The man loved his dog, but the little pup’s barking was becoming a problem. Living in a university dorm gave him more neighbors than usual, and the dog was keeping everyone awake. Then the idea hit him: he knew exactly how to keep both his pet and his neighbors happy.
Brian Gertler is a 24-year-old from Illinois, USA. Gertler lives with his wife in Greenville University’s dorm building, where he holds the position of resident director. As a result, all the dorm’s students are his neighbors, and so he has to be conscientious.
One of the benefits of Gertler’s job is that he is exempt from the dorm’s usual “no pets” rule. As a result, the couple have two dogs living with them. And in July 2017 Gertler told WGN TV that the furbabies have a positive effect on the students, too.
“It’s a good icebreaker for a lot of these students,” Gertler explained. “Sometimes they feel more comfortable talking to the dogs than talking to me.” However, one of the doggos – a young puppy called Dudley – was pretty vocal when he wanted attention from his humans.
Little Dudley was born in a barn and while the Gertlers didn’t know the barn’s owner, they decided to make the pup one the family. Like most puppies, though, Dudley liked to bark when he wanted something.
Not only did Dudley bark from excitement, he also made a habit of barking when he was alone, too. In fact, he was so noisy that he began to disturb his freshmen neighbors. And the pooch was particularly disruptive during his late-night playtime.
In the daytime, Dudley had space to run around the outside of campus. But when Gertler took Dudley’s fun and games into the student lounge when night fell, the students couldn’t sleep or study as a consequence of the pupper’s playful barks.
It led to complaints, and Gertler knew he had to do something about the noise. Luckily, however, one-year-old Dudley was still in training. And his human had noticed the dog displaying an unusual habit in one of his behavior lessons.
On July 2017 Gertler told The Dodo, “We were training Dudley how to do tricks. One of them was ‘speak’. He would bark, but get kind of lazy with it, and he’d start mouthing it instead.” But the strange habit finally gave Gertler the solution to his noise problem.
“I thought: what if every time he did that, I threw a ball or gave him a treat?” Gertler told The Dodo. And that’s what I did.” Indeed, the positive reinforcement training worked like a charm. Soon enough, whenever Dudley would play at night, he would bark in a “whisper” instead.
The New York Post reported that the dog initially let out a “whisper” because he was out of breath from playtime. The repeated training, though, taught the puppy to default to that noise level when he played with his humans. But it doesn’t appear to affect him socially.
Apparently, Dudley still yaps and barks at a regular volume when he’s playing with his other furry friends. And since Dudley’s training, Gertler has posted a video up to Facebook showing the puppy even “whispering” on command. It was captioned, “My dog and I have to whisper when we’re playing at night.”
Gertler couldn’t possibly predict the reaction social media would have to the video. The recording went viral and quickly reached news sites. Facebook users were astounded at how Dudley could whisper, and some expressed an interest in the training for their own pets.
“That’s amazing,” one user wrote on the video’s Facebook comments section. “My husband and I recently got a Yorkie mix, and her little bark is very intense, and never-ending! But I’ll have to try this trick!” And others were equally wowed by Dudley too.
One of the Facebook users was also in awe at the level of respect Dudley’s training showed to the neighbors. “Wonderful job by the dog and his parent,” they said. “Great consideration from all; [I] Love it!” And no doubt Greenville University’s students appreciate the gesture, too.
Many people have asked Gertler what the secret is to teaching a dog this trick. But actually, it’s not so different to teaching a dog how to “talk” – or stop “talking” – on command. Because just like most behavior training, the key is positive reinforcement.
The concept of positive reinforcement is to reward a dog with something they like when they do something good. That can be attention, a treat, playtime … anything that the dog enjoys. It takes hard work and patience, but you can see the results with Dudley.
Negative behavior, on the other hand, doesn’t have to be seen as a sign of a “bad dog” – just a sign that the dog needs more training. If they chew things they shouldn’t, for example, introduce them to a chew toy. Furthermore, give your dog enough exercise and stimulation so they don’t become destructive.
Another important factor in positive reinforcement training is consistency. Decide what you want to train your dog to do, and don’t send them mixed signals. However, it is best to teach them the same trick but in different rooms. That way they know it’s a universal rule.
Gertler stands by positive reinforcement as a training method. “We really didn’t want to punish [Dudley],” he told The Dodo. “We wanted to train the barking out of him.” And it seems the technique has worked a treat. “Teaching him this trick was a way of being respectful to our residents,” concluded Gertler. “I haven’t gotten a complaint about his barking since.”