Last week I talked about whether you should say “No” when your dog growls, barks, or snaps. The example I used was of my foster dog who behaves aggressively toward my husband. I explained why saying “No” or punishing your dog for aggressive behavior isn’t a good idea. I also promised I’d give you an example of what TO do instead. And that’s what I’m bringing you this week! What to do if your dog is barking at your husband (or other family member.)
I gave this presentation originally in our free Facebook support group. You’re invited to join if you’re not already a member.
What’s the fastest way to decrease aggressive behavior toward a family member?
If your dog is barking or growling at family members, reduce opportunities for those behaviors to happen and be reinforced. In the case study I present below, this meant rearranging the house and the foster dog’s routine a little. With a few simple changes, we eliminated many of the occasions in which foster dog Pancake felt the need to growl or bark at my husband.
If you are tackling this issue, I recommend making a list of the exact contexts in which you are seeing behavior problems. Then for each context, write down what you can do, in detail, to keep the dog out of that situation. A qualified R+ trainer can help you with this.
What else can I do?
When a dog is barking at your husband, son, dad, etc., you usually aren’t happy with just keeping the dog away from them. It’s a tough way to live long-term. There are other steps to take, but this is important: training should be IN ADDITION to the strategy described above. You probably won’t make good progress without first reducing opportunities for aggressive behavior.
The add-on I talk about in the case study below, which I strongly recommend, is pairing the person the dog is unfriendly toward, with good stuff. If your dog is barking at your husband, your husband should become Santa Claus, the source of all good things. This often reduces aggressive behavior, likely in part because the dog is no longer motivated to scare your husband away. Who wants Santa to go away?
Next week we’ll talk a little more about training helpful skills for dogs who are fearful or aggressive toward family members, so stay tuned!