Monday, October 31, 2011

Woof - YELP

Every morning Justin walks Joey to the bus stop with Jack on his leash and then takes the dog for a walk. This is a dog that we (mostly Justin, but some me) have trained to sit, lay down, shake, stop jumping our guests, get out of the laundry room, pretty much all on our own. But the one thing we have not been able to train him to do is to not bark. I've never figured out how to make a dog not do something. If we address the behavior, we are rewarding it. If we ignore the behavior, we are bothering our neighbors.

So, when we discovered Jack was a barker, we took our vet's advice and got a bark collar. For our sanity. And our neighbors' sanity. Because I've had neighbors who let their dogs out and then paid absolutely no attention to the fact that the dog was barking non-stop for nine hours and driving me crazy. These are the neighbors I want to high five. In the face. With a chair.

And I take it personally when that happens, even if I don't even know the people and they don't even know I exist.

The bark collar acts more as a reminder to Jack now than a deterrent. He knows if he has the collar on, he is not supposed to bark. And usually the battery is dead anyway, so it's rare that he gets a shock. Between the amount of fur on his neck and my unwillingness to tighten the thing down to where it would actually work because it always feels like I am squeezing his neck, there's usually no actual contact between the little doohickies that would give him a mild shock when he barks and the skin on his neck.

So, this morning at 8:45, I was quite surprised to be awakened to:

Woof. YELP!!!!

Woof. YELP!!!!

Woof. YELP!!!!!!!

Woof. YELP!!!!!!!!

Knowing that Justin had let him out for his morning sunning on the deck with the collar on and that Justin was working in his office on the main level of the floor, I didn't move out of the bed to investigate. If I had been even slightly more conscious, it would have occurred to me that there was more than one "Woof. YELP!!!" and come running, but in the fugue state I was in, my mind had a passing thought that all was not right in Jack's world.

After answering two phone calls in the next fifteen minutes and finally getting myself awake out of pure annoyance, I came downstairs and inquired as to what had happened with our "buppy" (big puppy). Justin said he heard the first "Woof. YELP!!!" and was getting up and heading towards the door to let him in, but Jack apparently was overtaken with the urge to bark so much that he just couldn't stop himself before Justin got there and got the bark collar off. The dumb dog had seen something so freaking interesting (i.e. a leaf falling, a person walking by, a car...) that he just couldn't help himself. His instinct to bark overcame the knowledge that the collar was going to make him pay for it.

This is not a dumb dog. He knows how to look pathetic enough while we are preparing human food to make us give him some. He learned how to give me his paw after one reward. He tries to figure out which trick I want when I have a treat for him and will go through the entire repetoire trying to figure out which one I want him to do. And he knows we do not like it when he barks.

But sometimes he just can't help himself. Thus the bark collar.

Pavlov would be so proud.

If I could just teach him how not to trip me when I get up to go to the kitchen (maybe he's worried about my increasing weight) and how to stop scratching at the door to be let in the second after I sit down and how not to fart when he "sits," I would win the golden retriever trainer's award for the year.

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