Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Gentle Shock

If anyone has ever had a terrier (of any kind) you know they are loyal, curious, sweet, and independent. And, you also know they love to dig (a lot) and are fairly vocal. Well my 2 little ones (Marshall and Ellie) are all of the above, especially the later. After attempting to control this obnoxious habit - to no avail, I resorted to bark collars.

I was assured by the local Petsmart 'Expert' (the 18 year old lanky young man with a bad hair cut and some illegible tattoo on his arm, who would not look me in the eyes) that the collar he suggested was safe and would not 'harm' the pups. So I purchased one.

Reading the description of the device in the store, I was particularly drawn to the phrases - "will administer a light shock to your pet every time he/she barks, training him/her quickly." Also, the part that said the strength of the 'light shock' could easily be adjusted sounded good to me.

Since Ellie was the main culprit, I decided to try it on her first. If all went well, then I would get another one for Marshall. I read the instructions carefully, paying close attention to the part about adjusting the strength of the 'light shock'. When I was convinced it was adjusted to the correct size for her neck and the 'light shock' had been calibrated to the lowest settings, I was ready.

Ellie is so friendly that putting the collar on her was not difficult. We were sitting on the deck at the time. As soon as I had it on her neck, I heard the FedEx truck arrive. Ellie quickly jumped off my lap and scurried down the stairs. Then she barked. The collar obviously went off because (and I am not making this up) she came off the ground about 2 feet and did a back flip. When she landed, she stood perfectly still as if she feared any movement would bring about another 'attack' from the 'thing' around her neck. 

Feeling totally guilty, I ran to her, removed the collar, and assured her I still loved her (and that I felt incredibly guilty). Checking the collar, I saw that it was indeed on the lowest frequency. The collar was returned the next day.

This time the Petsmart 'Expert' was a spunky young lady who listened to my tale, looked me in the eyes when I was talking, and said, "I have just thing. Follow me." 

She handed me a box containing another bark collar. "I'm so sorry that one did not work out. But, I know this one will and it does not shock the dog." She smiled,"My Border Collie has one and barking is no longer an issue. It's amazing."

As I turned the box over to read the back, she continued,"When the dog barks, the collar shoots out a very, very small amount of citronella that goes into his nose and/or mouth." 

"Huh," I said remembering the pleasant smell of the citronella candles we always had on the back patio when I was growing up to kill the pesky mosquitoes. Never thought about it being effective with a barking dog.

She continued, "I'm not sure how this works. You know, whether the dog doesn't like the scent or what."

I thanked her for her help, exchanged the 'old' collar for the 'new' one, and headed home, convinced my problem was going to be solved in a gentle humane manner. The collar was easy to fill with the oil and even easier to adjust for Ellie's neck. So in a matter of minutes Ellie was sporting a new collar. She immediately ran out of the dog door.

I held my breath. It wasn't a minute or so before she barked. But she quickly stopped. "Hallelujah," I thought. "Done!" But not so fast. Soon she was barking with her normal gusto. I walked outside and picked her up. She had the wonderful scent of citronella - a lot of  citronella. Inspecting the collar I saw that the reservoir of oil was almost empty. (The box had said to expect to refill the collar maybe once a week.) I also realized that the fur on her neck was soaked - with citronella oil. Funny, the box never said anything about not working on a furry neck.

Back to the drawing board, or Amazon in my case, I continued my search for a humane, effective bark collar. After 10 minutes or so, reading through the descriptions and reviews of various collars, I found one I was willing to try. This one would 'beep' for one second upon the first bark, if needed, the next bark would elicit a two second 'beep'. In the event that the dog was persistent, with the next bark the collar would emit a shock that the manufacturer assured was a light static electrical charge - similar to what one received when walking across a rug in socks. 

So the collars came. I read the directions, put in the battery, and adjusted it to a medium charge.  Testing it in my hand I found it was exactly what the box said - light static. I put one on each dog. Immediately Ellie barked. And there were audible 'beeps' for just a second. Ellie was silent. Throughout the afternoon I could hear the series of 'beeps' following her bark. In time she still barked, but only once instead of the continual barrage of barking she was known for. 

It worked, it actually worked. Over the next few days I noticed that she learned how to, on occasion, grumble loudly, just low enough to avoid setting the collar off.  In Ellie's mind, I could see her thinking, "OK, maybe I shouldn't bark, but dammit, I can still vocalize - in some way."

It was later that I remembered in my research reading that Cairn Terriers (as was Ellie) were not candidates for invisible fences. They are so stubborn, that they would simply run through the electrical field and keep going. Perhaps the fence companies should consider 'beeps'.  True they are 'barkers' and they are determined little things, but they are also wicked smart. It didn't take Ellie long to realize every time she barked, there were obnoxious 'beeps'. And, if she continued there was a 'light charge' to gently remind her she was doing something she shouldn't be doing.

Now, about the digging . . .

No comments: