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Bitter apple to deter barking?

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Bitter apple to deter barking?
  • Hi Everyone! I haven't posted in awhile...gosh it looks so different!

    Anyway, Dweezil (2 yr old terrier/spaniel mix) just finished training a few weeks ago. She went to doggy day school to correct her barking issues while on walks (which have considerably helped her barking issues off leash and in the house...and other miscellaneous obedience issues as well)--two straight weeks of all day school, where she was trained on leash, with a prong collar. She has done beeeeeauuutifully and runs over the second I pull the collar out of her drawer and sits still waiting for me to put it on her. She's coming along really well with heeling and ignoring people/cars/motorcycles/bikes. Still, I think she has space issues. Sometimes, she will completely ignore people walking by us on a sidewalk or on a hiking path, but sometimes (I'd say more often than not) she will still begin to bark, though it is much much easier to stop her now (she used to go on and on but now, she will bark, but with correction will quiet down considerably, and stop quickly...and I can tell she's really trying not to, but can't completely contain herself). I hate hate correcting in these situations because I don't feel I have enough control over the collar when she's actually getting too excited, and I don't like feeling I may hurt her neck since she's ignoring the collar. Also, other dogs are still a major barking problem (though, I understand this is much more normal). Her trainer suggested using bitter apple in a small spray bottle...and spraying in her face/nose area if she barks and does not respond quickly to a collar correction. I've been trying to avoid using this, but she doesn't respond well enough sometimes to just the collar correction, and I want her to continue to progress as opposed to just plateauing and my accepting she'll bark at people when they walk closely by.

    Does anyone have any suggestions about the use of bitter apple? I was hoping gentle collar correction might do the trick, but it seems she ignores the corrections when we are in the moment (though she responds really well when we're just practicing heeling and not pulling).

  • I have never used bitter apple for barking, but I have seen it used.  When I had Zip in his 1st obedience class the instructors had bitter apple spray for the dogs who literally would bark non-stop and their owners had no control what-so-ever over this behavior.  They instructed the owners to spray a little in their mouth, (not in the face).  It worked really well, I assume it makes the dogs pucker so they can't bark for a bit.  Most of the dogs that got sprayed, only got sprayed once, they did not bark for the rest of the 7 week session, or if they did bark, one "eh eh" from the owners got them quiet again.  

    I have to say I was thankful the instructors did something to stop the barking.  That is something that I can't stand, non-stop barking during an obedience/agility/whatever class.  Makes me nuts! Smile

  • you might want to check out the book  "click to calm".  Prong collar corrections and spraying the dog with bitter apple are totally inappropriate for a reactive dog.

  • I definitely didn't like the idea of spraying bitter apple...which is why I asked. Tongue Tied I think I'm going to continue training as we have been, as I've seen definite and steady improvement, in only a couple of months. As for Click To Calm ... I read the book, haha. We tried it. She actually grew VISIBLY afraid just walking normally (as in, she looked soooo on edge and refused to walk after we began clicking, as opposed to before...and once i stopped bringing the clicker on our walks, she returned to normal). The collar has been helping and she loves it (which was surprise to me). mudpuppy, I don't want you to think I'm ignoring your advice, but I've had Dweezil for about a year and 8 months now, and I have definitely tried what I could without using any kind of correction. We tried clicking for several months and all I saw was a decline in her obedience.

     The prong collar has helped and she doesn't display nearly as many fearful/reactive behaviors as she used to (bikes--she doesn't even LOOK at them anymore! her fur doesn't stand up like she wants to attack them, and people bike by completely peacefully)--and she actually stops barking quite quickly with a gentle correction...I just wanted to find a way to (eventually) keep her from barking in the first place. Or, best case scenario, be able to tell her to "leave it" or "don't bark" beforehand... even though I think this might be a complicated thing to ask.

    I have no real 'complaints,' however, because I knew that she wasn't going to be 100% better after only a couple of months, but I have been so so surprised at how much progress she's made. I was also very hesitant to train her with a prong collar, but she's totally fine with it and is excited for walks again, and our walks are 200x more pleasant.

    Thanks for the input, though, of course!

  • mudpuppy

    you might want to check out the book  "click to calm".  Prong collar corrections and spraying the dog with bitter apple are totally inappropriate for a reactive dog.



    Ditto.  You need to find a new trainer, too, while you're at it.  The prong and the bitter apple may shut her down, but they aren't changing her basic attitude about the people and dogs you meet on your walks, etc.  You have only succeeded in making her afraid to bark, not in making her happy to be quiet.

  • bichinpanda
    As for Click To Calm ... I read the book, haha. We tried it. She actually grew VISIBLY afraid just walking normally

    I've already tried it, and I didn't like what I saw. She just didn't respond well to clicking. Thanks for the responses, everyone, but I really think this is ok--she's less fearful even in the house when people walk by and when she does stop barking, the fur on her back goes back down--whereas before, even if we could get her to stop barking, her fur was still standing on end and she was on edge. Now, she totally 'snaps out of it' and continues walking/leaves the window if we're in the house, and she's able to concentrate again. The problem before, I guess, was that she was unsocialized and not used to "the outside world" since she was locked up for the first few months of her life, and alone (she was taken from the litter way too early also).

    I also forgot to mention--I reward as well as correct, and am rewarding more often than correcting now. I reward the moment she looks up at me (and she's begun to do this when people are coming up to me, waiting for a command--I'll either 'slow down' or ask her to heel and make a turn, or whatever) and I reward when she heels perfectly and I don't need to correct her to ask her to slow down or to heel any more.


  • spiritdogs
    You have only succeeded in making her afraid to bark

    Sorry for the excessive responses, but, I also wanted to add--she's not afraid to bark...I just see her controlling herself when she's about to, and she has begun (I'll say again) to look up at me more often in situations where she would bark.

    And...sorry to sound soooo defensive (I've tried for a year and a half...different training methods and such...I don't want to give the impression that I'm being careless about what I do with the dog) but I know my dog, and the trainer spent a significant amount of time with my dog...and I LOVE my dog, and I know what has worked and how I need to treat her to see a positive change, which I have seen. Even in instances when she does bark, her growling isn't nearly as prominent as just "simple barking"--and what needed to happen was that someone who felt in control of dogs (trainer) needed to take her out and see the things that she's going to see on a daily basis and realize it's not bad. Even when I've had her on a flexi just in the yard to go to the bathroom, and people have walked by, she doesn't pay them any mind--and this with no correction or reminder from me. She used to bark up a wall when people walked by at these times.