Wednesday, July 30, 2008


After being around my aunt's very well-behaved dog for a week, I realized that Scout wasn't living up to her puppy potential.

She's basically a very sweet, if neurotic, dog. But Scout barks a lot. Shelties are watchdogs by nature, so she's always quick to alert us when someone is at the door. Or bouncing their basketball across the street. Or shutting their car door three houses down. Or sneezing somewhere in the next county. . .

So I came home from Texas determined to break her barking habit. My first attempt was with a citronella collar. Recommended by the Dog Whisperer, this $100 accessory sprays a mist of harmless but annoying citronella into the dog's nose after each bark. The collar we put on Scout sprayed at the appropriate times, but always missed its mark. Scout moves so quickly and continually that her snout was never in the vicinity of the spray.

She barked and ran past Greg one day, when he was bent over pulling weeds, and he got sprayed full in the face. We returned the citronella collar that day.

We tried the shock (also called static) collar next. I had mixed emotions--after all, Scout already has issues--what if the electrical charges scrambled her little brain even more? The manager at PetSmart assured us she wouldn't be harmed and explained how the shock collar worked:

"The shocks gradually get stronger," he said. "The first bark, just a little jolt. The second bark, it's stronger. By the third bark, your dog will yip when she feels the charge. At least, that's what I did when I put the collar on myself . . ."

The instructions that came with the collar explained that the shock was like the static that builds up when someone rubs their feet across the carpet on a winter's day. Unpleasant and startling, yes. Cruel and unusual punishment, no.

So I fastened the shock collar around Scout's furry little neck, explaining to her that life as she knew it was about to change. Then I went out on our front porch and rang the doorbell. Scout launched into her usual bark-a-thon, but by the third bark, she noticed something amiss. In fact, she jumped about a foot in the air, yelped, and whirled around trying to see what was attacking her. She let loose another subdued bark, and evidently decided it just wasn't worth it.

She's hardly barked since!

Actually, Scout is no dummie and has figured out that she can get in one good bark before the collar bites back. And that's OK with me--after all, she's just doing her Sheltie job. But the silence is delightful, and I don't think Scout's brains have been scrambled a bit.

In fact, I think she's one smart puppy!


Gary said...

IMHO, you give the canine too much credit, Shawn. That isn't smart. That story is testimony to the effectiveness of pain as a motivator! ;-)

Pate Family said...

The shock collar is the only way our beagle has been able to stay as a member of the household. The bad thing is sometime people look at you with a very judgemental look when they see it on the dog. What they don't realize is that it is WAY more humaine that what would happen to her if she woke up one of the kids from a nap!

jenzai said...

I look at the collar the same as our new electric fence: you do what you have to do to make it work! Love ya! Jen

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