I took Gretchen out night before last night. It was late, and I went to the same shopping center as the previous night where she spent her time barking at people. It’s a fairly well-lit parking lot, and there were people out and about at that late hour, so I felt relatively safe.
At such a late hour, I was able to keep Gretchen in an area where there were no people, but she could see folks walking entering and leaving a nearby KFC. This was a perfect arrangement for us because it meant that I didn’t have people approaching the pup from every which direction, and I had a place to retreat with her if she went over threshold.
So here’s what I did:
1) Took her immediately to the people-less area and let her sniff and explore. I made sure that she would be able to see people at a distance.
2) When I saw that she was looking at people in the distance, I turned and walked the other direction with her BEFORE she started barking. I praised her as I walked away.
3) I then turned around again and walked towards where the people were, coming in a bit closer. She looked, ears erect. I again walked away with her praising her for not barking. The idea is to let her see the people, but not bark.
4) Rinse and repeat the above, but getting closer to the people.
Then we stopped for the night. I had only one barking incident that was very brief, and that happened when I took her from the car en route to the “People-less” spot.
Lessons will resume today, but I’ll try to take her out during the daylight hours this time. I feel there’s hope for this puppy, if I go about the socialization sessions in a consistent way that does not overwhelm the puppy. I don’t think she’s barking out of fear, but it’s a behavior that I sure would like to stop because it will get worse as she gets older.
In the meantime, Tuvok, who has adjusted to going out with me and no longer barks or growls at people, will be accompanying me on errands again this morning.