Not all Cockapoos bark a lot but some are more vocal and bark more than others. The dog’s past life experiences will affect how much he barks
A few woofs here and there is not incessant barking.
You should address excessive barking as it can be a problem for you and your neighbors. It begins with cute barks that worsen as the dog gets older, especially in adolescence. This is because barking is enjoyable to the dog and self-reinforcing.
It is unrealistic to expect a silent Cockapoo.
To deal with an excessive barker, You should establish the cause (trigger). Read on to learn how.
Why Cockapoos bark
Excessive barking does not develop overnight. Cockapoos can bark, howl, whimper, or whine in the presence or absence of stimuli.
But oftentimes, barking has stimuli that interrupt his flow and emotional state. The dog may vocalize to prevent or avoid discomfort or to gain pleasure. Each bark is different depending on the stimuli.
Some of the reasons may be invisible or benign to us. It’s important to identify the cause of barking for management, desensitization, and training. Incorrect assessments will only worsen barking.
By observing the dog’s posture and what he does after barking, you can make a close guess of the cause.
Some of the reasons Cockapoos bark include;
- Perceived intruders such as mailman ringing the door and prey (Alert barking)
- Outside noises such as other dogs howling or barking
- Boredom and loneliness
- Fear and aggression (Alarm barking)
- To manipulate resources (Demand barking)
- Excitement and play
- Frustration due to unfulfilled desire or blocked social interaction (Frustration barking)
- Light, falling leaves, the wind (Compulsive barking)
Excessive barking due to pain or illness requires a vet’s diagnosis and treatment. These barks are usually continuous, low-pitched, and sound like a cry for help.
1. Alert or territorial barking
Cockapoos are quite territorial and will bark to alert and scare off anything out of the ordinary. The barking and growling will intensify the closer the intruder gets showing urgency. If the dog is willing to hold his ground, he may show aggressive tendencies like luging.
Usually, the alert barking occurs within the territory the dog considers his. This could be in the house, car, or yard. The intruder can be the mailman, a new scent, other dogs, the doorbell ringing, and so on.
As the intruder retreats, the dog learns that barking works to keep everyone safe. This reinforces the habit making it likely to repeat.
They also have a high prey drive and will bark and chase anything that moves such as;
- Joggers or cyclists passing by
- A tennis ball
How to stop
First, acknowledge the intrusion and lead him away to put him at ease and that all is well. If he barks at passers-by, walk over to him, stand between him and the stimuli looking at and lead him away.
Also, block his exposure to the trigger. If he barks while looking out the window, draw the curtains or lead him behind a pet barrier. If he is barking while outside in the yard, bring him inside. For barking at sounds outside, play background music to block the noises.
Behavior modification (Desensitization)
As a lasting solution, behavior modification is necessary to build a positive association with stimuli.
For this, disengage your dog from the trigger and ask for an action incompatible with barking. Mark and reward the instant the dog is calm. Break his focus before he reacts.
If he is too stimulated, use a correction to break focus. Draw eye contact, mark and reward the instant he stops barking. Correction can be leash pressure, a sharp noise such as a can of coins, a squirt of water, and so on.
Teach the dog to look at you each time he spots an intruder. Train him to watch you separate from behavior modification.
Use a yummy treat to lure eye contact. Hold the treat between your middle and forefinger and cover it with your thumb. Allow the dog to sniff it as you move it to your face. The instant he makes eye contact, mark, and reward.
Lure eye contact, YES, reward. Wait, the dog looks away, wait, the dog looks, YES, treat, treat. Repeat until the dog offers to look at your more and more before naming the action. The verbal command should precede the lure. WATCH, lure, dog looks, YES, reward. Give treats one at a time.
As your progress, increase the distraction level. Start from your living room, repeat it in your kitchen, as you stand or sit, outside, and so on. The dog should offer to make eye contact regardless of location or distraction.
Use high-value rewards more rewarding than barking to keep the dog engaged. If he disobeys, apply a correction and reward for compliance. As the dog improves, reduce the number of treats.
Be patient and consistent with training.
2. Alarm barking
Cockapoos bark at things that startle them, unfamiliar situations, or any perceived threat. Fear can develop from a past traumatic experience such as a close call with a skateboarder.
