Gia Pets

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Electronic bark collar or ?

At some point in our pet parenthood careers, we may be faced with a dog that takes “nuisance barking” on as his or her own personal career.  As much as I hate to admit it, there are some that are so devoted to that cause that traditional training just never gets it under control, essentially isolating the dog from society with its own voice.

Often these dogs end up in rescue, as they wear out their welcome in their own neighborhood.  Often, their owners are faced with a choice of moving or getting rid of the dog.  This situation can be heart wrenching, as they are forced to give up the dog due to their own economic and housing issues.  In worst case scenarios, all too often the normal scenario, the dog dies for the barking problem.

Years ago, I adopted a feist who had been through the mill on rescue, having been returned four times that I could trace.  I took her sight unseen from “death row” as her time ran out, and was more than a little surprised when she arrived, as I was expecting a fifteen pound, six month old rat terrier and got a 25 lb. full grown adult feist.  I understand the motivation behind the “fudging” on the reality of her size, breed, and age–they were desperate to get her out of the pound.

Even though she was very unexpected on a number of counts, she came home with me.  I had a history with big dogs, and she still seemed pretty small, and after all, what could she do that a big dog couldn’t?

Her name was Lovey when she arrived, and there was no way that I could stand on the back porch and holler “here, Lovey, here, Lovey!”  That name had to go, but I had nothing to replace it.  She joined my older dog, Red Dog, and a foster dog in the household, and soon showed her more timid side as she screamed any time the bigger and more rambunctious dogs got too close.  Her name became Sissy as a result, and it has stuck.  Never mind she’s all terrier, and that sissy routine was just a wily way to ensure that I had sympathy for her.

Over time, I soon learned that Sissy couldn’t control herself in public, and would turn into this loud, obnoxious and very abrasive dog in public situations.  With a multiple dog household, correcting her was difficult, and all too often, she was left behind because of her behavior in public, causing her to miss out on camping trips, park walks, and city strolls.  Even trips to Petsmart were an exercise in aggravation and stress as she alternated from a slobbering snarling apparently vicious animal to a whining small dog fawning for attention just before she would turn around unexpectedly and snap at some innocent bystander.

Nothing seemed to get her attention, and she would practically self-destruct as she got progressively more frantic during a solo outing, the only time I could contend with her.  The only thing that could be done, even on a camping trip, would be to isolate her in her crate and make sure she couldn’t see anyone or anything moving until she calmed down again.

It got more difficult after her continual battles with Red Dog began, as she strived towards becoming the “pack leader.”  After a very severe injury resulting from a conflict, we decided that they could not be allowed near each other any more.   While not convenient, it was our only option as it became apparent that the conflict was unresolvable.  Both financially and emotionally, we could not take the risks of trying to keep them together anymore.  We do everything with them kept apart by either a physical barrier or distance on leash.  A divided household is far better than a mourning one or one in bankruptcy!

Then, we found ourselves moving and discovered a new problem, one that had been laying in wait all along, we suspect, but never appeared before due to the isolation of our yard.  Sissy is a problem barker, and NEVER shuts up.  If she’s outside, she is barking, whether we’re walking her on leash, she’s in a pen, or on a cable.  No one wanted to see us arrive for a visit with our dogs–her barking annoyed everyone!

Forced with the potential of having to live in closer quarters with people, it was obvious that her barking was not going to make us a welcomed neighbor unless we moved into a hearing impaired community.  Something had to happen before the unthinkable did.

Sissy had to stop barking.

I tried the squirt bottle, the hose, the leash, a muzzle…it didn’t even slow her down.  Finally, I bought a cheap electronic anti-bark collar.  My daughter was wondering whether it would deliver a fatal jolt, as she couldn’t imagine Sissy stopping.  I was pretty sure that a battery couldn’t do that.

We put the collar on.  It didn’t seem to work.  GM tried it on his arm, and it definitely worked.  We put it back on the dog.  She kept on barking, and then we heard the warning tone.  Sissy ignored it and continued…and then it delivered.

With a yipping whine, she was chastised, and she actually stopped barking for a few minutes.  Once again, the collar warned her and she ignored it.  It zapped her and she yowled again before hiding in her dog house for a few minutes.  Repeat a few more times and a miracle occurred.

Sissy began to associate the warning tone with the zap.  She would cringe at the tone, still not associating it with the barking behavior.  Soon, she began to associate the barking with the tone and the resulting shock, and silence ruled.

She’s not mute, and she can bark…the collar doesn’t go off immediately.  But now, when she hears that tone, if she’s paying attention, she stops.  If she doesn’t…we’ll hear her yowl soon, and then she does stop.  It’s not perfect, and pangs of guilt slice me to shreds each time I hear her bark dissolve into yowls, but I know the reality is…she has got to shut up.

Is it cruel?  Maybe.  But its much more cruel to see her killed for the barking.  We don’t have a choice if we want to preserve her life, unless we win the lottery (our state doesn’t have one) and can afford to buy an estate where she can bark her head off.

Sometimes, it’s cruel to be kind.

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