Tips From Our Trainer: Teaching Your Dog To Ask Politely

For the first Tip From Our Trainer, Chopper P. asked,  "How do I get my Pug to not bark at me for treats when I am sitting at my kitchen table talking to a family member?"

Barking for treats or any other sort of attention can be a little annoying and rude to your guests/family members, I know :)

The best way to get rid of the behavior is to stop reinforcing it and redirecting that energy elsewhere. Chances are, if you were talking to someone and your dog barked to get attention, and in-turn you gave him a treat, your dog has now learned that barking will get him something yummy, and will likely do it again. I like Dr. Sophia Yin's approach of ignoring bad behavior and rewarding good behavior - and by ignoring, I mean ignore, ignore, ignore. No attention will be given as long as the dog is barking, jumping, or demanding your attention in a rude way. Don't look at him or say "no!", because that in itself is attention too. It will take patience and a willing friend or family member to practice with. Dogs often associate the kitchen with, what else? food! You can easily teach your dog to politely ask for attention or a treat with Dr. Yin's Sit to Say Please technique. When the dog barks for your attention, turn away and ignore; make it clear that you are ignoring and wait it out. The minute he is quiet or better yet, sits, THEN give him attention. Praise your dog to let him know know he did something right ("Yes, good puppy!"), or use treats as a reward. To see Dr. Yin's Sit to Say Please technique, click on here. Below is a great example.

Another thing you can try is get a toy (such as a Kong or a Busy Buddy to stuff with treats or peanut butter) and give it to your dog to chew on his bed; do this before he demands attention by barking and plan ahead to do it every time you have guests over or when you know you'll be having conversations in the kitchen (or wherever the bad behavior takes place). Redirecting that energy, keeping his mind busy and stimulated is likely to reduce the barking. 

Good luck!

Nat is the co-founder, photographer and designer/illustrator behind Photo Lab Pet Photography and Design Lab Creative Studio. Along with her husband/partner Bill, they are based in the San Francisco Bay Area, providing custom fine art photography of companion animals, and high-end graphic design and illustration to private, editorial and commercial clients. They are proud members and supporters of HeARTs Speak, photographing adoptable animals for shelters and rescues in need. Their work has been featured in Bark Magazine and they have collaborated with many notable companies in the pet industry.

Nat is a graduate of Trish King's Canine Behavior Academy and volunteers regularly at her local humane society's behavior and training department. A lover of all things analog, Nat's favorite tools include a Hasselblad camera and many, many rolls of color film. Nat and Bill live in Petaluma, CA with their two dogs Corbin and Willow and two cats, Leeloo and RT.

If you have a question for Nat, please post it onto our Facebook Page! Though we will always do our best to advise you on a particular challenge, we believe the best way to go is to find a great dog trainer or certified canine behaviorist in your area. Below are a few links to help you find someone near you.

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