What do you think about “shock” collars? My dog keeps barking at people who come walking down our street and chasing cars. He’s really a good dog, but protects our neighborhood like it’s his own yard. Do you think that would help?
I hate them! Okay, well, I mostly hate them, and would only recommend one as a last resort if the life of the animal is at stake. I just really don’t believe that fear and pain are good teaching methods. I also don’t believe that the dogs make the connection between the shock at their neck and the bad thing. That being said, let me try to do some explaining of this behavior and make some suggestions that might help.
Your dog barks at people who walk down the street. When he does, they go away. See how big and scary and effective he is? Sure, they were going away anyway, but your dog doesn’t know that. His behavior is rewarded with exactly what he wanted. So, one way to handle this is to stage a stranger to walk in front of your house and stop. Your dog will bark, of course. The stranger will ignore your dog and when your dog stops barking, the stranger will go away. You may need to call your dog from the window, but the result will eventually be the same.
You may also want to work on teaching your dog the commands ‘quiet’ and ‘leave-it.’ My dog does this, and though I haven’t been able to get him to stop doing it, I can get him to quiet after the first ‘alert’ and can usually call him from the window. If your neighborhood is at all like mine, early evening is a really exciting time. So, you know when your training window is.
As for the car chasing, it’s the same principle as the people. He chases the car, it goes away. Have you ever seen what a dog does when a car actually stops? I’ve done it a few times, and usually the dog just looks surprised. I’ve often thought I could respect a dog if he just peed on the tire, but so far, no one has. So, what’s a Mom to do? A good solid ‘leave-it’ taught with food and when there are no cars, may do the trick. May. Each dog is different.
If that doesn’t work, there are a few other things I have tried. One client and I took her dog on a leash to the busiest intersection we could find and just stood there. After a while, the dog got tired of chasing cars and just relaxed. The problem was mostly solved. In another case, we staged several cars to drive-by with stadium air-horns. The dog was told ‘leave-it’ but if he didn’t and gave chase to the car, as he approached, the driver would blast him. Very scary, those cars. They aren’t fun to chase at all.
Now, all that being said, car chasing IS a dangerous and life threatening thing. It is also the one instance in which I could be convinced to use a shock collar if after training and practice nothing else worked. In that case, I’d definitely contact a professional for some guidance. When using punishment, in my opinion, the punishment should be harsh enough and swift enough and meaningful enough, that it need only be applied once. Again, I’d seek professional help if that’s the route you need to go.
Denise Holmes is a local pet behavior counselor who owns Ain’t Misbehavin’. She trains animals and also answers pet questions sent in by local moms for us here on nwaMotherlode. Denise has been training for 25 years and is passionate about pets. To send her a question, email it to: mamas@nwaMotherlode.com.
Mamas’ Note: We thought Pet Parenting would be a great place to feature a local pet up for adoption. Below is Caledonia, a “calico/British shorthair mix” from Lost Love Animal Rescue in Fayetteville. You can find other great adoptees at your local animal shelter or on petfinder.com (just type in your zip code).