The barking is usually repetitive and high pitched with him fixated on the treat. This can happen at home or outside during play and walks.
They may adopt an aggressive posture with a stiff body, raised hackles, and perked-up ears. Leash reactivity is also common as he feels trapped by the leash as he attempts to keep his distance. A nervous Cockerpoodle may attempt to hide behind you as he backs off with his tail between the legs.
How to stop
Managing a fearful or aggressive Cockapoo is everything in the beginning. Avoid any negative experiences by working within the dog’s comfort zone.
Walk your Cocker Doodle in quieter places and less busy times of the day. Use a head halter (Gentle Leader) for better control during walks. Avoid inappropriate corrections such as jerking, telling off, startling, or grabbing.
Use a muzzle if he lunges at people. Use a well-fitting muzzle that the dog can pant and drink through. To muzzle train, smear peanut butter in it, and let him lick it as you put it on.
If he eyeballs a threat, walk in front of him in an arc to break his line of sight, turn and lead him away. Dispense treats from a safe distance once he is calm. Asking your dog to sit or wait in such situations will not work.
Only allow off-leash play in the yard and keep him engaged instead of scanning for what is out there. If he barks or is aggressive, stop all play and take him inside.
Lock him away when visitors are around. Only allow them to meet if he calms. Ask your visitors to be dog neutral and to ignore the dog. They should not attempt to pet or reward the dog as he may find himself too close for comfort. Work at the dog’s pace and let him initiate interactions if he wants to. Remain calm as the dog can sense if you are nervous and worsen his response.
If your dog is too reactive, keep him locked away and provide him a stuffed kong to engage him.
Counter-conditioning or Desensitization
This will build a positive association with the threat using a high-value reward.
The key is to work from a safe distance without being too close for comfort. He should spot it with only a mild response. If the dog barks, you are too close and should increase the distance.
Ask the dog for an alternative action such as WATCH then mark and reward if he is calm. Treats also change his emotional response to the trigger. For instance, if he is afraid of other dogs, the new association will be Scary Dog=Yummy Treat. Jackpot him for impressive impulse control.
With more positive experiences, distance will resolve itself. The Cockapoo will be less fearful and can get closer and closer to the trigger.
Some things the pooch will always be afraid of hence the need for management.
In severe cases of aggression, consult a behaviorist.
3. Boredom and loneliness
Boredom can be due to your absence or lack of enough mental and physical stimulation. Lonely barks are usually persistent and high-pitched. When you are away, the pooch may feel insecure and show signs of separation anxiety.
Apart from barking, the dog may also exhibit destructive behavior such as;
- Excessive chewing
- Inappropriate soiling
- Escape attempts
Signs of separation can be mild to severe. In severe cases, consult your vet or animal behaviorist for treatment and further advice.
How to stop
Regardless of size, Cockapoos need at least 45 minutes of exercise daily to burn pent-up energy. Exercise and play with the dog more to burn up pent-up energy. Also, provide interactive and chew toys such as a ball thrower to keep him engaged while you are away. A tired Spoodle is less likely to bark.
Before leaving ensure to meet his needs such as feeding, providing water, and allowing him to potty. Also, leave some background music or people speaking on the TV or speakers.
If you are away for too long, hire a dog walker or drop him off in licensed doggie daycare.
Ease your Cockerdoodle into being alone or at least tolerate it. If your dog is barking due to separation anxiety do reassure him before leaving. This set off his anxiety early on as he prepares for your departure.
Instead, make your departures and arrivals nonchalant and do not make a big fuss about them. Teach him that leaving is not a big deal as you will be back each time to reduce its emotional significance.
Also, desensitize him to events before you leave. Pick your car keys, and wear your coat and cologne at random times of the day without leaving.
Have him in his crate for about 20 minutes before leaving. This is so he does not make an associate confinement=you leaving.
Crate training is also a necessity to create a space he can feel safe when you are away. Leaving the whole house to your Cockapoo may only increase his feeling of isolation.
Set up a crate, playpen, ex-pen, or gated-off room with essential supplies. Make it as comfortable as possible. Also, include your clothing items for your scent.
