suppressing bad behaviour does not contribute to lasting change

July 27, 2016 § Leave a comment

It is a quiet morning. Except for a seagull squalling east of the buddhist temple. The early morning orange of the rising sun illuminates the linden tree across the street but it hasn’t yet reached my house. The sky is a clear cool blue. It is already warm enough for bare feet. The air is still. Not a leaf twitches. The dog is sprawled sideways on the couch on the other side of the room. The moment I close the laptop lid he will be alert, knowing that is the signal that our first walk of the day is imminent. I hear the floor creak upstairs as my husband shows signs of awakening. I am comfortably reclining on my own couch, laptop in hand. Coming to consciousness.

The dog is prone to bark at sudden changes in the environment. He is also prone to attack things that he deems worthy of his attention. That whole ‘attacky’ thing. It means he can never go off leash in public areas. We don’t have a fenced yard, so it means he is never off leash when he is outside. He is a big athletic dog, very intelligent and he loves to learn new tricks. He is actually quite loving and friendly, except for the barky defensive attacky thing.

Some days his barking can be unnerving because he is just doing too much of it. I can tell when he is barking too much because I have a feeling of irritation and overwhelm at the sound of his voice. Usually at that point I just want to shut him up. But my wanting to shut him up does not equal him reducing his barking. It is the opposite. My attempts to suppress his barking leads to escalating barking over time. Why? Because his barking is expressing a need and the need is not addressed when I put my efforts into getting him to stop barking.

When I am in a responsive frame of mind, I note his barking as a signal of his boredom, his frustration, his need to express his energy. I engage him to learn a new trick, I get him to run obstacle courses, I run with him, I train with him to manage his aggression in increasingly challenging situations. I give him something to lick, to tear apart. I give him instruction.

When I do these things his barking incidents decrease.

Husband has come downstairs and Dog has moved from the couch to the floor. We will go out for our walk next.

 

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