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So, my 5.5 month mini poodle pup has recently started to bark/growl at our neighbors when she sees them outside when I bring her to our front yard to potty.

My pup happily works for her kibble, but I’m thinking to use a higher value treat that she will ONLY get outside when said neighbors are in sight to help desensitize her. Does this seem like a good plan?

I’ve read articles that said the timing of the treat needs to be right when the stimulus comes in sight, during, and stop treating once the stimulus leaves. However, I’m a bit nervous about the timing. What if she starts to bark before I can even treat her once the neighbor comes out? Happened today when I took her for her pre-bedtime potty, we usually never see anyone so it took us both by surprise when my neighbors door suddenly swung open and they came out to walk their dog at night lol.
If she barks, do I just treat once she stops? Pick her up and move us out of sight and try again next time?

Unfortunately, not close enough to the neighbors at all to really ask them to be involved in training, nor would I prefer to in the case.

Any insight would be much appreciated.
 

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It is OK if she barks before you can get her a treat. The ideal situation is you wait until she stops barking, then give a treat. She will learn that only silence will get her the food.

Ask for a focus, train it by putting your food by your face and saying "watch me/focus".Praise when she watches you

wheneer you see the trigger, say "watch me" , and as long as shes paying attention to you, award.
 

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I hope one of PF’s certified trainers chimes in!

Yes, you can reinforce her silence. But I think you actually want to build a positive association with the sight of scary neighbours. So scary neighbours = yummy treat. With the latter, you’re getting to the root of the issue, changing her emotional response to those triggers. But this requires a more controlled environment for practise, where you can time the rewards.

Peggy startles easily at night (though not nearly as intensely as she used to), so if a neighbour were to suddenly appear from behind the bushes, and she reacted before I saw the neigbour myself, I’d actually go with option C: Say a cheery “Let’s go!” and do a 180, trotting away while treating.

This is something we practise so regularly, muscle memory kicks in for us and Peggy. Super helpful.

I do this to prevent her from going way over threshold. By waiting for silence, you may actually end up with a puppy who’s worked herself into a frenzy, which is really hard to dial back down. And she may then be more likely to escalate rapidly next time.
 

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As PtP says, I would concentrate on Neighbours=Treats - the timing is much easier, and there is only one thing to think about. Once she makes the connection she will be too busy gazing at you waiting for chicken to bark in any case. A bag of rather special treats by the door that you can pick up automatically as you go out means you will always be prepared. If you could arrange with a neighbour or two to come out when they see you for a few days - ideally during daylight when things are more relaxed - you could get lots of practice in over a week or so.
 
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I'll add the Look At That training game.

As you work with your new dog, I highly recommend the Look at That game. It gives your dog a reward for looking at something stimulating/scary/new/frightening/upsetting. It's a confidence builder for all dogs. Here's the best video I have found for how to play. You do not have to have a clicker, just say, yes.

See that attractive amazing distracting thing over there? Look at that! Now, look at me and get a treat. And while your eyes are on me, little miss thing, reset and pay attention to me. Fun.

Start in the house. Have an object in your hand (book, plastic bottle) Wave it, say look at that, when the dog looks, say YES (or click) and give a treat. Hide it behind your back. Take a breath, and repeat. Put the object in different places, over your head, to your left, to your right, between your legs. Keep the game fun and happy.

The dog will learn to LOOK at something and then LOOK back at you for a reward.
The goal of the game is to teach the dog to look at a scary or overstimulating thing, now look at me.

Go very slowly. Look at one scary person, treat, go back inside where it's safe. Next time, look at two very scary people, treat, go back inside. If your dog spits out treats, you're too close to the scary thing. Back up.
 

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Question, is the dog frightened of the neighbor and barking, go away! Or is the dog overly excited by the neighbor, let me say hi! Both can result in barking, but have different solutions.
 

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The question Click asked is important in this situation. I look forward to seeing the answer there.
 

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Question, is the dog frightened of the neighbor and barking, go away! Or is the dog overly excited by the neighbor, let me say hi! Both can result in barking, but have different solutions.
The question Click asked is important in this situation. I look forward to seeing the answer there.
Thank you both for pointing this out. I'd very much like to know for future reference.
 
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