Saturday, May 23, 2015


Courtney's new Icelandic Sheepdog puppy is doing very well. As you can read, he's living large in Maine! Like virtually all herding dogs, he does have barking issues but I believe that Courtney is doing the right thing with positive reinforcement. It is important to deal with barking early. As they say, "As the twig is bent, - - - - ."

Barking has been bred into sheepdogs, not just Icelandic Sheepdogs but all sheepdogs like Shelties, Corgis, Border Collies, Bearded Collies, Old English Sheepdogs, German Shepherds, Pyrenean Shepherds, etc. for hundreds of generations. You cannot stop it completely but it can be reduced and, to an extent, controlled but only if you start early.

Huld, my very first Icelandic, taught me that if I didn't 'talk, instruct, cajole' her verbally, she was quieter. She barked 'back' at me when I said something to her. I think her reasoning was, if he 'barks' at me, I'm going to bark right back at him. Accepting that barking is one of their traits, trying to reduce and/or control it, and then learning to live with some acceptable level will make your life and your dog's life easier - - I believe.

From Courtney: -
Here are some recent photos of our little guy. He has grown SO much! He loves to play outside and he is a fetching master! He even drops whatever he brought when you ask him. I even managed to get a pic of him with his kitty sister.

Clicking on photos enlarges them.

The pic of him with the stick was taken so I could illustrate why I really shouldn't buy him so many toys...he'd rather have a stick to fetch! He is a smart little dude. He learns most new things in about 15 minutes.

We were having some issues with barking at other people and dogs despite his extensive socialization- at least to people- so I looked up some ways to deal. I decided to put the bark on cue, especially since a barking dog is one of the best ways to deter deer from eating my veg garden. Took me just a few minutes to put the bark on cue reliably and then about the same time to teach "quiet". It's much easier to teach behaviors with positive reinforcement to than to "correct" behavior. So instead of trying to tell him "no" when he barks, I reward him for being quiet when I ask. He's a smarty pants that way.

He reliably sits, lays down, rolls over, shakes, waits, will bring it, get it, leave it (for things he is never supposed to have including the cat), and drop it (for things he is allowed to have but I want him to give to me like a ball). He is also pretty good about ringing a bell when he needs to go outside. We are, of course, still learning each other. He is a sheer delight on a daily basis and he is LOVED wherever we take him. He got absolutely mobbed by teen girls at the local ice cream parlor and took it like a champ! They took turns loving on him and he seemed to enjoy the attention. Everyone who knows dogs well is excited to see him- the trainer, groomer, daycare owner...they all fawn over him...but who wouldn't?!

My own Icelandics bark at the fox who visits my neighbor's chicken house every day, the feral cats in the neighborhood, human company visiting in the neighborhood, and, of course, the deer. I thank them for their barking and call them into the house (if they're outside) or away from the windows if they're already in the house, and then reward them for their barking with a cookie - actually half a cookie. They stop barking immediately. I tell them that they are supposed to bark and alert me. However, once alerted I'm grateful, but then it's time to stop - - - and they virtually always do stop - which often surprises me! They are seeking approbation. I give it to them.

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