Click for Quiet

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We looked at noisy Labradors in a recent article

And I said I would show you a technique to reduce noise by reinforcing silence

That is what this article is all about

Why does my puppy howl?

When a new puppy arrives in his new home, he has to contend with a whole new world.

He probably feels quite lost at first, and especially when you are not there.

It can’t be easy, and many puppies cry a little when left alone or placed in a crate.

click for quietSometimes simply leaving the puppy to ‘cry it out’  can be the best solution.

But some puppies get terribly distressed and wind themselves up into quite a state.

Added to which, howling at night may not go down too well with your neighbours

A noisy puppy can also be one of those problems that creeps up on you without you noticing.

One day he grumbles a little in his crate, and a few days later he is whining and yapping to be let out.

Teach your puppy to love silence

This technique will help you teach your puppy that silence is a good thing.

There is no force involved and it works quite rapidly to resolve crying in small puppies.

It’s called  Click for Quiet.   The example below shows you how to teach a puppy not to cry when he cannot see you

Equipment for teaching click for quiet

To work through this exercise, you will need a clicker, and some nice juicy little chunks of roast chicken or beef.

greenies for dogsCut the chunks very small so that they are not much bigger than a pea.

The reason for using a clicker is that initially, the gaps in your puppy’s crying may be very brief.

A clicker is a nice accurate way to mark and identify those gaps, so that your puppy understands  what he is being rewarded for.

You will need to place the puppy somewhere that enables you to close one of the doors in your house with the puppy in his crate on one side and you on the other.

You can put him in his crate if you need to.

Click for Quiet Exercise 1

  1. Step out of the room that the puppy is in and close the door
  2. Count to three
  3. If the puppy has remained quiet throughout the thee seconds press the clicker
  4. Return immediately to the puppy and give him a tiny piece of roast meat
  5. Repeat twice more from step 1 then move on to exercise 3
  6. If the puppy cries before you get to three, be ready to press the clicker as soon as he pauses for breath.  Don’t wait for a long pause,  just a second will do.
  7. Press that clicker immediately the puppy pauses for breath and before he starts crying again.
  8. Return immediately to him EVEN if he is now crying again.
  9. Reward him with a tiny piece of meat
  10. Repeat from step 1 until the puppy regularly pauses in his crying within a short time of starting then move on to exercise 2

Click for Quiet Exercise 2  –  longer pauses in the crying

In this exercise we will build up the length of time that your puppy will remain silent after he has stopped crying.  We are teaching the puppy that to become silent and to remain silent, is rewarding.

  1. Step out of the room that the puppy is in and close the door
  2. Count to three
  3. If the puppy has remained quiet throughout the three seconds press the clicker
  4. Return immediately to the puppy and give him a tiny piece of roast meat
  5. Repeat twice more from step 1 then move on to exercise 3
  6. If the puppy cries before you get to five, be ready to press the clicker
  7. As soon as he pauses for breath start counting in your head. Count one thousand two thousand. Don’t click for very short pauses, but don’t wait for a long pause,  just two seconds will do.
  8. Press that clicker immediately you get to two thousand.
  9. Return immediately to him EVEN if he is now crying again.
  10. Repeat from step 1 until the puppy regularly pauses for two seconds, within a short time of starting to cry

Your next task is to increase that pause to three seconds,  then to five, then seven, then ten.   And so on.  Gradually lengthen those pauses.   Check out the tip below for the most effective way to lengthen pauses without a breakdown in your new behaviour.

If at any time the puppy starts to slip back again,  just go back a step or two and move forward more slowly.

The next exercise is for puppies that are successful in not crying at all for the three seconds after you first leave them alone.

Click for Quiet Exercise 3 – Remaining silent after being left

  1. Step out of the room that the puppy is in and close the door
  2. Count to five
  3. If the puppy has remained quiet throughout the full five seconds press the clicker
  4. Return immediately to the puppy and give him a tiny piece of roast meat
  5. Repeat twice more from step then
  6. Step out of the room that the puppy is in and close the door
  7. Count to seven and go to step 3

You can see where we are going with this.  Build up the amount of time your puppy can remain quiet for after you have left the room, in exactly the same way as you build up the pauses in his crying. feeding2

Tip: sandwich longer absences between shorter ones

If you keep adding duration steadily you will soon reach a point where your puppy ‘cracks’ and starts to cry.  You will then have to ‘back -up’ and return to a simpler exercise.  To avoid this,  simply mix and match the duration of your absences as you go.

In each session, sandwich the longest absence, in between some shorter ones.

For example, if all goes well and the puppy does not cry when you leave the room very briefly,  in the second session you might leave the puppy for three seconds, then five,  then two,  then seven, then three again.

By the time you get to the tenth session,  you might leave him for twenty seconds,  ten seconds,  forty-five seconds, twenty seconds, then five seconds.

It may not seem like much but you have actually made a break through.

You have taught your puppy to chose to remain silent for a few seconds.   Now all you need to do is build on that in nice easy stages so that your puppy cannot fail.

And here is the important thing

Don’t rush it.  Be glad of your three seconds.  Celebrate it,  and cherish it.  If you can teach a puppy to be quiet for three seconds, you can teach him to be quiet for three minutes, and so on.   It is a process.    Work carefully and you will get there.

Teaching older dogs to be quiet

The clicker for quiet technique works well for older dogs too.

Older dogs have learned that crying or barking gets them attention

Some have simply learned to enjoy the sound of their own voice.

Either way,  teaching them that silence is rewarding, is the way to go.

More information on puppies

Happy-Puppy-jacket-image1-195x300For a complete guide to raising a healthy and happy puppy don’t miss The Happy Puppy Handbook.

The Happy Puppy Handbook covers every aspect of life with a small puppy.

The book will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialisation and early obedience.

The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.

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Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of several books on dogs. She is the founder of the Labrador Site and a regular contributor. She is passionate about helping people enjoy their Labradors and lives in Hampshire with her husband and four dogs.

9 COMMENTS

  1. I need help with a 9 month old male lab that has been waking up and crying since we got him and his sister. She’s quiet as a mouse and never makes a sound. Leo now sleeps until 5:30-6am (a tremendous improvement). I would like him to learn to wait for us to be the ones to announce it is time to start the day. Should I just ignore him and only go downstairs when he’s silent?

  2. We have a 6 month old puppy… She barks at us for no reason…. I check her food/water….take her out to potty …. Play with her….. She still keeps barking…. Help!!! This is getting really OLD

  3. Another way to quiten your pupp, is to play with him on the bed,sofa, table somewhere higher than the ground, hug him kiss him and pamper him then leave him for short breaks, if they howl, bark, come back, leave them on the floor and you sit on the bed, repeat this every time. It works really well with my puppies. And best part no risk of over feeding them…

  4. Going to try and put this into practice with my 18 month old lab, we do group gundog classes but he whines when he sees another dog retrieving. Hopefully this can be a solution.

  5. Hi… i would really love to try this technique but my problem is i have 2 pups. Jade will start yapping which eventually starts off charlie and she gets agitated then and scratchs and barks/howls in her cage… it can be 6am they start (which is good) or it could be 2am and again at 5am and so on. They are 13week old tomorrow and its taking a toll on my disabled mum as well as me on the days i work plus the worry over upsetting neighbors… Is there anything you can suggest? thanks

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