Let the dog explore the space by himself by feeding, and putting toys and treats in it. Confine him at random times in the day. Only let him out when he is calm and go back to what you were doing. Do not let him jolt out of the crate.
If he barks in your presence, ignore him. Only pay attention to him if he stops barking. If he is calm and quiet for some minutes, let him out and go back to your business.
Move out of sight as you build duration. If he barks, stay off sight until he stops even if it is to catch a breath before stepping back into sight. Do not return as he barks as he will think you are there to rescue him.
Return without making a fuss each time. If he barks as you return, turn your back and walk away. Wait until he stops barking to return.
Vary the time you are away- 5 mins, 1 min, 20 mins, 7 mins, and so on. It’s good practice not to leave him for too long as you begin. Do not expect to leave him alone for 2 hours because he managed 20 minutes. This process will require patience and consistency.
If he too distresses, take a few steps back and repeat as you build duration step by step.
4. Demand barking
This is when a Cockapoo barks to get resources. Resources include food, attention, going outside, a belly rub, play, and so on.
Doing the dog’s bidding to stop barking, reinforces and makes it likely to repeat.
Instead, you should ignore and turn your back on the dog. No attention, no treats, no treats, no petting, no talking, no yelling- remain calm. If possible walk out of the room, make a coffee, read a book- act like the dog doesn’t exist.
This is much easier said than done as the dog might go into an extinction burst. The barking will intensify before it stops. This is because he assumes his barking is not loud enough.
The instant the dog stops barking even if it is to catch a breath, give all attention. If he barks, switch off and turn your back on him. With time, he learns that demand barking gets him ignored, and will bark less often.
What’s more, teach the Spoodle what to do instead of barking. For example, you could teach him to bring a toy for play or to ring a bell to go potty.
If he barks at you to take him back inside, wait until he stops barking to let him in. Stay still and do not even look at him as you hold the leash.
5. Play & excitement
This is the dog barks during play, or at anything interesting- he wants just wants to say hello. It might also happen in anticipation of something fun such as food or your arrival from work.
It is quite easy to identify a happy barker. He will wag his tail, jump and attempt to elicit play with a play bow. The barking is high-pitched, he will be jumpy and make frantic movements.
Do not let an excited barker get out of hand. Remember, dogs find barking fun as it is a self-rewarding behavior.
Instead, have the dog in a calm and submissive state before any fun activities. If he is too stimulated, apply a correction and redirect him to do something else. Mark and reward immediately he goes silent.
Also, remove any stimulus that might be causing undue excitement.
6. Frustration barking
This is barking due to an unfulfilled desire or as a protest.
Excitement barking can turn into frustration barking if you restrict fun activities. It can happen if you withhold a reward such as play or a treat or due to confinement.
When dealing with happy or Frustration barking, interrupt and redirect him. Ask him to sit and wait in silence. Only provide a reward if he is calm and quiet. Teach the Spoodle how to exercise impulse control in face of something interesting.
Each time he eyes something exciting, he should turn to you for guidance and direction. Make it more rewarding to stay engaged with you by using high-value rewards.
Have a clearer way to communicate with your Cockapoo by teaching him what to do when he wants something. Also, have a proper recall in case he runs off.
7. Compulsive barking
Cockapoos can bark for self-amusement (compulsive barking). The slightest of stimuli such as rustling leaves can trigger compulsive barking.
The barking is often accompanied by repetitive movement, running along the fence, and spinning.
Do not ignore a compulsive barker as the dog enjoys it. Instead, correct and ask him to do something more rewarding than barking such as fetch. The correction can be gentle leash pressure, a squirt of water, or a correction marker (NO or NOPE).
If you cannot distract him outdoors, take him inside and reward him the instant he stops barking.
8. Socially facilitated barking
This is when a Cockapoo barks or howls in response to other dogs. It can also be in response to sounds close to barking or howling such as a flute.
You should attempt to desensitize your pooch to sounds that arouse and trigger him. Expose him to the sounds in a controlled manner and disengage him before he barks. Mark and reward if he is responsive to your correction and looks at you.
Repeat as you raise the noise level with each successful attempt. Do this with different noises that stimulate your Spoodle to bark.
