Barking at the Neighbour’s Dogs

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

Prevention first: don’t let him spend time in the garden alone; take him out on lead unless you have an arrangement with the neighbours and your dogs on a rota. Put up a secondary fence just inside the current one and plant shrubs in between.

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.

To teach your dog a different response to barking, go out into the garden with him on lead, when you know the dog next door is in their garden.

He’ll need to be under threshold, so stay back from the fence line and wait for your dog to become aware of the dog next door. You may have to start indoors with the door open, or as far from the fence as you can be in the garden.


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 is aware of the dog next door, 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 become aware of the dog next door, 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

Hear the dog next door, tell you he heard him, click, treat. You will have to do this as often as you can, and gradually up the ante. Closer to the boundary, higher rate of distraction… As you progress, you can lengthen the lead, so he has to return to you for the treat after hearing/seeing the trigger. Eventually, he can be off lead and play training games with you instead of barking at the dog next door. Once he understands, the reward can be a game with a toy, or, occasionally, just a smile and a ‘good boy’.