Training

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!)

020

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!

A Weekend Gone to the Dogs

Last weekend was Thanksgiving here in Canada, and after two busy weekends (one spent out of town without the dogs and the other at home but with too little dog time), I decided to ensure that my long weekend was a dog-focused one.

To that end, Cora, Dusty, and Hogan played, snuggled, walked, explored, hunted bunnies, and learned all weekend long, with walks by the lake and at the conservation area, an agility lesson for Dusty and a tricks lesson for Hogan, plenty of cuddle time on my new library chaise (with a street view that offers endless amusement), two separate doggy play dates with their friends Jake and Misha, and some quality time with their BFF, Nick (all interrupted by only one emergency, but that’s another story).

I didn’t have my camera with me as much as I should have, but here are a few pictures from our weekend!

IMGA0204 (1280x960)

Cutie-pie Hogan

IMGA0211 (1280x960)

Pretty girl Cora

IMGA0212 (1280x960)

Handsome Dusty

While Dusty and Cora adventured into the brush as much as their long leads allowed, Hogan, never one to get his feet wet or dirty, tried to stick to the paved trail whenever we emerged from the woods.

While Dusty and Cora adventured into the brush as far as their long leads allowed, Hogan, never one to get his feet wet or dirty, stuck to the paved trail whenever we emerged from the woods.

Hogan learning to go in the box.

Hogan learning to go in the box.

Prissy boy Hogan

Prissy boy Hogan (see caption above).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And to top it all off, here’s footage from Sunday’s late-night rabbit hunt:

 

Recall: The Most Important Lesson

No dog is perfect, but ask any fur-mom, and she will say that her dog is perfect. In my case, this is no different. I think Mulligan is the most well-behaved, sweetest, smartest dog! However, after reality sunk in, I realized that our “do-over” dog needed to go back to school.

Mulligan and his mom, Ashley

Mulligan and his mom, Ashley

We decided to try K9 Central as we had heard many great things about its facility. We enrolled Mulligan in the “Radical Recall” class. It was six weeks of nothing but recall work.

Did it ever help! While I do not feel 100% comfortable having Mulligan off leash at the cottage or close to a road, I am much more confident with him at the dog park now because he comes to us when he is called.

Here are some of the great tips they taught us:

  • Always have tasty treats in your pocket. Randomly, throughout your walk with your furry friend, call their name. If they look up at you, reward them! If not, stop walking, and wait for them to look at you (patience is key, and persistence does pay off in the end!).
  • At home, put a tasty treat on your open palm right in front of your dog’s nose. If they lunge for it or try to take it, shut your hand. Do this over and over again until they sit and look at you. Once they look at you, reward them, give them the treat that was in your hand, and make a big deal of this accomplishment. This teaches them that when they focus on you, they will be rewarded.
Mulligan off leash by the lake, keeping an eye on his parents.

Mulligan off leash by the lake, keeping an eye on his parents.

 

  • “Watch me!” That was a major command from our class. It really helped with having Mulligan look at me instead of the distraction. I would stand straight up; have my arm away from my body with an open palm. I would place a high value treat in my hand. I would turn my back to Mulligan and say “Watch me!” Mulligan had to figure out that if he came around to face me and look at me, he would receive that tasty piece of chicken or steak!
  • Hide-and-seek: This is also a great rainy day activity for you and your dog to do if they need to burn off some energy. My husband would go off and hide in a separate room in the house (behind a dresser or the bed) and would call Mulligan. Just once, loud and clear, so Mulligan would take an interest in where he was. Shortly after, Mulligan would be on the move.  He would search and search, sometimes looking back to me for some reassurance, and then I would tell my husband to call his name again. No treats were needed once Mulligan found him! Just the praise and the game of hide-and-seek alone were enough for Mulligan to want to play over and over again!