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Some follow up cases to previous articles

Following an article I wrote about Citronella anti bark collars, I received many requests from people asking to buy them. I eventually did have two returned, as they did not work with their dogs. One dog did look surprised at the first squirt but after that took no notice at all. The owners said they tried making it tighter against the dog’s neck. This is actually something you have to do with an electric collar to keep the electric contact. I said no, it should remain slack as otherwise the cold gas simply hits the dog under its jaw. They then confirmed they had previously tried an electric collar but it did not stop the dog barking. The citronella collar was their last hope.

The other dog too had previously worn an electric collar that too did not stop the barking. This prompts the questions did the electric collars desensitise the dogs so much that for these dogs no collar would ever work. Alternatively, would neither type of collar have worked on these dogs at all?

This only left me with advice on how to teach a dog to speak and cease on command so the dog understands the meaning of "Shut up" or "Be quiet." In addition, were the owners actually reinforcing the barking by their own shouting at their dog?

The problem for this method is it requires patience to train and many people just want something that is a quick fix, which in many cases such collars are just that.

One other person asked for a collar and I failed to question their reason. After two weeks they confirmed receipt and that, they had tried it and it worked perfectly. Satisfied customers I thought until the end of the week when I received an email to say that the dog had stopped barking ok, but was now chewing up their furniture. What could they do now?

I then asked did their dog follow them round their house all the time and was it always coming to them for a fuss and attention. They wrote back confirming their dog had these common symptoms for separation anxiety.

Putting a collar on these dogs is like chastising them for crying because their owners have left them. Because this dog could not bark, it did the next best thing to help it over its anxiety; it chewed. Again finding it something to chew instead of the furniture is also not a solution. What needs to change is the dog’s anxiety of the owners leaving home. They are loving owners but never had a dog that became so clingy. This they mistook for just being a very loving dog.

Imagine how they then felt when I asked them that when they enter their house they should treat their loving dog as if it did not exist. Whenever it came to them for a cuddle or a fuss, they should totally ignore it. That living in their home for a few weeks they should pretend their dog is not there at all until the dog settles down. Only then and after a period of a further ten or fifteen minutes they can then look at their dog and call it over to them for fussing, cuddles and attention but then suddenly stop.

This method is to make the dog feel loneliness in their home when they are actually there. I know this does sound like the most inhuman thing to do and surly the logical question is this cruel.

I did fully explain that they had re-attached the umbilical so that their dog could now not live on its own, needing their constant companionship. They had to admit they did like to go out on an evening, and expected their dog to stay at home, like all their previous dogs. I persuaded them to try this ignoring method just for a week and see what happens.

Reluctantly they said they would try it but I was worried that they could not keep to the regime, as I know they are very caring owners. Explaining that dogs do not see things the same way as humans, seemed to have made an impression. I was therefore surprised to have a telephone call about three days later. The wife rang to say that whilst her husband was out she went over to a neighbour for coffee. This was something she had not been doing because of her dog. She was now determined to try it and to her amazement, no barking came from her house. She purposely stayed longer than normal and on her return to her house; her dog was asleep in her basket. Luckily, she resisted the temptation to praise the dog as she entered.

It has been nearly a month now and the problem seems solved. Both owners have now gone back to fussing her in their normal way, but they say they now know the warning signs to look for. I said possibly it will not happen again as their dog has lost its anxiety to them going out and knows that they will return. As the husband remarked they now have their outside life back again. Happily, they handed me back the citronella collar.

I often receive questions about dogs suddenly starting to use the house again as a toilet like being puppies again. In March, I received the following email of a problem, which for the owner seems so odd.

I came across your homepage and hoping that you can guide me. I have a four-year-old golden Labrador who as been with us all the time and potty trained very early and we have never had an accident. We could leave him for twelve hours and no mess at all.

Lately for the last month, every night as we sleep, we have had at least five accidents in my kitchen and always in the same place. Even taking him outside twice before bed, we still have accidents.

In the morning when we get up, I know instantly that he has done something wrong because his ears sag and he does not come downstairs. When we try to scold him with the newspaper, he growls at us and shows his teeth. I am now afraid because I have a three-year-old daughter that he has been fine with to date, so is he becoming aggressive.

Can you suggest anything?

My reply was as follows.

First, make sure you clean the floor with a biological cleaner but not with bleach. This product contains ammonia similar to urine. For the dog, the smell remains causing him to urinate in that spot.

I suspect your dog is only reading your body language that you are angry or is now becoming use to you chastising him every morning.

If he has made a mistake say and do nothing. Just walk to the back door and let him out, then close the door and clean up the mess. There is no point in chastising your dog, as he does not know why you are angry but he can tell you are from your body language.

Alternatively, it could be he wants attention so that even urinating and receiving chastisement is receiving attention. When you get up or come into the house, just ignore him as if he does not exist. Then wait for him to settle down before adding a further ten minutes then look at him and call him over for lots of fuss. Keep doing this for two weeks and look for changes.

Surprisingly the next day, I received the following reply.

I tried what you told me yesterday. When I got home and only after he had calmed down, my three year old and me sat down and played with him. I do not know if you are God but this morning I woke up and there was no mess anywhere. Thank you for the tip.

To the owner it must seem strange for a dog suddenly to start urinating at such an age without any apparent reason. Then to learn how to change it back again so quickly may jokingly seem like divine intervention. In fact, it is only us continuing to learn how dogs think. The more of these tricks or knowledge we can discover and write about then problems like these will gradually disappear.

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