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Critter Corner: Turn your dog into well-behaved coworker

Dear Miss Behavin’: I’m lucky enough to bring my dog to my office each day, but “Scooter” has become territorial of my office and will bark at anyone who walks by or tries to enter. How can I get him to be a well-behaved coworker?
Reply: First, make sure you communicate to your human coworkers that you are aware of the issue. Just like dogs can become protective of a home or backyard, your office can also become an extension of their “territory” which can result in barking perceived trespassers.
Examine what type of doorway your office has. If your door is mostly glass, I highly recommend putting up some sort of screen that can act as a visual blocker. For example, tape a sheet or dark paper to the bottom half of your door that can act as coverage. It will be much easier to reduce Scooter’s barking if he can’t actually see people walking past your door.
If your door is already opaque, you can start teaching Scooter to “check in” with you every time someone walks by. Instead of simply telling him “don’t bark,” you’ll be telling him “do this instead.” Keep a container of Scooter’s favorite treats on your desk, and as soon as someone walks by, call Scooter over to you and ask him to look at you or do a sit (reward him with a treat if he complies).
The more you repeat this exercise, the more Scooter will start to anticipate running over to you for his treat whenever someone walks by. He will discover the payoff is much bigger for silence than for barking. This doesn’t mean he’ll never bark, but it should greatly reduce the incidents and duration of his barking.
If Scooter is still very worked up even in the presence of treats, you might want to consider temporarily setting up a portable exercise pen or baby gate to keep him away from your door. Even just restricting him a couple feet from your door can reduce the barking, and give him a chance to respond to the training.
Anika Marinakis is the Manager of Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA’s Behavior Department. For more information, visit www.PHS-SPCA.org, call 650-340-7022, ext. 374, or email amarinakis@phs-spca.org.

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