Barking at Birds/Squirrels

By Sally Bradbury

For any barking that is a reaction to a trigger, be that the dog next door, neighbours in the garden, cats, chickens, an animal on the TV, someone walking past the window, birds flying overhead in the garden, or traffic on your walk, you can play Click the Trigger.

First, introduce him to clicker training. See Guide 19 for videos

You’ll need a clicker (or you can use a verbal marker such as ‘Yes!’), a pot of treats, and your dog on lead. You are going to need him to want to eat, so have something delicious and smelly like cooked liver or hot dog sausage. You may want to do a couple of sessions of simple clicker training first, so he knows the game.

He’ll need to be under threshold, so work with your dog outdoors, but near the door so you can retreat indoors if necessary.

Once he is clicker savvy, sit with him on a lead in the garden or indoors near the open door, where you can see birds passing, but where he will still be responsive to you with a clicker and treats.

Stage One

Have your clicker and a pot of tasty treats and wait. Watch his body language; you are looking for the slightest ear prick. As soon as his body language indicates that he has seen something, you have a nano-second before he barks to click, so that he turns to you for the treat. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

If you click and he still barks, it doesn’t matter, he still gets the treat. Just be careful not to click the barking, but click before he does. He should prefer to eat a treat than to bark.

If he is unresponsive to the clicker and a treat, then you are too close to the trigger, or the treats aren’t of high enough value. Move further away. Get better treats.

At some point he will see something, you will be slow to click and he will turn to you and say “Oi, you forgot to click!” Click that and jackpot reward him.

Stage Two

See bird, tell you he saw it, click, treat. You will have to do this as often as you can, and gradually up the ante. Closer to outside, off lead eventually and further away from you, so he has to return for his treat. Once he’ understands, the reward can be a game with a toy, or, occasionally, just a smile and a ‘good boy’.

You should soon find that he will be willing to ignore birds, and play training games with you instead.

Trigger stacking | Meadow Family Rescue