by Karen Pryor
1. Make your Shelter a Bark-Free Zone
Constant barking is stressful for owners, patients, and staff. A small shift in routine management can reduce the noise level to zero.
- Hang a small envelope of kibble or treats and a clicker outside each enclosure. Or have kennel employees wear clickers on their wrists or belts.
- Ask anyone who is frequently in the kennel area to use the following clicker procedures:
- If a dog is barking, approach the dog, wait until the barking stops even for a split click, treat, and move on. Or…
- If a dog is barking persistently, don’t look at it; instead, click and treat its quiet neighbors, just once, and move on.
- If a barking dog stops when he sees you coming, click and toss treat.
Wait a few beats, watching the dog. Click and treat, again.
- Mark kennels of persistent barkers with a colored tag or ribbon; ask staff to click and treat any periods of quiet from those dogs.
- Click persistent barkers for any of the following behaviors: looking away, lying down, and backing away from gate.
- Be patient. Habitual barkers may get worse, temporarily, before they give in and offer silence as the new way to get attention.
- In traditionally noisy moments, such as mealtime, click quiet dogs before feeding. Feed barkers last, and only after a click.
- Ask staff to click occasionally for quiet on an irregular basis; unpredictable clicks and treats will maintain behavior strongly.
2. Click for Focus in the Shelter
Creating an atmosphere that’s calm helps dogs get adopted. Try this simple focusing exercise as a first step. Put a good treat in your closed hand (e.g. a tiny cube of cheese) and put your fist against the wires. When the dog sniffs your hand, click and toss in the treat. Repeat twice, and then put your empty fist against the wires; click for touching, and give the treat from your other hand. Move the empty hand to another spot. Repeat. Don’t click for licking or mouthing, just for a gentle touch of your empty hand. In just a few minutes, without actually handling the dog, you can turn your hand into a target, something the dog can safely touch and follow. This helps the dog to calm down, focus on people, and try to earn more clicks. Volunteers can do this right in the kennel..
3. Entering and Exiting Kennels Calmly
By: Dee Ganley & Nancy Lyon
How the Upper Valley Humane Society (UVHS) uses clicking for calmness to help dogs learn to go in and out of the kennels politely and quietly.
Kennelled dogs exhibit wild behaviour upon entering or leaving the kennel because they need company. Our instinct is to respond to this need. It flatters us and triggers our sympathy. However, offering no response or actually withholding our entry is the kindest action you can take. Nobody has taught most shelter dogs how to greet people, so they greet us like they would other dogs – they touch, sniff, jump up, lick, try to wrestle and play. To be successful when adopted they have to learn self-control. We can give them a real start by how we handle our entry and exit from the kennels or outside pens.
- Approach the dog’s kennel or outside pen.) Mostly likely the dog will be jumping and/or barking. (If you get to the kennel and the dog keeps all four paws on the floor and is not barking go to #2. Just stand there saying nothing, and give him ten seconds to stop barking and have all four paws on the floor. If he can’t control himself, turn your back to the dog and step away. Keep your head turned enough to watch for good behaviour. When he is quiet and has four-on-the-floor, click, turn, and toss the kibble into kennel. Remain facing the kennel door and step toward it. Give him 10 seconds to get control of himself (four-on-the-floor and no barking). If the dog remains calm go to #2; if the dog jumps or barks turn your back and step away. It may take only a few times of doing this, or it may take many repetitions, but the dog will learn to control his behaviour. You do not go to the next step until the dog is quiet and standing (or sitting). If the dog isn’t “getting it”, try moving to the next kennel and begin clicking that dog. Competition is frequently a good motivator. Work the neighbour dog for a few clicks, and then move back to the first dog again. They do learn by watching what works for another dog.
- Reach for the door of the kennel; open it using your body to block any exit by the dog. Walk in with your shoulder turned into dog and have food in the hand closest to the dog, letting him smell it and nibble at it. You aren’t actually feeding any of the food until you can shut the kennel door behind you. At any point if the dog has lost control, you back out, shut the door and go back to step #1. You are never angry; you are a calm immovable force. You are putting the dog in charge of getting what he wants if he is calm, because that is all you will reinforce.
- Once in the kennel, pat and touch the dog quietly; hook the leash to the collar. If the dog jumps or barks stand with your foot on the leash so the dog can’t jump on you, and then turn your back. Wait for calmness, turn back around and offer the food reward from your hand if you can, or drop it on the floor if the dog is nippy. Remember to look for any opportunity to click and then treat the dog for even the smallest moments of calmness -like four on the floor, eye contact, looking at you, moving away from the kennel door, etc. Once in the kennel and when the dog is calm, put on the Gentle Leader. Be sure to clip the leash to the ring on the GL and to the flat collar ring.
- Now you are ready to exit. The dog should be sitting or standing as you move to the door. If he can’t be calm, turn, and walk away from the door with the dog and wait till his self-control returns, then reinforce (click and give a treat), and try again. You should precede the dog through the door. If he won’t let you, turn around walking back into the kennel, again wait for calm, then reinforce and try again. Once you lead through the door, proceed outside quickly.
The more clicks followed by treats, the faster the dog will get it. Teach your kennel staff and volunteers to click for the smallest improvements, rather than holding out for a long calm sit. If you wait for too much and for too long the dog may lose interest.
Contact Dee Ganley, UVHS Training Centre Manager and Behaviour Counsellor with any questions at 603-488-6888603-488-6888603-488-6888603-488-6888 ext. 103 or e-maildee@UVHS.org . For more information on the Upper Valley Humane Society their web site is at www.UVHS.org .
Copyright © 2002 Upper Valley Humane Society