“I haven’t gotten a complaint about his barking since.”
This very conscientious dog, named Dudley, knows how to do right by his neighbors.
Dudley lives in a college dorm building at Illinois’s Greenville University, where his owner Brian Gertler serves as the resident director. With dozens of students down the hall eager to pet him, life couldn’t be better for Dudley — but he has had to make a few personal adjustments to ensure they all feel the same.
Not long after adopting Dudley, who was born in a stranger’s barn, Brian and his wife discovered he wasn’t the quietest of pups. When they’d be at home and Dudley wanted to play, he’d try to get their attention by barking; he’d also bark out of frustration while they were away.
Having a loud dorm dog was obviously a problem for students trying to sleep or study; some even began complaining.
Fortunately, this problem had a solution.
“We were training Dudley how to do tricks, and one of them was ‘speak,’” Brian told The Dodo. “He would bark, but get kind of lazy with it, and he’d start mouthing it instead. I thought, ‘What if every time he did that, I threw a ball or gave him a treat?’ And that’s what I did.”
Sure enough, when Dudley gets excited now, he politely whispers his barks.
Dudley still barks at a normal volume sometimes, like when he’s playing with other dogs (but they might think he was a little strange if he whispered to them, anyway). The students in the dorm, meanwhile, seem to appreciate that the dog has learned to keep things quieter.
“I haven’t gotten a complaint about his barking since,” Brian said.
Now, having Dudley around is pure bliss for his neighbors in the dorm — and best of all, he learned to make that possible through positive reinforcement.
“We really didn’t want to punish him; we wanted to train the barking out of him,” Brian said. “Teaching him this trick was a way of being respectful to our residents.”