Dear PetLvr Mailbag …
When we got our 2nd Papillon dog, Sophie .. it was mid September as a puppy (she was born late July). We then had the coldest winter and earliest snowfall that year and she didn’t get outside socializing much.
Now .. with her ‘super-Krypto-like-hearing’ .. whenever she hears other dogs with collars that jingle, she goes crazy and barks and barks and barks. If she’s off the leash outside, she will run out ‘close’ to where the dog with the noisy collar is, and just barks. It’s quite annoying, and not only because of the noise levels .. sometimes a bigger dog with the collar that jingles might not take a liking to that.
I’d like to know how to get her ‘cured’ of this. Most other times she’s the cutest thing since sliced bread of course.
Progressive desensitization combined with counter-conditioning is the best way to cure a dog of over-reaction to a particular noise. Get a tape recorder (or even an MP3 recorder, as long as it has volume control or can dump files to your PC) and find a friend with a really jingly dog. Have your friend entertain the dog so the collar jingles continuously while you record. Get about a solid five minutes of collar-jingling recorded.
First, test to make sure that Sophie believes the recording is as upsetting as real collar noise. Play it at a lifelike volume. Try not to let Sophie see you set up the recorder and press play. If she reacts to the recorded jingle by by barking, you’re good to go. Most dogs will. If she’s among the few who see right through you and ignore the recording, skip to the counter-conditioning part. It’ll take longer, but it will be just as effective in the long run without the recording, if done correctly.
Now, get Sophie’s bed and her favorite treats. Have her lie down in bed. Play the recording at a very low volume, barely audible. Pet Sophie and tell her to relax, while feeding her treats. If she barks, stop the tape, give her 15 minutes to forget all about it, and try again at a lower volume. Do this twice a day at a progressively higher volume until she stops reacting to the jingling noise, even at a louder-than-life volume. She should even start to welcome it, since it means treat time!
The last step is the counter-conditioning: Instead of barking, Sophie learns to associate a real dog with jingly tags with treats. Take her for a walk and carry along a really special bag of treats. Something like chicken or hot dog pieces that she loves, but rarely gets. Keep your eyes and ears open, and any time you see a possibly jingly dog coming, start feeding Sophie lots and lots of treats. By the time she notices the dog, she’s already more focused on the chicken raining from the sky. Keep it up until the dog is past and out of hearing range.
A few walks like this, and Sophie should start looking to you for treats when a jingly dog shows up, rather than focusing on the dog and yapping at it. When that happens, keep rewarding at a high rate of reinforcement for a few walks, then gradually slow down. Eventually, you should be able to pop a couple treats in her mouth when another dog comes near you, as a reward for focusing on you instead of the dog, and continue your walk without incident.
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