How to help your dog to manage themselves in the window
By Danielle Beck
Meet Nuffle and Spock, my adorable Miniature America shepherds. Nuffle is 3 years old and a bit of a window barker, though in our previous house he wasn’t able to practise. We also had sticky back window frosting to block the site of passers-by, so I could work on this easier. However, we’ve recently moved house and now have a lovely bay window. I wanted to decorate it, but I live with two dogs who enjoy looking out the window, and I’m practical, so dog beds it is.
As I knew my dogs would love this window before I moved in, I booked a week off work so we could practise enjoying the window without barking.
Living with window barkers can be extremely stressful. The repeated random barking throughout the day. Well it can turn even the most patience and calm people into an entirely different version of themselves. Combating this takes time and patience, prevention is easier but what happens when you have a window barker and a new pup who hasn’t learned this?
I’m a lazy dog trainer, I like to make things as easy as possible for both myself and my dogs. This has the added bonus of being less strenuous on my body, as I live with a disability, so if there’s an easy way to do something I’m going to find it! Something passing the window can trigger your dogs Meerkat resulting in a burst of different emotions within our dogs. Excitement, frustration, fear and anxiety can all play a role when they’re barking.
These exercises help your dog to learn how to manage their Meerkat not just how to train your dog. We can teach them an incompatible behaviour – not barking, or settle away from the window, but here we’re not treating the underlying emotion, we’re not controlling the meerkat before we train our dog. We want a relaxed emotional state when our dogs are in the window. That’s the goal. So we start small and build up, we cant expect calmness straight away. If your dogs are fearful or anxious, you will need additional support to help control your dogs Meetkat in the window. They’re not ready for these exercises just yet. For frustration and excitement alert barkers…this is for you !”
“Something passing the window can trigger your dogs Meerkat and can result in many different emotions within your dog. Excitement, frustration, fear and anxiety can all play a role when they’re barking.”
Please note that my dogs are not anxious, they are not bored, they ‘alert bark’. It’s a ‘stuff and things’ when they get excited and see something. If your dog seems upset at the window this is not the program for you….but get in touch as I can help, you just need some additional groundwork to help your dogs Meerkat before you get to this stage.
- High value, small size, easily digestible treats – They need to be tasty and ok in large quantities, as you’re going to need a lot.
- Bed – Somewhere nice for your dog to relax.
- Puppy/house line – hands free control, barking = no window.
- Chews & snuffle mats – to encourage calming behaviours when sat at the window.
Keep curtains closed when not actively training, or change rooms to prevent practising of the behaviour.
Open curtains and place cosy bed on or by the window
Invite dogs onto cosy bed and reward with treats for being there and repeat, increasing duration and using ‘If In Doubt; Chill out’ protocol if your dog doesn’t know how to relax.
People watch. You want your dog to see passers by, not react and get a treat, repeat and relax. That’s the goal but there’s a few mini steps.
But what happens if they bark? I’ll just feed, I want an association between people passing and food from me. We’re aiding emotions here, we’re not rewarding barking…we can’t reward a behaviour when the Meerkat is in control.
The priority is rewards for silence and people watching. For this you need to be quick, as soon as your dog spots the person, before they get the chance to bark, treat and repeat.
Then if they bark they get a chance to restrain themselves. If they are able to bark and stop, they get a treat and then I’ll drip feed continuously, as the person passes.
Then I’ll feed, pause for 1 second, then feed. This builds up to pausing for 2,3,4,5 seconds etc
Then we’ll get a bark, pause, and then look back at me. I’ll reward that; at this stage.
Sometimes theres a ‘boof’, silence, I’ll treat. Then as the person passes cue various vocalisations as your dogs eat. This is ok, this is what the process of self regulation and controlling that meerkat looks like.
The puppy line is a hands free way of getting them out of the window if they’re barking, struggling to engage with you, and can’t calm themselves.
Other activities, people watching is nice to do but it’s important that this isn’t a dogs only source of entertainment. We dont want them to back chain barking gets them food, thats why looking and silence is the goal!
For me the large bay window is a nice, warm, heightened place for my dogs to relax. Along with walks they have plenty of food toys, puzzle feeders and sniffing activities to keep them entertained.
When I can’t supervise, the curtains are closed or we change rooms. I don’t want them practising these behaviours. Without this the plan wont work as barking is an internally rewarding behaviour.
Good luck and i’ll look forward to hearing how you get on! Video tutorial coming soon 🙂
For us after moving house, this process took around two weeks for both dogs to be able to relax on their beds and calmly watch people and dogs pass by the house. A new house, with a new window gave us a fresh context to train in, which helps a lot.
You will notice a pattern, the dogs wont stop barking straight away, the intensity and duration will change first. Then as your dogs learns to check out and check in, they’ll start to ‘boof’ or whimper as they attempt to control themselves. This is good reward them for trying!
Over time they will start to watch and then look back at you, get their treat. They you can phase out the treats and everyone is happy
Oh but beware deliver people; this is an entirely different context and is the next stage !