As I've said over and over, kuvasz are guard dogs. Which means they will bark ferociously at the door if they hear someone approaching, right? Well, sort of. They are also really, really smart, as I was reminded recently:
Our apartment door is right next to the elevator, and we have a laundry room down the hall. On weekends, especially Saturday mornings, there is a fair bit of activity as people come to our floor to do their laundry. Lately, the building has been painting the fire stairs next to the elevator, too, so there has been a lot of activity and noise outside our apartment. Biggie almost never barks otherwise (after we worked out his separation anxiety, the subject of another training post), but when he barks at the door he is LOUD. The neighbors love it! Typically when he barked at the door, we'd make our corrective noise, a loud nasal "EH!" and go up to the door and pull him away, and praise him when he stopped.
A few weeks ago, we noticed that sometimes he'd run up to the door, bark loudly, turn and look at us, and continue to bark. If we went, "EH!" he would just ignore us. So we would grab his collar, sometimes put him in the other room so he couldn't physically get to the door, and listen. It seemed oddly quiet. What was going on? Was Biggie getting more aggressive and territorial?
Not quite. Biggie was training us.
The key was that he would turn to look for our reaction while he was barking at the door. This also usually happened later at night, when P-Daddy and I were working at the dining room table. Biggie was bored, and wanted to play, and any attention was better than no attention at all.
But this behavior presented a new problem, namely, how to untrain (or redirect) that behavior while staying on good terms with our neighbors? Obviously, ignoring that behavior was what we should do, but we couldn't very well let him bark incessantly while our neighbors were trying to sleep, not to mention it was driving us nuts too.
The solution? Yesterday morning when Biggie ran to bark at the door, I got up calmly and went into the bathroom and shut the door. The barking stopped immediately and he walked over to the bathroom to wait for me to come out. When I did, I gave him some praise and petting for being quiet and calm.
The best part of this training solution is that it doesn't punish alarm or guard barking - if there really is something outside, he will continue to bark.* But if he's doing it purely for attention, it completely removes the attention source without any emotion. We did this yesterday maybe 4 or 5 times, and Biggie's figured it out already - the barking at the door has decreased dramatically, and even his alert barking has calmed down considerably. Instead of ferocious, non-stop, "I'm gonna tear your head off" barking, he growls and gives a few low barks. If the noise in the hall doesn't escalate, he stops.
After he's done a quiet alert bark, I reward attention to me by calling Biggie over, having him sit or down by my chair, and rewarding with a treat. And if he comes over to "offer" good behavior by lying next to my chair on his own, he gets intermittent and random praise and treats.
*If there is a continuing noise in the hall, I will go to Biggie and have him sit, down, stay, and practice some hand targets with good treats while the noise is going on. It redirects his attention and creates a new association: non-threatening noise in the hall = treats for listening to Momma. Yesterday afternoon two neighbors who don't particularly like Biggie had a conversation just outside our door, and Biggie and I sat quietly and eavesdropped on the whole thing. Congratulations, Biggie, maybe they won't vote you out of the building after all!