Manage Dog Barking with The Thank You Protocol | Pupford
November 2nd, 2023
Filed under Training
One of the most common behavioral problems dog parents face is how to address barking.
While barking is a natural behavior for dogs and it would be unreasonable to expect them to never bark, there are training methods that can be helpful to manage and reduce barking.
WHAT IS THE THANK YOU PROTOCOL
In Niki’s words, the Thank You Protocol is “a guide to help families work through, diminish and potentially even eliminate excessive, non-alert type barking without using aversive methods. This protocol teaches your dog that it is ok to alert with up to 3 barks and that you take it from there.”
Essentially, this protocol allows your dog to fulfill their natural desire to bark and alert you to something, but eliminates excessive barking, all while using positive reinforcement-based training methods.
By ‘thanking’ them for barking, we are acknowledging their attempt to communicate with us without being dismissive and letting them know that we are aware of the situation and can handle it from here.
The Thank You Protocol consists of 3 sequences: Thank you, 1-2-3, All Done!
- Sequence 1 is Thank you, this acknowledges their natural desire to bark and communicate with us.
- Sequence 2 is counting 1-2-3. This can be done in your head or out loud, but this gives your dog until the count of 3 to finish barking.
- Sequence 3 is All Done! This is your dog's cue to stop barking. You can use any cue word you would like, just make sure it is not too similar to other cues your dog already. knows.
HOW TO TEACH THE THANK YOU PROTOCOL
Before we begin, it is important to remember that you will not be able to train this protocol while your dog is actively barking.
When your dog is overaroused or hyper-focused on something they will not be able to focus or learn. Instead, you will want to teach them this skill while they are calm, so they know how to perform this skill when needed.
- To begin training this protocol you will use a training technique known as ‘back chaining’. This is where you start with the end cue and work backward. This means we will start by teaching sequence 3, All done!
- To do this, whenever your dog is being quiet and not barking, say “All Done” and mark the behavior with Yes! Or a clicker and give them a treat.
- You will want to capture this naturally throughout the day, but also pay close attention to when your dog is being quiet when they would usually bark.
- For example, if your dog usually barks out the window, but you catch them quietly watching out the window, this would be the perfect time to capture that behavior. Make sure you are practicing this in various scenarios such as inside your house, in the backyard, on walks, etc.
The All Done cue should also teach your dog to redirect their attention to you, so make sure you are giving the treat when your dog is looking back at you, you can even add in some movement, such as walking backward, to get your dog's attention.
Essentially, you are teaching your dog that “All Done” equals treats.
But let’s take it a step further by adding distance. To do this, when your dog is being quiet say “All Done!” but instead of immediately giving them a treat, move backwards a little ways so they have to come running towards you to get the treat.
This will be an important skill to have when they are barking because it will get them to create distance from whatever they are barking at. Wait 3-10 seconds once they get to you, and then give them the treat.
This will take lots of practice! It may take some time before your dog completely understands that All Done means to redirect from what they are doing and give their attention to you for a treat.
Once your dog is reliably performing this sequence, you are ready to start using the protocol when your dog is barking.
USING THE THANK YOU PROTOCOL
When you hear your dog barking, calmly go over to them. You want to make sure you are not feeling stressed or displaying signs that you are agitated because this can elevate the barking.
You can softly pet them if you’d like and say “Thank You”. Again, this is acknowledging their attempt to communicate with you and your touch can be soothing for them as well.
You will not always need to go over to them, but at the beginning of training this protocol, it will be important to do so.
- Count 1-2-3 and they say “All Done!” and run backward away from what they are barking at. Make sure you say this in a happy, excited tone.
- If you have practiced the All Done cue enough, your dog should turn away and follow you for their reward. Make sure in addition to giving them a treat you also give them lots of praise and love.
- Make sure your dog is unable to just go right back to the window or wherever they were barking. Use environmental management tools to block their view or access to that area and give them something else to redirect their attention to such as a or .
This is important because you want to ensure that All Done really means the end of barking and does not just act as a temporary interruption.
Just remember, teaching this protocol won’t happen overnight and it will be important to consistently practice to build a reliable learning history.