Our Sweet and Crazy Coonhound ...

Our Sweet and Crazy Coonhound ...
Run Free: birthdate unknown - Oct. 17 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

Behavior Modification Part II

Well I hate to admit it, but I am resorting to a number of "devices" in the training of Booker. We have the basics well under control, the "sit" "lay down" "shake" "kennel" and all that stuff, and we did those the old-fashioned way.

But this dog has come with some real baggage. Deeply ingrained behaviors triggered by "hunting dog" stimuli, like a pickup truck (or black SUV) opening doors, closing doors and driving off. Or people and dogs coming in and out of the gates at the dog bark. Or the school bus. The baggage is really psycho, jumping, barking, growling, basic dog-freak-out-break-with-reality stuff. I mean, Booker can go totally nuts.

At the dog park, he would run the parking lot length of the 6-foot fence, like a demon dog, trying to
jump or scramble over, in order to join any departing party. Barking, frothing, growling. All the reassurances I offered about there being no gunracks in sight were useless. Discipline didn't work. This dog was a nutcase. I was afraid he would take the fence apart, or clear it in his mania. And other dogs at the park were agitated by his behavior. Twice he was taken by the neck in a motherly calm-your-self-down kind of way, once by a matronly black lab and once by a surly little jack russell. His bad behavior was upsetting the psychic order of the park.

So, upon the advice of a man with a hunting-trained Brittany, I bought a shock collar. And I
used it. For about a month. And then left it on for another month. And now, Booker's dog park demeanor is the picture of calm. His "join the pack and get to the hunt" behavior has been rerouted, deprogrammed, eliminated. He is the the picture of calm, greeting newcomers at the park gate, and he just donates a coonhound bay to announce the departure of his friends. I haven't even put the shock collar on him for the past two weeks.

In the last couple weeks, Booker's separation issues have arisen at home again. Perhaps we
were oblivious all these months, but our downstairs neighbor - a bit of an overly wound hothead - has complained about barking on Saturdays. Actually, he complained about "10 straight mornings of barking," which is impossible, but obviously there is some level of problem. We have done the patient wait outside the door, come back with a spray bottle routine, and are careful not to reward Booker with our attention, and we carefully eased him into our departure each time. We were doing the best job we could of allaying abandonment anxiety.

This sucks. Booker is settling in and he likes his new life so much he doesn't want us to leave him. He is part of the family and he won't lose it. So he is barking now. And driving some neighbors nuts.

To David's fiscal horror, I invested in another doggie device.

A couple days ago, I bought a citronella-spraying no-bark collar.

This morning I left to pick a friend up at the airport, having first strapped the collar around Booker's neck. It was positioned perfectly. Booker was oblivious. I was confident. I called the home phone from my cell, answered, set the phone on the bar counter and walked calmly out the door.

BARK. BARK BARK. BARK. BARK BARK BARK. I listened in horror to my cell phone. It was terrible. The collar seemed to have no effect at all. I drove out of the parking garage, listening. BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK. I pulled around the front of the building, jumped out of my car by the valet stand and took the elevator upstairs. BARK BARK. BARK BARK BARK. I stormed in the door, sprayed Booker with the water bottle, put him in his kennel and left again. This time my phone disconnected in the elevator. Sweet silence.

When I got home from the airport with Vicky, I took off the collar. Booker was unphased. I held it out to show her what had been promised. I blew in the direction of the little microphone. Nothing? No spray, no hiss, no citronella.

Of course, I probably should have turned it ON first.

Fast forward to attempt #2.

Technology works, but only to the competance level of the user.

1 comment:

1-Observer said...

Thanks for visiting my blog.

It took two days for our Black and Tan to figure out how to work the doorknobs in our house! We also have dominance issues with her. Crate training and no-bark collars have saved us all from ruin.

From your site, I found my way to the site of Ed Frawley and was concerned that he promotes only collars that inflict pain. He calls citronella collars "a joke." We've had great success with citronella collars. We just spent a week in a hotel with both of our hounds and had no problems whatsoever.

Here is part of what I said to Mr. Frawley: The citronella collars are highly effective. After initial acclimation to the collars, the dogs stop barking simply by wearing the collar, even when it is turned off! I hope you will consider the fact that many dogs do not require such drastic measures.

Blessings on you all for hanging in there with Booker. He sounds wonderful.