When I adopted my beloved Felix two years ago, he had lots of issues. Lots. I say this as someone who had already spent years volunteering with and fostering some of the most-challenging dogs at the shelter. Felix was potty-trained but couldn’t hold it for more than a few hours because of his anxiety. He literally pooped eight huge cow pies each day when I first adopted him. Often these cowpies ended up on my new condo’s wood floor.
Felix pulled on the leash like a freight train, and could not be exhausted by any amount of exercise. When I adopted him, I was training for the full Austin Marathon. Felix accompanied me on all training runs. One Saturday we went on a 22-mile run, then he swam in the lake for 40 minutes. Then he played with his doggie pal for 40 minutes. And he was still not tired.
Felix could not be crated. It caused him severe, bowel-releasing, high-pitched-shriek-inducing terror. I would come home to a soiled, broken crate and a dog that had freed himself via some violent method that left him bleeding. I followed all the usual rules about feeding him in the crate and making it a cozy place. Despite being incredibly food-motivated, Felix would not enter the evil crate to eat.
Happy Tail. Have you heard of Happy Tail? There is nothing happy about it. It’s a euphemism for “dog’s bloody tail being used as a red paint brush to ruin your walls”. The idea is that “happy” (read: anxious) dogs slap their tails against walls so violently that blood spurts out the end. This can be a common occurrence among shelter dogs going kennel crazy for lack of adequate attention and exercise. Felix’s tail got so “happy” on my walls that it looked like a crime scene when I came home. Blood everywhere. (Shameless Product Endorsement) Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser really is magic, and successfully erased Felix’s happiness from my walls.
Of all Felix’s issues, his separation anxiety was the one that could have been an adoption deal breaker. According to four of my highly-irritated neighbors, Felix would “shriek like a woman” when I was gone. These neighbors thought violent things were happening to me and ran to my rescue, but then realized my car was gone and the noise was coming from my dog. My condo’s HOA president paid me a visit and let me know that if Felix’s blood-curdling shrieks didn’t stop STAT, I would be fined and/or legal action would be brought against me. Sigh.
After extensive, nail-biting research, I found Petsafe’s Ultrasonic Indoor Bark Control device. It retails for $40. Apparently it emits a high-pitched sound that only dogs can hear. That sound is supposedly wretched, but with my pathetic human-hearing abilities, I can’t verify that assertion. I was concerned that this auditory discomfort would cause Felix even more anxiety, but in desperation decided to give the device a try on New Year’s Eve 2010.
Miraculously, after I arrived home from a party in the wee hours, Felix was being calm and quiet. Not in a submissive, scared, “I’ve-given-up” way. He seemed genuinely relaxed despite my four-hour absence. Neighbors reported no noise while I’d been away. Hallelujah.
My hypothesis is that when Felix would engage in his panicked shrieking, he hyped himself up into even higher levels of hysteria. When forced to be silent, he had to calm down. Function follows form. I see shelter dogs do this, seemingly barking themselves into increased levels of emotional intensity.
If you’re considering giving up your dog because neighbors are complaining about his barking, please consider investing in this Petsafe product. As a shelter volunteer, I see dogs that have been surrendered because of barking and wish the shelter’s intake staff would suggest the purchase of this product. Heck, I’d be happy to pay for it if it means one less homeless dog, surrendered for an easily-fixable reason.
Some might argue that using this device is “mean”. To those people, please pose an alternative fix for the issue of problematic canine noise. “Problematic” can be defined as causing residential eviction, chronic sleep disruption or the hatred (or violence) of neighbors. “Find the dog a home in the country” or “move residences” are rarely viable options. Brief canine ear discomfort seems a small price to pay to keep a dog in her home or prevent angry neighbors from harming him.
** Petsafe did not ask or pay me to write this post. I’m an independent believer in their product.