Barking at the TV

By Sally Bradbury

Every other advert seems to have a dog or animal in it these days, so this seems to be a common problem. It is also one of the easiest triggers to control.

You need to work on this below the dog’s threshold, so sit with him on lead as far away from the TV as you can get. If necessary, move the television opposite a doorway and sit outside the room, looking in towards it. Turn the volume down to zero and use a recorded programme so that you know when to expect to see the animals or whatever will usually trigger the barking. If he is triggered by the sound of a particular advert or theme tune, then just lower the volume rather than muting it completely.

You are going to need him to want to eat, so have something really delicious and smelly, like cooked liver or hot dog sausage. If he is below threshold then he should eat the treats.

Give him one or two treats before turning on the TV to increase his motivation to work with you. Then, as soon as he sees an animal on the TV, click or say your marker word and treat. If he won’t take his eyes from the screen, hit the pause button and see what happens. Your aim is for him to see something on the TV that he would normally bark at, but instead to turn to you for a treat.

You’ll need to experiment a bit. If you click and he still barks, he still gets the treat. A click is always a promise of a reward. Once you can sit far away from the TV and he can see an animal and immediately turn to you and say ‘I saw that dog/cat/meerkat. Treat please’, then you very gradually up the ante. Add some volume, move closer. If it goes wrong at any time, go back two stages and get that stage perfect again.

Meanwhile, you’ll need to avoid all instances of letting him practise the behaviour you are trying to eliminate. Otherwise, it will take a long time to make any progress. You may have to make sacrifices and read instead of watching TV, or watch when he isn’t in the room.