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Is it just a distraction?

Are spray collars/cans, bark boxes, or any other gadget like this just a distraction? 



Social media has its strengths, but I worry it is causing us to go backwards in our dogs. I am seeing more and more pop up trainers who have never owned more than one dog, breed specialists who have only ever owned one of the breed for 5 minutes, fake accreditations by random companies. Trainers using old fashioned tools and methods which make me cringe. And dog trainer courses costing £29.  What on earth is going on?! These are our pets, our families, what on earth are we doing?!


Don’t get me wrong, there’s some amazing stuff out there, but equally, or potentially more so, there’s some brilliant marketing promising quick fixes or your money back. Great, guaranteed results…..but in the time you spend using that contraption before you send it back….what is the impact? Do they guarantee against that?


Anyway, the purpose of the blog. 


The noisy, rattly, loud or vibratey things that cause a startle response. They are not a distraction. Please, if you are going to use these things, lets not lie to ourselves or others. 


They are not just a distraction and you know it!


A distraction prevents you focusing on something else. 

  • This blog for example is a distraction from studying for exams.

  • Or cleaning when you are stressed.

  • Or the dogs sniffing when they are stressed. 

  • Playing on your phone when you're waiting for a bus (or talking to someone who is just yabbering away)

Those are distractions.


An interrupter is probably more accurate.  An unpleasant or aversive interrupter.


If their sudden presence makes them jump or makes them cringe.  They are unpleasant, and they are a punisher.


This is evident in the second most common comment I see when these are discussed:


 I just have to reach for it and they stop barking! That’s not a distraction, that’s a threat!


A threat of something unpleasant. We both know you can’t threaten someone with a distraction or something pleasant.  You can threaten them with something unpleasant. Be honest!


Do they work? Really? Why are you reaching for it then?

The answer is in the statement. You’re reaching because they’re barking…..so it hasn’t stopped the barking, just the threat of it at that moment scares them enough to retreat in that moment.  Those eyes when they see it ☹ 


Interesting recently, I've seen more honesty from those who have tried. "They work initially, but then they get used to it." Thank you for being honest!


Here's why....it hasn’t addressed WHY they are barking. Which is why you are still reaching for it. You are reacting, just like they are.


I know there are some who are going to shout me down. Or say, well it works for me, and I’m not changing!  I’m not a dictator, believe what you wantI just want to get you being honest, questioning and thinking.


Back in the old days, it was a newspaper, now it’s a can or a collar. 


Hey, making kids stand in the corner facing the wall at school for an hour might make a come back….that doesn’t hurt either? Right? So why does the thought of it annoy you?




The tools anyway….


Anything that constantly makes you jump is going to…….what……make you more twitchy in that situation!


Lets consider the links (associations) they make.

  • Every time I hear a dog bark, there is a noise that makes me jump.  That dog caused that.  Next time I’ll bark with more ferocity.

  • Every time someone comes over.  There's a buzzing on my neck that is unpleasant.  It must be the someone causing it.

  • Every time my mate barks, my neck buzzes.  They did it!

  • Every time my mate barks, mum grabs a can that makes a horrible noise……my mate did that!

  • Every time I see a dog, I get a sharp squeeze on the neck……the dog caused that.

  • Every time I see a person on a walk, I get a sharp jerk on my neck….that person did it.

 

Which is why they are still barking!  And potentially with far more intensity than when you first started using…..the distraction.


They don’t associate the thing with the barking, they focus it on what they can see or hear at the moment.  If something always happens when someone or something is always present, they are the common denominator.  They are the cause. They did it.  So what does that do about the feelings towards that thing? Build trust? Make them like them? Make them look forward to people coming over? Yea, you're getting it!


They need consequences for bad behaviour!

Are they being badly behaved or are they just being dogs? Are they just doing what they do in situations we’ve created?


Lets look at us

  • How many of you have had a speeding ticket? Did it change the way you drive? Or did it make you pay more attention to where there’s a yellow box? Come on…be honest?

  • What about that punishing hang over? How long did it take for you to go out and get drunk all over again?

