Letter To the Editor: Readers Digest
In the April 2010 issue of Readers Digest, in the Ask Laskas section, Jeanne Marie Laskas gave some advice to the owners of a couple dogs with a barking problem! After reading the question and the responding advice it made me ponder why some dog training does not work…..
My wife and I have two dogs that we rescued from a shelter and love very much. They are well behaved, except that they bark at pretty much anything that moves. My next door neighbors, have never talked to us directly, but they’ve recently started to blow a loud whistle when the dogs bark and to yell at them to “shut up”-sometimes adding profanities. I’ve tried three different trainers all of whom tell me. “Dogs bark” We can’t afford to build a privacy fence or to move. Is it worth trying to talk to the neighbors? Their reactions have been so hostile that I am afraid to go over there
Advice: Dear Rescue,
Two words; bark collar. It’s safe and humane and follows the same training principle as the popular invisible fence. When the dog barks he hears a warning beep. If he continues barking, he gets a small “correction” in the form of an unpleasant jolt. (There’s also a collar with a citronella spray instead of a shock.) It takes only a few times before he gets the message. I live with four dogs and I would never recommend something harmful. We animal lovers need to be respectful of our neighbors. A constantly barking dog is like living next to a jackhammer. Do the responsible thing, for your dogs’ sake.
First, I am a dog trainer, second, I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and third, I do not know everything, but I have a different solution for the above question. I am not the kind of trainer that will say using a bark collar is a sin, but a bark collar as the first solution, is, in my opinion, a very premature option (whether it is safe and humane we will leave to someone else). Why did the first three trainers fail? Maybe because they went to the fastest & easiest (for them) harshest & most direct (for the dog) solution first; and when it did not work, they had no plan B. Too often, we are more interested in a “silver bullet” type solution than we are in finding out why the dogs are barking. I am not trying to call anyone out, but if you don’t know why a problem behavior is occurring, how can you assume to know what will fix the problem? In some cases (I believe rarely) a shock collar might work, but only if all other options are attempted first. Starting with a shock collar is much like bringing a nuclear weapon to a knife fight, effective but totally unnecessary! Let’s look at some possible reasons for excessive barking.
• Breed of the dog…A bark collar might not be a good solution for, let’s say, a beagle, a breed that was developed to have and need an excessive bark.
• Age of the dogs…If they are puppies and have yet to learn impulse control, is it really fair to put a bark collar on them?
• How many hours a day are the dogs stuck in the back yard? If the owners are leaving the dogs outside 12 hours a day with no stimulation, would a bark collar be a good choice?
• Amount of exercise…Let’s say the dogs spend 10 hours a day in a crate and another 10-12 hours in the back yard on a chain? Might the barking be a problem with the owners, not the dog?
Any of these reasons can be dealt with in a myriad of ways; from doggie daycare, to obedience to just daily walks to take the edge off the dogs. A dig box is a great way to give a bored dog an activity to enjoy during the day. There are even sonic devices that rely on high pitched noises as a correction for barking.
My point is that we cannot focus on the solution without knowing the problem. All of the above questions and scenarios needed to be reviewed before ever suggesting a solution to the problem. And even if the neighbors appear “hostile”, we were all taught that honesty is the best policy. I would assume that these neighbors, like most, would appreciate an update and upcoming action plan for how you are dealing with the problem. It would not surprise me if the three trainers that failed made the same and common mistake of trying to train away the symptom without knowing the disease. Remember, there is no such thing as a “silver bullet”…the only way to solve problem behaviors is to know what the triggers for those behaviors are, and then spending the appropriate time to find a cure.
Founder of MuttzRus.com and
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