Sunday, November 3, 2013

Seeking the Sound of Silence

I live with three house dogs.

If you've ever lived with a dog, especially a small dog, then you know that means barking. Generally the smaller the dog, the more barking.

I've come to terms with that. I expect that the UPS truck pulling in the driveway will produce mass hysteria in the house; the mail carrier stopping at the mailbox will probably bring on a round of yips; the arrival of the grandbabies and their mom will be the canine equivalent of a pyschotic breakdown; and even a slow moving vehicle may cause barking, depending on whether or not anyone is on the back of the loveseat to see it and how the outside dogs react.

I know that when the house has been empty of humans for any amount of time, the dogs will have an explosive greeting for the returning people -- barking, wagging, jumping on and off the furniture. It's a little over the top sometimes, but they miss us and it is their way of welcoming us home.

I love my dogs and I know that's their communication, that they are welcoming me, or warning me, or warning off whatever it is they think might be a threat.

When it becomes a problem during the daylight hours, I have long ago devised ways of coping. During the girls' nap time, they are either on the enclosed front porch, in the fenced back yard, or in the kennel area where their barking won't bother little people. When my husband was working second shift, I made sure they were in the kennel early in the morning so dogs arriving early wouldn't trigger the doggy alarm and wake him too early. I'm considerate that way.

Yet it was during the five months he spent on second shift that the barking of my little terriers became a problem. Of course, it was a problem for me with no one else to tuck them out of sound's way.

Perhaps because they knew I was home alone at night, they became super vigilant. Hubby's return would darn near send them into convulsions -- at about 12:30 a.m. Then he started using the backdoor, which pretty much eliminated the barking for some reason. Apparently they thought boogers had to come from the road.

Then that stopped working in a new way. Not long after he began coming quietly in the back door, the terrier trio, deprived of their midnight reason for barking, began waiting until I'd been asleep for 20 or 30 minutes and barking their heads off anyway. At the back door.

Regardless of the fact that I work at home, I have to be up in the morning. In the summer I'm walking dogs before 7 a.m. and most days I have dogs arriving before 7:30 a.m. There's no sleeping in to make up for a midnight interruption. Spontaneous barking in the middle of the night, especially when the outside dogs are absolutely quiet, is not welcome.

The outside dogs are actually in charge of being an alarm system because if it moves at night, they bark at it. Even if it's me. And they saw me come out. If I go anywhere other than the kennel at night, I get barked at. I have a lot of fun with that sometimes and they may bite me for it. I have actually chased them down the road in the dark with them barking like I might be a bear. That is, until I die laughing at which they return with a sheepish look on their faces.

But back to the little dogs and their night terrors.

The first time they did it, I threatened them with untimely, violent deaths.

The second time, I put them in the back yard and went back to bed. I sent my husband a text so he would know why they were there and bring them in.

The third night, I put them out, then the next morning went on Ebay and ordered three anti-bark collars.

The description said the collars would beep when the dogs barked, then if they barked again within 30 seconds they would receive a shock. If the barking continued, the shock would become stronger. There was some slight risk of other noises causing it to go off as well, so I should be aware of beeps when the dogs weren't barking.

Well, I hated to do it, but it beat killing them.

I had tried other anti-bark ultrasonice devices with no luck, so I wasn't going that route again. I had bought the ultrasonic collars years ago for different dogs. I didn't hear anything but barking and apparently neither did they. I even tried one of those tabletop devices in the kennel. Same result. Maybe it was the devices, but I'm not sure the ultrasonic actually does anything.

Until the collars arrived, I continued to evict my housemates when they decided to bark. Then one day the package was in the mail box. A few adjustments and my three little friends were wearing uncomfortably large looking plastic boxes on their throats.

It was great. In just a few short minutes, I eliminated barking. A beep would have all three dogs laying their ears back and retreating quietly. No more interrupted nights, or naps, or mornings.

Yes, in short order I fell in love with the antibark collars.

But there were problems.

The most apparent problem was that I lost my driveway alarm. During daylight hours, my outside dogs don't always bark at arrivals, and with no one barking inside, people actually had to come to the door. That was a little disconcerting, so I started only using the collars when I wanted to keep the little ones quiet.

Then there was random beeping. Other dogs in the kennel would set them off, as would the girls if they got loud. Oops. I began taking the collars off to take them to the kennel and quieting the girls or letting the dogs out if the noise level triggered a beep.

The biggest problem to emerge was a short lifespan on the batteries. After about 10 days of peace, barking returned. There was no beep, no shock, and the dogs quickly recognized they could return to their old bad habits. The collars were not the training devices they promised to be once the beep went away.

Luckily the batteries weren't too expensive and readily available.

But about the time the second set were wearing out, circumstances changed and the second shift job changed to first shift. The anti-bark wasn't quite so important. I put the collars and spare batteries away.

Then, just the other night in some sort of terrier flashback, 30 minutes after I collapsed into bed, they exploded into a barking frenzy at the back door. Outside dogs weren't barking. Hubby was in bed and either sleeping really good or dead. Just me and the dogs, and I was once again contemplating peticide.

I put batteries in the collars without even turning on the lights. The dogs lost their enthusiasm for whatever imaginary fiend they were pursuing and we all went back to bed.

Now I'm looking ahead to future nights and wondering how to manage their apparent bad habit of midnight barking extravaganzas.

I'm thinking the collars are making a nighttime only comeback for all three of the little darlings. Whether they all have a battery or not remains to be seen. I hate that they look uncomfortable and that the collars must bother their rest at night, but wait a minute, they freaking sleep all the time. It's my rest at night that needs help. Sorry guys.

But I will admit, if I had it to over, I would change one thing. I'd buy a collar with rechargeable batteries.

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