Sunday, November 20, 2011


So Violet has a barking problem. If you have a Collie, you're probably not too surprised. Honestly, I don't mind it, usually. But I don't live alone. And if I ever have cause to live in an apartment (don't plan on it, but you never really know), my neighbors would mind. And if I ever have a napping baby (and I will), I'll mind. When I call a volunteer coordinator, or the scholarship office, or a friend and have to keep saying "I'm sorry, I can't hear you. My Collie won't stop barking," okay, I mind a little. When everyone else in the house is visibly gritting their teeth, it's an overall issue.

It's the worst when people come home, especially Mary for some reason. Someone walks in the door and it's pandemonium. Total chaos. Can't hear yourself talk. And it's mostly just her, although Dewey was starting to pick up the behavior. Five dogs in the house, and she'd be the only one talking.

It's been an issue from the day she came home. I've tried to implement things to curb it, but it never did much, there wasn't total consistency in the house, she just didn't care, whatever.

I've been at a loss about it. I'm very new to training. Everything I've read says that I must teach her speak before I teach her quiet, but she's very very very fond of offering behaviors when I'm not asking for them and she just wants to be rewarded (she spends most of dinner time doing repeated sits, downs, touches, paw-offers, last thing I need is to add speak to the list), so I had qualms about that. I'm usually just against teaching dogs things by giving them unfamiliar commands and expecting them to comply, I'm a pretty big fan of capturing behavior with a clicker and that was getting me absolutely nowhere on the no-bark issue. Eric was frustrated with it and Violet was hearing "Oh god Violet please shut up please stop talking" as barking right along with her and would bark with increasing enthusiasm whenever that happened.

So one day, a week or two ago, I just decided, okay, when she started barking continually, I'm going to tell her quiet and immediately, consistently, calmly, quietly give her a 1-2 minute time-out in the crate. And it worked perfectly. For a day or two, she was in and out of the crate all day. Once or twice, I let her out and she wasn't calm yet and would start barking immediately, only to go right back in. After a few days, the improvement was obvious. She would start, I would say "Quiet," and about 75% of the time she would stop, and the other 25% she would continue and go in the crate. I was worried because at first she seemed downtrodden and depressed when she came out, and I didn't want her to think she wasn't allowed to play or be excited. I rewarded quiet behavior after a quiet command. After a few more days, she was having fewer and fewer barking fits and and responding more and more when told "Quiet," and even started to show improvement when people came in, which was huge, because she was completely beyond listening, normally, and completely strung out when people walked in. Over the past week, she's continued to play, or even zoom or be happy quietly when told "Quiet," instead of looking sad and reprimanded. She's learned to play happily and quietly, oh em gee. I thought that day would never come.

But then today, Mary came home, after being gone for a few hours, and Violet was awake, alert, playing with Piper (quietly!), and in the same room as the front door, when Mary walked in...and she didn't bark once.

I know that this cannot be properly appreciated by anyone who doesn't live here and know the unspeakable, eardrum shattering chaos that has been her MO when people come home, but Jesus it was huge. She frolicked around as usual (though slightly calmer than she used to be), she clearly recognized it as an exciting event, but was completely silent. Yesssssssssss.

I don't reprimand her for barking in the backyard or during training (within reason). They're somewhat arbitrary times, but I don't feel right just demanding that she be mute. She's a Collie. She still makes Chewbacca sounds non-stop, but that's fine. That's endearing. That's not deafening.

I feel like today was a breakthrough.


  1. I'm in awe over here! That's definitely a HUGE breakthrough for a Collie. Congrats to you!

    I tried so many different things with Petal (including trying to teach her to bark on command, yeah, she won't do it on command and even if she did, I don't think she would ever stop, haha) and was getting so frustrated until I found two things that work well, one is ignoring her until she's quiet (if she's barking at me) and the other is telling her "Quiet" (if she's barking at someone else). I love your idea, it's brilliant. Thanks for sharing!

    And I allow her and Lassie to bark and be their crazy Collie-selves out in the yard, like you do. I don't usually mind the Collie talk either, I'm actually a big fan of their bark, but they can get a little carried away with it, lol.

  2. Thank you! :) I tried ignoring, sure it would help, and it did nothing. It happened again today - Eric came home from class, she greeted him excitedly but quietly. I'm glad someone else can appreciate the wonder of this! :)

  3. Sounds like you're on to something. I did not realize constant barking like that was a collie trait, but not that I think of it I remember my aunt's beautiful collie did a lot of that. Hope things keep going well, she's seems to be a sweetie :D