A Barking Solution

Those who’ve been to our house know that we have a bit of an issue with barking dogs who just won’t stop. Two summers ago, we hired a wonderful positive-reinforcement trainer to help with the issue with Dusty, and we made some progress, but having two dogs who feed off one another’s barking and being able to work with only one of them at a time undid all the progress we made.

Dusty in citronella collar

Dusty in his citronella collar. When he barks, it lets out a little lemon-scented spray.

We tried citronella collars first. We were concerned mostly with Dusty’s barking because his was completely out of control. Back then, Hogan would usually stop with a diversion or a firm “no.” But Hogan eventually started trying to out-bark Dusty, so we had to buy him a citronella collar, too. The collar worked for a time with Dusty—he would bark once or twice, the collar would spray, and he’d stop. But he eventually learned the spray didn’t hurt him, and if he kept barking, the collar would stop spraying, so he’d just bark it empty. The citronella collar still works for Hogan, but we don’t like leaving it on him because he makes cute grumbly noises when he sleeps, and those grumbles set it off. More often than not, therefore, he doesn’t have it on when his imagination tells him there’s a dog walking by the house, so all hell will break loose.

We’ve also tried giving the boys time-outs (less than a minute in the bathroom), which usually works but isn’t doable in all situations.

In recent weeks, we had become so frustrated by the needless barking at any imagined change in the environment (they even start barking out of excitement when I stand up!) that my husband wanted to buy a shock collar for Dusty, which I was opposed to but did agree to investigate. After much discussion with a sales associate at PetSmart who swears by the shock collar for her beagles, I left the store with nothing because I just couldn’t bring myself to do it to Dusty, even though the sales associate said she never has to put it on her dogs anymore. I went back the next day, though, after some online investigation, and bought a vibrating collar. It worked for a few days until Dusty got used to it. I returned it. (PetSmart has a great returns policy!)


This is one of the barking situations we don’t mind as much—at least there’s a reason for it!

Then, this past weekend, my husband bought the Sunbeam Ultrasonic Egg. It works! And it’s been four days, and it still works. And I don’t think it’ll stop working. The first night, we left the egg on overnight, and for the first time in a long time, Dusty and Hogan didn’t bark the whole way down the stairs in the morning—and they haven’t any morning since then, even though the egg has been off. They really do seem to have learned, so I think in no time at all, we may be able to pack the egg away. Just a moment ago, a car honked outside, the dogs ran from their sleeping spots to the front door all ready to bark…and they didn’t make a peep. In fact, there hasn’t been a single bark since the dogs said “Hello” and “If this fence wasn’t here, you’d feel my wrath” to the Doberman next door at 7:15 this morning. We just brought the egg outside and turned it on, and all the fence barking stopped! Exciting, indeed!

Ultrasonic Egg

The Sunbeam Ultrasonic Egg retails for $49 in Canada—not a bad price for peace and quiet.

This is a solution we wouldn’t have resorted to if Cora, our scaredy-dog, hadn’t lost her hearing because it would seriously freak her out and set back so much of the progress we’ve made with her. But Dusty and Hogan both are barkers, and they’re the only two affected by the egg.

There is a downside of the egg, however: if either of us is speaking loudly enough to be heard in a different room or if we are doing anything in the kitchen, the egg activates, instantly putting Dusty’s and Hogan’s tails between their legs. So we just leave it off unless we know a potential barking situation is looming (e.g., someone is expected at the door or we’re about to let the dogs out in the backyard, which always makes the boys noisy).

This may well be the solution we’ve been searching nearly four years to find. I thought it was one worth sharing with others!

Rabbit Hunting

Her beagle nose always knows!

Her beagle nose always knows!

For quite some time, I’ve wanted to record Cora’s hunting noises, but usually her hunts are very early in the morning or very late at night, and because she’s so loud, instead of running for the camera, I chase after her to try to quiet her so as not to disturb the neighbours. At her worst, she honestly sounds as though she’s being tortured. It’s an awful noise! However, because we didn’t hear a peep out of her for several months after adopting her, we haven’t wanted to suppress her vocalizations—even those god-awful ones!

In the past year, we’ve heard quite a bit out of Miss Cora. She still barks very infrequently and almost exclusively, if I am remembering correctly, to warn another dog away if it’s in her face. And when she’s excited to go outside or to get her before-bed treat, she will make these cute little whimpery noises that have a bit of a trill to them.

But those hunting noises are something altogether different! And, boy, can they get loud! I managed to get a sampling of them on video last night after the dogs spotted a rabbit in the backyard (sorry the video is so dark!):

I’m curious—those of you with beagles, do yours make similar noises?

What the Heck Is Dusty?

So Dusty has no basset hound nor dachshund in him. That was definitely not what we expected to hear! I even emailed DNA My Dog to confirm the results, and they kindly did a manual check for those specific breeds. Nada.


What? No basset?

So where did his misshapen legs come from? I asked. And they sent me a picture of a “dwarf” beagle. Yep, that sure does look a lot like Dusty (see infographic below).

