Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sheltie: Silenced!

This post is going to be confirming the stories of abuse that my girls have been telling people for years. It was bad enough having to endure baths and grooming, but this...this is just inexcusable. Today I had to break out...


Don Don DON!!!

I bought the collar for the girls when I worked at the training center several years ago. Although I was not necessarily having a barking problem then, I knew I had young Shelties and that, some day, it may BECOME a problem. I thought I was also making out on another "steal". The collars that that time were retailing for about 95 bucks; I got mine at cost for about 60 or so. They now go for about half that ( .

For those of you unfamiliar with a spray collar, let me explain what they are. They are a small box that has a microphone on the back, which rests on the dogs throat. The top of the collar has two holes: one to put the spray into (from an aerosol can), and one that discharges the spray when the dog barks. It lets it go in a puff of spray, accompanied by a somewhat surprising hissing noise. The hope is that the surprise of the sudden burst of spray itself (which gets the dog a little wet), the smell of the citronella, and the hissing sound will deter the dog from barking. It is approved and endorsed by the Humane Society and the SPCA and is a great first step to try if you have an obsessively barking dog. A much nicer first try to curb the barking than using a shock collar, or performing a permanent, surgical devocalizing.

There are a few types of collars out there, but they all generally work the same. The success in it lies in the design of the collar (one design having a stick-like rod that protrudes from the back where the microphone is located), the sensitivity of it (I really do like the Premier products the best), the tightness of the collar around the neck (which should be just like the dogs regular collar-you should fit two fingers between the neck and the collar itself), and the dogs response. Usually what happens is the dog barks, gets sprayed, jumps in surprise, and then decides that they cant stand on that spot on the floor/ground anymore. A few more barks and the dog gets it: bark=spray. Sometimes, however, the dogs don't care about being sprayed at all. They bark, get sprayed, bark again, get sprayed again, etc. There's nothing wrong with the dog; the citronella collar just isn't the right tool to curb the barking.

Now I don't want to get too much into the bark ground and theories and ways to control barking. I explained my feelings in my post about Dog Laws at our other blog:

Although I bought it "just in case", I did have to end up using it, albeit briefly, when we lived in the townhouse in Dracut. Obviously our neighbors were pretty close, so we didn't want to be the people with the "annoying barking dogs" (those turned out to be our "new" neighbors, who moved in shortly before we decided to move out; they were one of the reasons for our move!) But, being brilliant Shelties, they learned what the collar meant. Indeed, they even learned the name for the collar. Even though neither dog has really worn it in the past couple of years, I can still "threaten" them with it when they get a little too vocal. All I have to say is "Citronella collar" and they usually button up pretty quickly.

Shelby is MUCH more sensitive to the threat of the collar; when she hears the dreaded words, she not only quiets down but immediately launches herself into my lap to make apologetic gestures: licking my face, ears back, soft whining. All the little behaviors that always make me think twice about actually using it. Heidi isn't as phased by the collar (and therefore the threat of using it) because her mane and "fluff-ruff" is SO big and full that the collar doesn't work properly. It either can't register her bark if it is sitting on top of her hair, or if I bury the collar in it, it can't spray her because it gets caught in the hair webbing now sitting on top of the collar!

Now my girls bark for different things, which also determines how often they get "threatened". Heidi barks a lot indoors; at quirky things (the blender, hair-dryer, vacuum, the shower turning on, keys being picked up, etc.) And although her barking at those random things gets annoying, she is very good about stopping when we tell her we've had enough. Shelby on the other hand is an outside barker. She barks at the cars that turn around in our driveway (we are the last house on a dead-end street, so we get a lot of them), the annoying kids who play at the end of our street (aka in our DRIVEWAY!!), and now at the birds (that no longer have to be goose-shaped; any bird will do!) as they fly over our house, which she considers our "air space". Shelbys barking, although less annoying to us than Heidi's, can get us into a bit more trouble since it is outside and the NEIGHBORS can hear it as well. (As a side note, if a complaint was ever lodged, I would point out with NO TROUBLE the dog who lives across the street that barks at all hours of the day as he is left UNATTENDED in a 10x6 run, and the kids whose shrieking easily reaches the point where only bats-and my dogs-can hear it. If someone says to me that I have to shut my dogs up, I'm going to tell them to shut theirs-kids and dogs-up first!!)

So although Shelby has really kept her little Sheltie mouth shut lately, it was a little harder for her today. It was the first real nice day in at least a week, so when I kept the door open to give them access to the deck and fenced yard, she went a little crazy. I'm not sure if more birds were out, also enjoying the nice weather, or she was able to see them better without the low-lying clouds that have blanketed our sky for so long, but she was definitely having to keep our air-space clean more today. So as her barking reached its peak, I had to get the collar. And I did it for her own good as much as anyone else's. When I went to get her (as you should NEVER call your dog to you when you are going to do something unpleasant to them) she was panting heavily; she is so focused on chasing the birds that she can't settle. I wanted to give my little one a break before she ran herself into the ground.

So I put the collar on her, just while I finished up ironing, and then took it off. The look on her face was priceless. It was as if I had both beaten her and told her there was no Santa Paws. Her face was just so sad; the indignant, disgusted looks I was getting was disconcerting. Then when Heidi (being as nosey as she is) went up to see what all the fuss was about, and smelled the collar on her poor sisters neck, she started with the ugly looks too!

I tried to explain to both of them it was only for a few minutes and it was for Shelbys own good, but they looked like they didn't believe a word I was saying. I quickly took the collar off a few minutes later and have been trying to get back on Shelby's good side all night. Although I don't think I am completely forgiven yet, I do have to say that the Yoghund ice cream helped. I'm just hoping I don't wake up with a Sheltie-Shaped pillow over my head trying to smother me tonight while I sleep! (Oh, and for the record, the collar lives EMPTY on my refrigerator when not in use. This is so Heidi doesn't find and DESTROY it. And as it has been so long since I've had to break it out, yes, I put it on Shelby EMPTY today too! Sssshhhh....dont tell her!)
Here are some pictures of Shelby wearing the dreaded device: first being stressed, then hearing birds, then looking in the sky for them! But she still didn't bark...


  1. Hehe, she's looking a bit puzzled :)

  2. It was interesting to here about your success with the collar. I always wonder if theses devices really work, and how they effect the dog. Seem like it was a good tool for your dogs.

    I know Misty drives my neighbors nuts with her barking. But then again, they drive me nuts! We don't have a noise ordinance in our town - which can be good & bad!

    Thanks for your thoughtful review of the product:)

  3. I'm very glad I found your blog. Thanks for the sensible critique. I and my friends were just preparing to do a little analysis about this. I'm very glad to see such good information being shared freely out there.

    Kind Regards,

    Colin Seal
    the original source