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Company for Christmas: The Dog Shouter

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I am not a professional dog trainer; nor do I play one on TV. But this week — with my cast of visiting holiday dogs — I’ve been forced to call upon the techniques of Cesar Millan, Victoria Stilwell and all the other dog trainers whose books I have read and whose television programs I have viewed.

I have employed their methods, and experimented with a few of my own. (Don’t worry, friends who have left their dogs with me — none of those involve electrical shocks.)

While I am a strong proponent of quietly and patiently addressing bad canine habits, of redirecting a misbehaving dog’s energies elsewhere, I’m also trying to get some work done during the holidays. So I can’t devote full time to the task. Also, I’m just providing room and board, and — even if some of my wards may be exhibiting behavior in need of correcting — it would be presumptuous of me to take on the role of dog trainer.

satire sigNevertheless, to avoid total chaos, I have had to enforce some discipline, and being as I’m often in the next room, there are times a simple “tsssst” just won’t cut it.

Instead, after four days working with my visiting dogs, I have become … (insert theme song here) …

“The Dog Shouter.”

It will probably be a few months before my Dog Shouter* (trademark pending) books, videos and magazine hit the market, but for now I will share with you what I have found to be the singlemost effective tool in my dog training arsenal: yelling at the top of my lungs.

My most miraculous results — and I regret that I didn’t videotape this – came with Lucas, the barker.

DSC07717Lucas goes into barking sprees for no apparent reason. Sometimes, he will stare at me and bark for three minutes or more, not stopping when I pet him, or talk to him, or try and soothe him, or even when I shout No!” But when I screamed no, as loud as I could, I mean really, really loud, he immediately went silent, and stayed that way. I don’t know if my scream established my dominance, or just scared him. But it worked.

My techniques also met with astonishing success in dealing with Darcy, the visiting Boston terrier who has taken to leaving reminders of herself about the house. She knows better, and I’m pretty sure she’s doing it to assert herself amid all the larger dogs. Twice, she has pooped within minutes of coming back in the house from outside.

DSC07664Yesterday, though, I was watching her — again just a minute after coming back in — as she squatted down, looked at me defiantly, and, pardon my vividness, began to open the gate to drop her load. Immediately, I screamed a really deafening “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!.” Amazingly, the package that visibly was on its way out reversed direction, returning home for delivery at a later date.

Apparently my sphincter-sealing roar had lasting effects. Normally, she won’t go outside on her own, only on a leash. But this morning when I saw her trot into the next room, I inquired — not in a shout — what she was doing. She trotted back in, ran to the door, actually stepped outside when I opened it, and pooped in the yard.

Yet more proof that my Dog Shouter* techniques really, really work.

There is a downside to using the Dog Shouter* techniques with multiple dogs. While it manages to correct, or at least forestall, bad behavior in the dog being shouted at, the other dogs all end up feeling wrongly accused. When you shout at one — say the one chewing into tiny bits the hard rubber things the sofa wheels sit on — the others all  assume “hey what’d I do?” looks and start sulking. My own highly sensitive dog Ace heads upstairs and climbs in the futon. It has to be even more confusing to Cheyenne, my blind guest, who has no way of knowing who my mouth is pointed at when I shout a blood curdling “NOOOOOO!!!!!”

Thus, employing Dog Shouter* techniques when there are multiple dogs in the household requires one to spend a lot of time comforting and reassuring the dogs to whom the screams were not directed.

I tried to specify the dog I was shouting at, saying their name before roaring, but I’d get their names confused in the heat of the moment — much like my mother used to when scolding me and my two siblings.

To be a proper Dog Shouter* – especially if one’s full attention is being devoted to their writing or, say,  watching a Scrubs marathon –  one must learn to identify suspicious sounds from the next room, perhaps a blanket being shredded, correctly assume who the perpetrator is, and tailor the shout to that dog: “DARCY! NOOOOOOO!

Similarly, when things get too quiet in the next room, a good Dog Shouter* — much like a good parent — will assume something is up and issue a precautionary shout: “Hey! What’s going on in there!” Or perhaps, even something more specific, even if it’s just a guess: “Darcy, you better not be humping my pillow!”  The Dog Shouter* knows that, while it’s best to shout during the actual misbehavior, an out-of-the-blue shout — even if all three are  peacefully resting — will serve to bring a quick halt to the hijinks and indiscretions they are  most assuredly quietly planning.

I’m sure you want to know more about by Dog Shouter* techniques, but you’ll just have to wait until the books, magazine, infomercials and DVDs come out. I figure the best way of establishing my Dog Shouter* empire is to send out an audition tape of me, The Dog Shouter*, in action:

“WHAT IN GOD’S NAME ARE YOU DOING? DROP THAT, DROP IT AT ONCE!! BAD DOG. SHAME ON YOU! WHO SAID YOU COULD PLAY WITH THAT? NO NO NO! STOP CHEWING ON THAT, WHATEVER IT IS!!! DON”T EVER TOUCH THAT AGAIN!!! DON”T MAKE ME COME IN THAT ROOM!!! I MEAN IT!!! OK, HERE I COME!!! YOU’RE IN TROUBLE NOW!!! Oh … It’s just your bone … never mind.”

Who wouldn’t want to watch 30 minutes of that? Granted, it could get a little repetitious, but then so do all those other doggie discipline shows.

Animal Planet, my lines are open.

(To read all of the “Company for Christmas” series, click here.)

Comments

Comment from Eighteenpaws
Time December 26, 2009 at 12:05 pm

What a crack-up! Sometimes, such as on a plane or train, a stranger will strike up conversation and ask what I like to do, what are my hobbies. “Well, I have 4 dogs,” I reply. The person then quirks their head, obviously wondering if I mis-understood their question. Multiple dogs in a household consume huge amounts of time: playing, petting, teaching, grooming, feeding, cuddling. They will absolutely monopolize as much time as one allows! But the rewards of being part of a “pack” are immense gratification and education galore. They teach me something new — about them, individually and collectively, and about me, as you are learning about your self! — every single day. Thanks for these delightful TALES! And I expect that Ace will soon be asking for a new brother or sister….!

Comment from Anne’n'Spencer
Time December 26, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Hee! I’m reminded of a saying that 80 percent of dogs actually think their name is “Dammit!!” I’ve always thought that a well considered YOU BAD DOG could be a very effective disciplinary tool, especially if the dog is otherwise well raised and loved.

Comment from easelqueen
Time December 26, 2009 at 1:35 pm

So well written, John! I can hear ya yelling from here.

Comment from debbie
Time December 26, 2009 at 2:15 pm

This story is beautiful. Thanks for the smiles…..

Comment from dan thanh
Time December 28, 2009 at 12:12 pm

see what happens when you babysit a Boston that isn’t Buster?! i’ve been using your Dog Shouter techniques, too, since I’ve been babysitting my sister’s new Boston pup. i’m pretty sure Doogie, that’s his name, thinks his real name is “stop! noooOOOoooo dammit noooOOOooo. stop it!”

Comment from BeckyH
Time December 28, 2009 at 5:51 pm

One of my dogs taught me this technique. It’s about the only tone of voice she hears. I have discovered it works well with cats too. I foster cats so there some cat shouting from time to time. But there is one poor sensitive dog that gets into the crossfire every now and then that wishes I’d switch to a different method.

Comment from RH
Time December 29, 2009 at 8:31 pm

We have many, many “oh… it’s just your bone… never mind” moments in our house. Hope you had a happy holiday!

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