That said, training is always worth a try! To achieve this, you first need to teach your pup what their new Calm command actually means. We will assume you are using a ‘marker word’ like Good for when your pup does what you have asked of them. We will also use Good, for our example.
Before we start we should note a couple of the fundamentals of training. Leading academics agree that our pups learn best in 15 minute increments so anything beyond a 15 minute training session will not be maximizing your impact. We also know that pups do not generalize well and typically will need to learn a command or new behaviour in at least 3-5 different environments before the behaviour is generalized.
- Decide on your command word and stick with it to ensure consistency. We will use “Calm” as our command word.
- Fabricate a controlled scenario to replicate the behaviour you want to counter-condition. Let’s pretend Pupper usually barks when someone knocks at the door so we can use a door knock to trigger the barking.
- Stand in front of the door and knock on the wall to trigger Pupper’s barking (alternatively you can have a friend knock on the door if Pupper is too smart to be fooled by your wall knocking).
- When Pupper starts barking give your command one time in a firm voice preceded by Pupper’s name “Pupper Calm”. Note that you’re not yelling at your pup, but rather ensuring that you are loud enough to cut through their excitement and give them a chance to respond to the command.
- The moment that Pupper stops barking tell them “GOOD” and then praise, praise, praise like crazy. This can be with love and attention or a favorite treat depending on what your pup’s motivation is.
- Repeat this process for about 15 minutes; trigger the barking, give the “Pupper Calm” command, wait for the barking to stop, then immediately say GOOD and praise/reward the behaviour.
- Once Pupper is responding well at the front door, move locations or find another scenario that triggers the barking so you can continue training the Calm command (be sure to use a controlled scenario where you can stay within touching distance of your pup until they have a firm grasp of the command).
- As your pup begins to respond to their new Calm command, gradually increase the distance between you and Pupper before triggering the bark command. Since your goal is to have Pupper respond to their Calm command from a distance, you therefore need to slowly add distance and operantly condition them to respond even when you are not able to reach them.
- Practice the Calm command in a controlled environment with a friend’s pup or humans if Pupper barks at all times while playing.
- Once you have trained the command, increased the distance and successfully used the command in a controlled environment with another pup, it’s finally time to head out into the real world and find out for sure if you ‘have a talker’