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Dogs often have behavior that seems bizarre to us, but make perfect sense to them based on their instincts. Sometimes that behavior seems silly, but other times it can be dangerous and turns into something we need to change. One of these common behaviors is barking or chasing skateboarders. Maybe it's the rumble of the wheels as the skateboarders approach, or it could be the speed at which they rush by. Maybe your dog feels like he needs to herd them at the skatepark. It doesn't matter why he's barking at them, but it is important that you train your dog to stop barking at skateboarders as soon as it starts.
Barking at skateboarders can get your dog--and you--into a lot of trouble. If he starts to lunge or frightens someone riding a skateboard, that person could get hurt. Your dog could also get in the way of a loose board or of someone falling after being scared of his barking. Fortunately, there are several ways you can change his behavior and even make him think that skateboarders are good people to have around, rather than something to fear.
Some dogs are more prone to bark at skateboarders than others. Many herding dogs and dogs with a chase instinct naturally want to bark at something strange moving. If your dog has never seen a skateboarder, he might bark out of fear or alarm. Another reason he might bark is directly related to your reaction. If you get tense or are surprised by a skateboarder, he might read your tension as a sign of danger. He may bark to protect you.
It's important to keep in mind that this behavior is natural and not anything out of the ordinary. With a little hard work and some patience, you should be able to change his behavior and distract him or reassure him that skateboarders are not something to fear or to bark at.
To get started, make sure you start in a low stimulus area and that your dog has a good understanding of basic commands. You are going to be asking him to listen to your cues and slowly upping the stimulus, so it's important to have some solid groundwork established. When you are ready you are going to need these supplies:
- Yummy treats
- A leash
- A skateboard
- A friend to help you out
- A toy your dog loves
Below are three different methods you can try with your dog. Each is a little different so you can see which one will be the best fit or try several methods. If you put in time and effort, eventually your dog will stop barking at skateboarders.
The Turn and Sit Method
Find a quiet place
Start by finding a quiet place in the home without distractions.
Call your dog's name
Call out your dog's name and praise him as soon as he turns to face you. Give him a treat and keep practicing.
Ask him to sit
Now ask him to sit facing you after he turns. Give him more treats and praise when he does this.
Add some distance
Now walk away from him and call his name again. He should come to you, turn to face you, and sit down. If he doesn't, go back and practice the last few steps.
Now move outside. If you don't have a fence, put him on a leash and practice the same commands until he can come to you and sit facing you whenever you call his name.
Introduce your friend
Have a friend slowly walk by your dog without a skateboard. Call your dog's name. When he comes to sit and face you, give him lots of treats and praise.
Introduce the skateboard
Now have your friend slowly pass by with the skateboard. Make sure he is going very slow. Call your dog and praise him when he turns to face you and sits. Don't be afraid to go back a few steps if you need to.
Skate at full speed
Ask your friend to skate by at full speed, with all the noise and movement that an unknown skateboarder would have. Keep asking your dog to turn and sit, and keep praising and treating him when he does it.
Take it to the street
Now you are ready to try it out in the real world. Take your dog to an area where you have seen skateboarders before and practice the steps. After a little while, he should automatically turn to face you and sit when a skateboarder goes by.
The Desensitization Method
Pick a quiet spot
Pick a quiet spot to walk your dog where skateboarder only occasional comes by.
Enlist a friend
Enlist a friend to skate by slowly when you are out on the walk.
Sit and treat
As your friend is approaching, ask your dog to sit and stay. As the skateboarder slowly approaches, give your dog lots of treats and praise. Once he passes, keep going.
Practice asking your dog to sit and stay as the skateboarder slowly goes by. Make sure you are treating him before he can bark. Never treat him after he barks. If he does bark, simply release the 'sit' and try again.
Try it on a busier walk
Once your dog is starting to relax when your friend glides by on a skateboard, try to take him to a spot that has more skateboarders. You can keep him off the sidewalk so he doesn't have to be close to them at first. Keep asking him to sit and stay when they go by and give him lots of treats.
Skateboarders mean good things are coming
Eventually, your dog should start to associate skateboarders with calm and with treats. The barking will be replaced with a calm 'sit' and 'stay'.
The Replace the Behavior Method
Practice basic commands
Before you get started, make sure your dog knows basic commands like 'sit', 'stay', 'take', and 'drop it'.
Practice loose leash walking
Make sure your dog is well trained in loose leash walking. You want to be sure he is focusing his attention on you and all your movements.
Bring a toy
Grab a favorite toy to put in your pocket on your next walk. It can be a frisbee, a ball, or any other fetch toy that is meant to be outside.
Walk near a skateboarder
Venture to a place that occasionally has skateboarders. Don't get too close to them at first.
Give him the toy
When your dog starts to get nervous and might want to bark, ask him to sit and give him the toy to distract him.
Get closer to the skateboarders
As he begins to relax and look forward to the toy, start to walk him closer to the skateboarders. Each time he starts to tense, ask him to sit and give him the toy.
Close the distance
Eventually, you will be able to walk your dog on the same path as the skateboarders. Each time one approaches, have your dog sit and give him the toy. By this point, he should be expecting the toy and no longer focused on barking at the skateboarder.
By Katie Smith
Published: 01/26/2018, edited: 01/08/2021