She is a Barker and I am an Idiot

A year and a half ago we got a dog and she has given me a few challenges.  She had to find a new home because the little boy who loved her was also deathly allergic to her and so she couldn’t stay.  The boy’s mother told me about this and as I was hanging up the phone with her I was calling my husband to open our home.  We knew the dog and we were able to give her a home.  It’s what you do when an opportunity to truly help a friend comes knocking on your door.

She is a great dog.  She loves us and she takes her job seriously as a protector of the property and herein lies the problem: she barks.  We live on a corner lot in a neighborhood that beckons walkers.  As soon as she spots one, she tears across the yard (she is half greyhound) and barks at them chasing them along the perimeter.  If I saw a dog like her racing toward me I would have a heart attack.  I called the vet and worked with their animal behaviorist.  Her idea was to get our dog to have a positive association with walkers.  She suggested giving some of the walkers treats to toss to her thereby teaching her that walkers are good.  Our smart dog quickly figured out which walkers had the treats and which ones came empty handed.  Since we were having limited success, we pulled the boundaries of her invisible fence back from the street moving her closer to the house hoping it would reduce her need to bark.  It didn’t.  At a loss I finally resorted to limiting her free time outside.

Spring is upon us and the kids are outside and rightfully the dog wants to be outside too.  And with the balmy weather comes an increase in walkers and worse, walkers with dogs.  The barking is non-stop.  I was desperate.  My nerves were shot and I was dreading “that call” from the neighbors.  I was trying everything in order to avoid using the shocking bark collar because she already wears one for the invisible fence.  I felt that having two shock collars was unfair and possibly dangerous for the dog.  Reduced to tears, I called the vet and literally cried uncle.  I felt like a complete failure.  Thankfully the receptionist told me about a bark collar that sprays citronella when the dog barks.  I had no idea that dogs hate citronella.  I raced out to buy the collar; another piece of jewelry for our girl.

With this new device, she and I headed outside for a day in the yard.  The collar worked and she quickly shaped up.  She patrolled the yard and in reward for her silent sentry work, I gave her constant supply of treats.  I was in heaven.  I didn’t realize how much anxiety her barking had given me until the weight of it was lifted.  The reprieve was divine.

The reprieve was short and the next day was filled with barking both inside the house and outside.  The collar was broken and now she was making up for the weekend.  I ran diagnostics like a pro – refilled the chamber and replaced the batteries – still barking.  My nerves were fraying.  I tried in vain for the store to swap me a new one but they weren’t sympathetic to my cause.  “You have to deal with the manufacturer,” they stated.  Arggghhh!!!  Desperate, I finally purchased the traditional bark collar.  I raced home.  I couldn’t get it on her fast enough.  I was finally going to win.

And here is where the idiot part comes in.  Why did I wrestle this problem with so many dead end solutions when I could have gone straight for the jugular?  Why did I wait until my nerves were shot and my neighbors were about to call?  Why can’t experience come easily?

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