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Thread: Barking at animals on TV

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default Barking at animals on TV

    My 13 month old pup has a lovely temperament, she's gentle and loves meeting other dogs. There are no problems when friends bring their dogs into our home. Unfortunately she has developed a 'thing' about animals on TV. She attacks the TV and barks furiously, her tail wags but that could be anxiety? I know what caused the behaviour to start, but won't bore you with that.

    I've tried a few things to stop this behaviour. Firstly by getting her to settle and giving her treats - failed. Next I started tying her up in the corner each time she did it, and leaving her there for 10 minutes after she settled - failed. I then tried using water and vinegar spray bottle each time she did it, she would stop, but it didn't deter her from barking at the TV next time she saw or heard an animal. Lastly I put a Thundershirt on her each time I wanted to watch TV, but this didn't stop her either. She does the same thing in other people's homes.

    Needless to say I use my reprimand voice whenever she does it. She has been a quick learner with almost everything else, but this defeats me. Is there anything else I can try?

  2. #2

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    Whenever you switch the TV on make her lie on a bed you've prepared for her. From now on, as soon as the TV comes on, she has to sit on her bed. If she moves from her bed, make a sharp noise and gesture for her to get back on her bed, say something like "on your bed" or "on your mat".

    This is OCD type behaviour, it is natural for dogs to be interested in the TV but not to go crazy. It's going to take a lot of persistence on your part - don't give up even the 10th time she jumps off her bed and barks at the TV. There has to be a strict rule that she does not move from her bed until the TV is switched off. Every reaction of yours has to be the same and consistent, does not matter if it's the 2nd or 15th time she has jumped off her bed to go bark at the TV - say "GRR! ON YOUR BED!" in a stern voice. After a few days she will stop doing it. This is about changing the association in your dogs mind from the TV being a source of excitement, to the TV meaning she has to relax and be quiet. If you can, get a DVD with lots of animals and animal noises so you can practice this with her exhaustively.

  3. #3
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    I think knowing what caused the start of the behaviour is actually not boring, and really very important in giving you advice on ways to stop it.

    You've tried several things unsuccessfully - how many times did you attempt each method before giving it up as unsuccessful? Once, twice, 97 times? Mosh is right, you have to be 100% consistent and persistant with your admonishment and retraining - it won't do any good to provide consequences to her for one ad, and then miss the next infraction... your dog will never learn what it is that is not OK unless you are completely on top of the bad behaviour.

  4. #4
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    I agree that knowing the cause is essential so it can be counteracted.
    In saying that though I am also a great proponent of the quick fix to start with.
    I have a very heavy kid made in school coffee table. A leash was attached to that when one of my dogs had to be totally inactive for 6 weeks after an op.
    I would be putting the dog on that whilst watching TV, rewarding for quietness and ensuring the TV does not get knocked over.
    Failing that the leash can be attached to your wrist, maybe have a dog bed beside you and reward getting on it and for quietness.
    Failing all that I would probably have the dog in a different room or outside or child proof gates installed if I wanted to watch TV in peace.

    Any posts made under the name of Di_dee1 one can be used by anyone as I do not give a rats.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for your comments.
    I believe the cause started when I had to find somewhere safe for her to be for 7 hours and in my ignorance I put her in the closest boarding kennels to my home. When I collected her I was aware of the loud demanding barks of many dogs. Misha appeared to be in a highly agitated and anxious state but settled when we got home. Over the next couple of days I noticed how agitated she became when a pair dogs kept in the front yard of a home near us barked aggressively as we passed on our twice daily walk, so I changed our route. Then shortly after that I put on a DVD my son had loaned me, the opening scene was horrific, 2 guard dogs noisily & viciously attacking an intruder (YUK!), Misha went ballistic. I turned the movie off, and settled her, but from that point she started attacking the TV if there was a dog barking, and progressed to any animal with or without noise. It seems ridiculous when it's only a cute puppy, or a horse, or a duck! But she now acts as though her territory is threatened by them all.

    Yes, I might have given up too quickly with each of the behaviour corrections. I've never known a dog who wasn't happy to chill out with the owner/family during TV time! I live in a little cottage (relocatable home) and we can't fence our yards. It had been a different challenge raising a pup in this situation, but very worthwhile.

    I have a solid coffee table so I'll try a combination of your suggestions.
    Thanks again.

  6. #6

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    No worries, remember that consistency is the key when changing a dog's behaviour. You are communicating a concept to your dog by changing how her mind associates things. It's also not enough to reprimand the dog for bad behaviour, you also have to reward her when she behaves in a desirable way, to cement the process in her brain. When you put on a DVD with animal noises and she DOESN'T go crazy, it's time for a nice pat and a dried liver treat.

    At the moment your dog's mind looks like this:

    Noise from TV = THREAT THREAT THREAT UNKNOWN INTRUDER THREAT THREAT THREAT

    You want your dog's mind to look like this:

    Noise from TV = nothing to worry about, time to relax on my bed

    You can achieve this by forming these thought processes in her brain:

    Attack the TV and go crazy = admonishment and disapproval

    Ignore the TV and be calm = treats, pats, and approval




    This process takes a lot of persistance but it is the only way to eliminate unwanted behaviour totally.