But beagle didn’t appear as a level 1 or even as a level 2 in his makeup. It was a level 3, meaning he is only 20-36% beagle. His predominant breed (37-74%) is—would you believe it?—American Eskimo! Those small to medium white fluffy dogs with the curly “plumey” tails that look like petite Samoyeds.

Well, while we cannot see any physical signs of American Eskimo in Dusty, in reading about the breed, I can see some of its other traits in Dusty. For instance, I learned that American Eskimos were widely used as circus dogs in the 1930s and 1940s. They are highly trainable, quite vocal (i.e., they love to bark, and they bark loud and long, like Dusty), very intelligent, and like to work. Check, CHECK!, check and check. Although generally healthy dogs, they are prone to allergies and hip dysplasia. Check and check. And Samoyeds, which are the closest related breed (and not in the DNA My Dog database, meaning Dusty may actually be Samoyed, not American Eskimo) are among the top-listed dogs predisposed to dwarfism (achondroplasia), so it’s possible Dusty’s dwarfism is not related to his beagleness at all. And his bark is definitely not a beagle bay, so perhaps he gets that from his American Eskimo kin (I don’t know that I’ve ever heard that bark).

Anyway, personality-wise, Dusty has a lot of the traits that suggest American Eskimo, but those traits, of course, aren’t unique to that breed.

And Dusty is far from all American Eskimo.

He also has Keeshond (like the American Eskimo, a Spitz), Ibizan hound, and border terrier in him. Here are some of the traits we think Dusty gets from those breeds:

Keeshond: outgoing, full of personality, likes to bark, prone to hip dysplasia and skin problems, sheds heavily, needs long walks to satisfy migration instinct.

Ibizan hound: “clowns” of the dog world, slender body, long snout, deep chest, sensitive, willful, needs long walks to satisfy migration instinct.

Border terrier: strong-willed, intelligent, eager to please.

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

HUGE thank-you to the multi-talented Adrienn Tordai for the very cool infographic!

Today, for the first time since learning Dusty’s breeds, I was asked if he was a basset/beagle mix (we’re asked that a lot). And for the first time, I had to say he was an American Eskimo/beagle mix. How stupid did I feel? Yep, about as stupid as you imagine I felt. It’s tempting to continue the basset/beagle party-line. For one thing, it will make for a much shorter conversation!

And thanks to a “last kick at the can” as she called it, we have a winner for our Guess the Breed contest! In the wee hours of the morning, Roberta of Toronto (mom of dachshunds Blitz and Mercedes) submitted the guess of Keeshond! Roberta, I look forward to hearing your thought process behind that seemingly crazy theory that turned out to be right! Roberta can choose either a hand-knit doggy hoodie or a donation to an animal charity of her choice. Congratulations, Roberta! And thanks to everyone for playing along!

Stay tuned for Hogan’s “Guess the Breed” contest in the next few weeks!

P.S. If you want to test your dog’s DNA, you can order a DNA testing kit through The Animal Guardian Society (, and $10 of the cost will be donated to TAGS!

Cora’s Secondary Breed: The Reveal

Dog park 047Not nearly as many people participated in Cora’s contest as we had take part in Dusty’s, but two people guessed Cora’s secondary breed correctly. Yay! I was going to draw a name to determine one winner, but what the heck! Let’s have two winners! Congratulations to Lori of Mississauga and TAGS volunteer Andrée! I’ll be in touch.

Cora is 80%+ beagle, and her level 4 breed is poodle! Maybe it’s the little bit of poodle in her that has made her face so white. (I refuse to believe it’s just age. She can’t be that old!)

Thanks to everyone who submitted a guess!

And stay tuned to the blog later this week for our theory on Cora’s history. If you haven’t yet read what has led to our trying to formulate a theory about her life before us, click here.

P.S. If you want to test your dog’s DNA, you can order a DNA testing kit through The Animal Guardian Society (, and $10 of the cost will be donated to TAGS!

Contest: Guess Cora’s Secondary Breed!

The results from DNA My Dog are in! We now know the breeds that make up Cora and Dusty. We’ll get to Dusty next (his results were particularly surprising!). But first, I want to hear your guesses for Cora’s secondary breed.

Cora in her hand-knit sweater

Cora in her hand-knit sweater

We learned that she is at least 81% beagle (no surprise there). But what makes up the remaining 10-19%? Let’s hear your guesses! I have three hints for you:

  1. She’s not 100% hound.
  2. Her secondary breed is a dog bred for retrieving and comes in various sizes.
  3. She looks nothing like her secondary breed, so you’ve got your work cut out for you!

I’ll give you until Sunday at noon to post your guesses in the Comments section or by emailing me at All correct guesses will be put into a draw, and the winner will get a custom hand-knit sweater, like the one Cora is wearing in this picture, or a donation in your name to the animal charity of your choice!

I can’t wait to share the answer with you, but I’m going to have to. Check back here or on our Facebook page Sunday afternoon or evening for the answer!