By Laura Potts, Communication and Social Media Specialist at PetSafe
Two years ago, Ellie, an American Eskimo, came into my life. We already had a dog and were quite happy being a one-dog family. Lincoln is a quiet, mellow, meek little Jack Russell mix that we had adopted from a rescue. He is an independent little fellow, but a very easy pet.
Then our friends discovered Ellie abandoned on a rural road in the middle of winter along with all of her belongings, including food (frozen solid) and water bowl. She struggled to walk on her frostbitten paws. Our friends were unable to keep her so my husband and I uttered those infamous last words “We’ll keep her until we can find her a good home.” And we’re really happy she’s been with us ever since.
HOWEVER…. From the start, Ellie has always been very different from Lincoln. Lincoln is calm, a little shy but very people friendly, and very independent. Ellie has TONS of energy, is very wary of strangers and is quite clingy, following my every step and hopping into my lap the instant I sit down (and sometimes before!).
In the first days we had her, I remember thinking “she is the cutest and sweetest dog. Why on earth would someone dream of ditching her on the side of the road?” Having not planned on getting a second dog, I had not researched American Eskimos. I was completely unaware that Eskies are “excellent watchdogs, sounding a warning bark to announce the arrival of any stranger, and are very protective of their home and family.”
After the first one or two days of perfect behavior as she settled into her new home, the barking began. And it wasn’t just any old bark. It was a very shrill, ear-shattering yapping that would set your teeth on edge and with the volume that I am sure carried 3 apartments down. This was not good. It progressed from barking to announce a knock on the door or strangers walking by to barking at sights and sounds that only she could see and hear.
It was getting worse and worse. We had already fallen deeply for her so the idea of re-homing her was not an option. But, neither was living in the apartment with an uber-noisy dog. I thoroughly researched any training technique I could find on controlling a dog’s barking. I tried of course verbal warnings in a wide variety of voice tones, volume levels, timing and words. Didn’t work. I was completely and humiliatingly ignored. I tried the spray bottle method. The only affect this had was to make my barking dog dripping wet.
I tried filling a can full of pennies which only redirected her barking towards me and my can. I tried everything. I was at my wit’s end and feeling very desperate. I did not want to give up my Ellie. I had to do something. The only technique I had not tried was a bark collar. I did not work for PetSafe at the time and I still personally held many of the misconceptions that many people commonly have towards their products. But I was desperate and willing to give it a try. Within half a day of putting the collar on Ellie, she became a different dog. The change was astounding.
My highest of hopes was that the collar would somehow help curtail her barking a bit. It went way beyond that. It made our apartment less stressful, much quieter and our neighbors MUCH happier. But the most surprising result, and one I did not expect, was that Ellie, herself, was much calmer and relaxed. I thought she might be a frustrated pup more stressed out than she already was. But quite the contrary, I think she realized that the collar took the watchdog responsibility off her “shoulders” and she could now relax and no longer feel obligated to alarm us to every minute detail of our surroundings.
She was no longer constantly on alert. She calmed down, mellowed out and quit worrying about things around her. We were able to enjoy her much, much more and were able to have a much better relationship with her. We were able to enjoy walks out in public with a new, improved, well-behaved Ellie, interacting with and admired by strangers because her incessant shrill barking was replaced by a calm, quiet, relaxed, mellow little dog. People didn’t see her as an annoying noise box; they saw the real Ellie and EVERYONE could enjoy her.
About the author Laura manages the complete social media presence for the PetSafe Brand. Laura also donates her time to helping improve animal welfare. She has helped saved the lives of many pets through her work and more directly by adopting two dogs of her own, Ellie and Lincoln who often accompany her to work and to volunteer events in Knoxville.