  7. #7
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    At this point, given that her behaviour changed when in an anxious state of mind {you were gone, strange location, very demanding vocals from other dogs}, I'd be looking to add in more than just aversion training to her behaviour, because there's anxiety issues at play as well, which may be helped along by getting in touch with a trainer in your area that can come see the problem, and provide you with a set of actions to work on to switch out of Mosh's very accurate description for what's happeneing, to a more relaxed frame of mind.

    But absolutely, persistence is what will be key here, you may need to keep this up for a good 6 months for her to be fully relaxed around excitable sounds again.

    Good luck with it

  8. #8
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    Needless to say I use my reprimand voice whenever she does it.
    in my opinion - most dogs interpret this as you joining in with them to tell off the whatever it is they're barking at. Eg they bark - you join in with approval and encouragement - thereby re-inforcing the behaviour and encouraging it each time you join in.

    It could have been related to the kennels - ie dinner's coming so the nearest dog starts barking - and it gets passed along the line of kennels. So they're all barking - dinner's coming...

    So what to do?

    First - you stop joining in - be quiet or speak quietly, in neutral tones. But that doesn't mean you ignore the behaviour - because barking all by itself can be self-reinforcing.

    So if it was my dog - first thing I do is psst at her - to distract her. If that works - I give her a pat and a bit of an ear rub... and try to keep her attention on me for a while (or blissing out and relaxing).

    If it doesn't work - I go get her collar and put that on. If it's already on - I get her lead - and ask her to do something incompatible with barking her head off - she doesn't bark at the tv but sometimes barks at other things that I'd rather she didn't - like the freight train - several km away.

    Instead of pssst I sometimes say in my most musical voice - "What are you doing?"... and she knows - the next steps are collar then lead etc. Ie I limit what she can do and where she can go. Mostly at this point she lies down and is quiet and I can take everything off again. Sometimes I get treats out but usually only if I decide to have a training session by way of distraction eg hand touches, sits, drops, stands, touch, spin left, right, "tail worky", "what you say" or anything else I can think of.

    I also have her speaking on cue. And she knows to get the treat - she only has to make a really quiet noise - unless I ask for "louder". So this stops her barking her head off too. I know it feels backwards - to teach a dog to bark on cue to shut it up, but it works for us.

  9. #9
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    I'd say working towards desensitization. Remove the sound from the TV and movement on the TV, so get a video of animals and pause the video on an animal. Ensure your dog is out of the room while you set it up. Bring your dog in on lead and work on her obedience in the room. Start as far away from the TV as possible. Allow her to see the TV but no time to react then take her away and praise. Keep doing this until you can get up to the TV Without reacting.
    **i forgot to say do this for many different animals on the TV, not just one animal. Pause it on at least 5 animals, to generalise the behaviour to all animals on the TV.**
    Once you can do this you can then incorporate movement. Play the video but no sound. Repeat the exercise again. Start out of the room and work towards the TV, praising desired behaviour. After this, have the sound on as low as possible but cover the TV with a blanket so the animals can't be seen. Repeat exercise and slowly increase the volume of the TV until you can get to a normal volume without her reacting. Once you can do this, turn the TV down again and take the blanket off the TV, then repeat the exercise slowly increasing the volume again. So now she should be able to ignore the sound and visual of the animals and focus on you.

    This should all be done slowly and not all in the same session. This may take days, weeks or maybe months. It will depend on your dog and how patient you are with your dog. Don't rush it or your dog could react and you will have to go back a few steps, if not start from the beginning.

    Good Luck!
    Last edited by The Pawfectionist; 07-31-2012 at 10:22 PM.

  10. #10
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    I guess what I'm about to report will brand me as either cruel or a failure. But I'm thick skinned so I'll be brave and let you know the outcome.

    As suggested I kept Misha leashed near me when watching TV with rewards for being settled. But there was no change in her behaviour.

    I then hired animal DVDs for 3 consecutive weeks and whenever I had time I played them to work on desensitizing her.
    At first I would have the DVD paused on a dog (obviously no sound). She was very reactive to the image but eventually she calmed and was treated. I repeated this for a week.
    For the next 2 weeks I played the DVD with no sound and with Misha still leashed, but she remained agitated and I couldn't settle her or treat her.

    I'm a very calm natured person, I have never hit or physically punished Misha, but in desperation I purchased an anti-bark collar.
    I put it on her and left her unleashed. The collar reacted the first time she barked at the TV, she stopped and looked around in surprise. She took herself out of the room but about 15 minutes later she was back and calmly lying on the lounge next to me. She watched the TV for the rest of the session with no reaction, and no panting or other evidence of anxiety, and with lots of attention and praise from me.

    She is an intelligent and happy natured dog and has been easy to train in most other aspects, but I was floored by how quickly she learned and accepted that attacking animals on TV was not in her best interest.
    Maybe I should have saved myself the expense of the collar and just given her a good whack on the bum when it started!

    I believe that your assessment of her behaviour as OCD was correct, and I suspect that I'm probably not as 'high value' to Misha as I should be, nevertheless we have a great life together and I'm delighted that I can now watch TV without Misha going ballistic whenever an animal appears, and Misha is enjoying the praise and the occasional treat during TV time!

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