To reduce your dog's reactivity to other dogs barking in adjacent units and all the sounds in the hall, we have to block out the noise for a good 2-3 weeks to just lessen the reaction and get to ground zero rather than Level Ten Reactivity All The Time. Here's how:
Prevent your dog from rehearsing the behaviour you don't like:
- Use a baby gate to block access to the front door if you have a hallway that leads there. This prevents your dog from standing guard at the source and/or charging and barking every time there's a noise.
- Use white noise (or brown noise, ideally!) at the front door and even pair it with classical music or reggae music - both are calming for dogs: click here for some ideas on ways to reduce anxiety in general.
Respond rather than react:
- If at any time your dog starts alerting to noises by orienting in that direction or even barking, take that as a cue to go check it out. Take a look or have a listen and verbally reassure them ("oh that's okay - thank you!") and then off you go! Back to your normal activity. Sometimes just the acknowledgement or reassurance is enough to lessen the reaction!
- You can encourage them to come along with you, but don't go overboard - if they are no longer barking, let them be.
- If they're still barking, you might need to help them out by bringing them with you away from the trigger zone and blocking access to it. If you can't block access, can you pop your dog in their crate for some relaxing time with a stuffed Kong or chew?
Train what you want:
- During busy times in the hall, lower the white noise by 50% and sit at the gate or door, and be armed with amazing food. Here are some ideas and this is a great recipe if you're so inspired!
- While you're there, wait for them to notice a sound (they will perk up and/or start barking - ideally you catch them at the "perk up") and then you start using some Counter Conditioning to change that emotional response! Happy-talk and deliver a few small treats, one after another, to create a fabulous association with the noise. Noise = food. No contingencies like "sit" or "quiet" - just a straight up pairing of noises and food in that order.
- Short and sweet - 5-10 minutes MAX per training session.