Tony Cruse advises a reader on the best ways to stop his Terrier barking for food.
Q: My three-year-old Patterdale Terrier keeps barking at me for food and titbits. I know I’m to blame — I’ve relented in the past and given him something — but now it’s got to the stage where I’m not really sure how to stop it. At the moment if he barks at me (often when I’m cooking in the kitchen), I move away, turn my back, and ignore him until he is quiet. This works for five minutes but then he tries again. Have you any other advice? What should I do?
Mark Gaytor, Northumberland.
A: Tony says: Firstly, ensure your dog is provided with enough of his own food and fed two or three times a day. It’s also worth ruling out parasites, such as intestinal worms, which may increase his hunger. It is easy to inadvertently teach a dog to bark at you: the dog barks… food appears. It is tough to refrain from giving food when a demanding dog is barking loudly, but it only takes a few repetitions for barking to become a rewarding and learned behaviour.
Ignoring him is OK, but it’s far better to also teach him what you want him to do instead of barking. Try to only provide him with titbits after he has done something you wanted him to do, such as a ‘sit’. Taking training further, teach a ‘go to your bed’. Eventually, instead of barking, he will make his own way to his bed, and then you can choose to reward him with a piece of food when you decide.
While you are cooking, provide him with a tasty, stuffed Kong that he can enjoy in his own private space away from you. Alternatively, give him his own meal just before you start preparing yours. Give him something to do instead of barking.