Dogs learn best through positive reinforcement. This rewards the dog for desired behaviors such as during his moment of silence.
Set up controlled training scenarios and reward impulse control. For instance, a friend rings the doorbell, disengage the dog before he barks, mark and reward. Use correction, luring, and other distraction techniques to break the focus. Change your dog’s behavior and substitute it with the desired behavior.
Start training in a distraction-free environment. Increase the distraction level as the dog becomes a better learner. Your dog is less likely to listen and work with you if he is too stimulated. Training is also slower with more distractions including some not accounted for.
Keep training sessions short and fun and always end them on a positive note.
Use high-value rewards
High-value rewards will motivate your Cockapoo to work with you. Establish what best motivates him and use it the most. This could be yummy treats, toys, playing tug, praise, and so on.
When using food rewards, cut them into chunks that are neither too big nor too small. Use food rewards to lure your dog to perform certain actions including making eye contact. Use food lures as much as possible and use them less as the dog improves. As the dog improves, use treats for reinforcement and as a reminder.
Barking correctors are a last resort for disobedience. Correct the dog to interrupt barking and disengage him from the stimuli.
- A sharp unpleasant noise such as a metal can with coins in it, an air horn, your voice, or clapping.
- Applying leash pressure
- A spray of water directed at the dog’s mouth or muzzle. Add lemon or vinegar to make it more unpleasant but avoid his eyes.
- Reinforced correction markers such as NO or NOPE. with the same effect as a physical correction. To teach it, say the marker (NO, NOPE, STOP…) followed by a harmless physical correction. The dog learns to associate it with a physical correction and for the same effect.
- Bark collars. This can be an ultrasonic, citronella, or shock collar. The collar delivers an unpleasant deterrent whenever the dog barks. Bark collars are not as effective as some dogs learn to bark at a low intensity without triggering them. Other collars are triggered by other sounds or other dogs barking. Some revert to barking once the collar is off. Don’t use an E-collar on a fearful Cocker Spaniel. Citronella and ultrasonic collars are milder and more humane.
Avoid causing physical harm to the dog and do not correct it after the barking has stopped.
A marker pinpoints the exact moment the dog performs an action before a reward. The reward should come within a second of desired behavior which is not always possible. The marker acts as a bridge between the action and reward.
It could be a positive (YES/GOOD) or negative marker (NO/NOPE/Ah-Ah).
Use the negative marker each time the dog makes a mistake and withhold a reward. The moment he redoes a desired behavior mark and reward.
Use a positive marker for anticipation of a reward. The marker should come within half a second of the desired behavior. For instance, the dog looks at you, YES, treat, treat. YES=Reward and NOPE=No reward.
Have a pause between the marker and hand movement to reward.
Train “Bark” and “Quiet” command
You will first need to train your Cockapoo to bark on command. Trigger your dog to bark by withholding something he likes or other stimuli. The instant he barks, offer a reward
Dog barks, YES, treat, treat. The dog is silent, wait, the dog barks, YES, treat, treat, treat. As you progress, add a verbal cue (SPEAK, BARK…) before you trigger the bark. Soon the dog will form an association with the cue to the barking.
From here, you can teach him to shush on command. Get him to bark then let him sniff a yummy treat on your hand and wait for him to be silent. The treat is likely to stop the barking. The instant he stops, YES, reward, reward. If he barks, withhold the treat and wait for silence. Repeat as you build duration on the silence. Soon add a verbal cue (QUIET, SHUSH…). Verbal cues should always precede any body movement or hand signals.
With time, alternate between asking your dog to bark and being quiet as you reduce the number of treats. Also, add distractions to engrain the commands.
Each command will take time to learn. So, teach each command separate from the other, and be firm, patient, and consistent. Don’t shout or show frustration if things are not going well.
If your Cockapoo is prone to barking at strangers and other dogs, socialize him more. Get him used to a variety of stimuli- sights smells and sounds.
Also ensure he is not barking of an illness, pain, or flea infestation
Have realistic expectations as it’s not possible to stop barking completely.
If the barking is out of control, consult a behaviorist or vet. Sometimes our best efforts may not be enough.
There you go, WOOF!