But then things changed.
Those first experimental howls were actually quite cute. It was the way the dog stopped and looked around, as if wondering where the sound had come from. But then he realized howling was his super-power and that was the end of the quiet times.
Now, he howls at the drop of a hat....literally! You could live with the noise, but unfortunately, the neighbors are not impressed. Indeed, to say they are not happy is like saying a hurricane is a strong wind. You can see their point, and indeed if the dog was on the other side of the fence you'd probably feel the same. But being sympathetic and actually solving the problem are two totally different things.
It is therefore totally inappropriate to use force or punishment to inhibit this behavior. To do so will cause the dog a great deal of distress, inner conflict, and frustration. Instead, it's necessary to do a spot of detective work and observe the dog to work out what the triggers are. Then you can work with the dog to decrease the urge to howl, and as a finishing step teach the dog to be quiet on command. It's also wise to be aware of the potential pitfalls where you may accidentally reinforce undesirable behavior, rather than discourage it.
My beagle howls when we are out in public and he sees another dog in the distance.
Hello. I am going to send you some training exercises you can use to help make your walks or outings a bit more peaceful. The first step is to reframe what an oncoming dog means to your dog. From a safe distance — your dog determines the distance, not you — have your leashed dog view another dog. As the new dog comes into view, drop a lot of enticing meat treats just in front of your dog’s nose. Ignore any hysterics for now, but back up and create more space if your dog is unwilling to eat. This part is hard for humans — I understand. It helps to see your dog’s behavior for what it most likely is: fear vs. disobedience. The training reinforcer MUST be a great one, such as real meat. It is critical that the appearance of the new dog causes meat to fall from the sky. When the other dog is out of your dog’s view, all treats stop. We want your dog to predict that other dogs near him means that YUMMY FOOD will appear! As you are reframing your dog’s opinion of seeing other leashed dogs, be careful where you take your dog, and be protective of what he is exposed to. One fight can create a reactive dog. Consider not walking your dog for 30 days as you reprogram his opinions of other dogs. Instead, sit on your front porch or in your garage with your dog on leash, and practice treating every time another dog comes into your dog’s line of sight. During this time, engage your dog’s mind with mind puzzles, obedience work, and fun stuff like games in the house or yard. You know you have made great progress when your dog sees another dog, and he turns his head away from the once-threatening dog and looks into your eyes, expecting a treat. Once your dog is looking at his (former) trigger and then looking expectantly up at you for a treat, you can begin to put this skill on cue. Tell the dog, sit, "watch me" or whatever command you want to use for this exercise. Remember to go slowly. You will see a significant change in his behavior after a month of consistent practice.
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