable seconds.
What cue you want to use is entirely up to you. You could say “Howl at the moon!”, “Sing!”, or “Scare the Vampire!” – anything goes!
Step 8: Fade the treasure and put your dog’s song on cue!
Hold your hands in a neutral position but have the object of your dog’s desire close by. Say your new cue (e.g. “Howl at the moon!”). Then, pick up the object of your dog’s desire, and give it to her when she does her usual bark or howl routine.
Repeat this step until your dog starts barking/howling right when you say the cue – before you have reached for the treasure.
Voilà – you’ve trained your dog to howl at the moon or bark at a vampire! Your new trick is ready to take on the road, and Halloween can come!
If you enjoyed this article, check out the eGuide for a quick, easy reference to use while training your dog!
For more wonderful training tips and information, or to schedule a session, reach out to Chrissi's Dog Training.