Dear Lisa: I have a wonderful 2-year-old neutered Doberman Pinscher with whom I would love to compete in obedience. We have trained with our dog club and privately since our big boy was about 5 months old. He is exceedingly high energy, which is good for obedience however he makes a loud, whining noise whenever he is very excited. His inappropriate vocalization is usually provoked by seeing another dog and riding in the car. He rarely whines at home. Your advice to curb this would be greatly appreciated. --Dobe Lover
Your dog seems to be overstimulated and gets excited in certain situations. You are wise to note what triggers his whining -- seeing another dog or riding in the car. It will be important for you to stop this behavior before you take him in an obedience trial as the judge will penalize him for such noises.
What you might try is to get your dog used to all the things that trigger this excitement to the point where they are so common place, he ceases to whine.
Every day take him in the car for a ride or go to a dog park, or play dates with other dogs. At first, just ignore his whining behavior. If it's really annoying to you, use earplugs for your protection. Start by letting him sit outside of the car and see if he whines there; if he doesn't, praise him and place him in the car. If he does whine, give him a command such as "quiet" to let him know this behavior is not acceptable.
Some dogs will need further reinforcement such as a spray bottle. A quick squirt and "quiet" usually will do the trick. The next time you say "quiet" he'll get the message pretty quick and you won't need the spray bottle. Do the same when he meets other dogs. Put him in a sit-stay and reinforce that he should not make any noise when he sees another dog. Praise him when he is silent. Once quiet, let him be introduced to the other dog.
As with any program to change behavior, move forward in small steps, praising the correct behavior, and ignoring the unacceptable behavior, going back to successes where he is good before moving forward. Little steps of progress will add up to giant leaps of permanent change. Just be consistent and have some patience. Just like with our own bad habits, it takes a while to establish new ones. Your dog is looking to you to let him know what is right and wrong.
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