We're at our wits end with our dog's barking – he barks aggressively (meaning that if I didn't know him I would feel like he might be a threat if he got out) at pretty much anyone who goes by. He really goes crazy if they are walking a dog.
So far we've tried:
- Consulting with a dog behavioralist who suggested a positive reinforcement regime (see @Mario's answer below for a good description of the strategy). After months of trying we haven't seen any appreciable change in his behavior. I'd really like for this to work, it seems like the "right" approach – but we've had almost no success with this approach.
- Using ultra-sonic "birdhouses" that are supposed to make an unpleasant sound in the area around a barking dog (the fence line in our case). It was really hard to tell, but the change, if any was very minor.
- Using a collar with a citronella spray. He smelled lovely but it had zero impact, we could see it spraying as he went charging at the fence in full voice.
- Using a Garmin Bark Limiter Deluxe shock collar (this model was recommended by a friend who found that it worked very well with her dogs). This works – he has stopped barking "cold turkey."
However, we've noticed other changes in our dog's behavior that make me think that the message he's getting from the collar isn't "stop barking" but something more like "stop getting excited about life." That's not what we want – he's a funny dog with a huge range of expressive vocalizations (a moan for when he sees something he wants but can't reach, whines, a very soft "just so you know" bark, growling when he plays, etc.), he used to get very excited when his people came home, he also seems less engaged and energetic when playing with dog friends.
This leads me to think that his barking at passers by was motivated by something in common with the other behaviors (e.g., not by defending his territory) and that he's suppressing all excitement (and thus not barking) rather than learning that extended barking is not a "socially acceptable" way to express his excitement.
So, I have two questions:
- Does anyone know of a bark collar that allows "fine grained" control of when it shocks? For example, I'd like to be able to:
- Adjust triggering based on bark volume/attack.
- Adjust triggering based on bark frequency.
- Set a audible or tactile warning.
- Be able to select the type/intensity of correction.
- Have a correction "ramp" (increasing intensity of correction with frequency or volume of barking – decaying during silent intervals).
- Does anybody have ideas about how to help the dog understand that the behavior we are trying to correct is the barking (as opposed to suppressing excitement)?