  • The annoying beeping on the car when you don’t have your belt on? Why do you think they’ve changed them so the beeping sound changes and gets louder?  You still do it though right, even if eventually you respond....until the next time!

Punishment doesn’t work.  It may short term, but it doesn’t work long term. How often have you grounded the kids? Or taken away their phone? Works short term, then it doesn't! And then each time, you have to step it up!


Thing is, if we find something unpleasant we avoid it, right? But we don’t allow our dogs to avoid.  They are stuck.  They cannot avoid it. So they do their best to make it go away with the only tools they have.


 


Physical damage – the lead jerk/lead pressure/quick pop.


Just a quick mention as I’m seeing this start to raise its head again, and I really am worried about their health here! Forget the behavioural for a minute.


Then lets look at a lead “pop,” “tension,” “yank.”  


Drip….drip….drip.  Who knows what Chinese water torture is? A drop of water doesn’t hurt right? But, a repeated drop of water in the same spot, over and over again causes pain, fear, mental deterioration in the subject. But its only a drop of water? It doesn't hurt? And yet they found they could induce a psychotic break within 20 hours.


Look at the sea when it constantly hits the cliffs, it gradually wears it away causing it to break and the coastline to collapse!.  Repetitive injury to sensitive parts of the body can cause physical and emotional damage.  In a breed where we take so many precautions to protect their backs and necks, are we really still popping the lead?


 

I’m not having a go. I'm just worried!


Look, I get it, I really do. I’ve been there.  You just want quiet, and you want it to stop. The noise that is. The frustration and embarrassment are overwhelming at times.  You see a recommendation of “oh it works and think yes I’ll try it.  Faceperson says doesn’t hurt them.”  But it does, and it hurts you too.


I am a cross over trainer, I was raised with a “balanced” approach.  Its all I knew. Lead jerks, rattle cans…..I know how to use them, god I cringe thinking back.  I didn’t just read about them in a book…..why do you think I do not use them?! I choose NOT to use them. Its not from lack of knowledge, its from gaining knowledge and wanting to be better! Wanting to do better. Our dogs deserve that.


Whats the answer then.  How do we stop them barking.


If I could give you the answer to stop their barking in one post I would. I wouldn’t spend several hours over 6 weeks every week teaching my students on my stop barking courses.  I wouldn’t spend hours helping them understand their dachshunds. I wouldn’t make sure there was ongoing support afterwards.   It would be far less time consuming and far more profitable to say here, pay this and do that and bingo its cured.  I wouldn’t spend thousands each year on learning more to enable me to help you.  I’d just say hey this’ll fix it and swan off to the Maldives!  (One day, I might earn enough to do that…..maybe if I stop studying!)


There are so many potential elements to barking.  So many emotions.  So many influences, you being one of them. Health, diet, their genetic predisposition, their learning history, the outside environment.  We literally have to look at all of this.


If your dog is barking because it is scared, that is one perspective, or excited, another approach, potentially both? What about frustration, boredom, attention, habit or learned?  There are so many avenues we have to explore. The why is important!


Then we need to pick the right approach for you and your dogs, in your situation.


Then YOU need to put into place the skills to teach them, and then YOU need to practice.


It’s a team effort! And the biggest thing you need to give is time. You need to make the time!



A few words on positive reinforcement


What is it?  People often think its just about food or bribery.  Its not.  Its about using things the dogs like (not what we think they like) to help encourage a behaviour we like. It’s about teaching them, and guiding them to live in our very challenging world - rather than just throwing them in the deep end and expecting them to swim.


Research comparing positive reinforcement and the use of aversives does find positive reinforcement to be more efficient in teaching the dogs, it promotes better relationships and requires less “instruction” to the dogs and of course, its better for their welfare.  (China, Mills & Cooper, 2020).


Instead of only paying attention to when they irritate you (we’re all guilty of that).  Pay attention to when they do what you want.  If you make the behaviours you like your focus, the ones they do all the time and you don’t acknowledge and you quietly praise them for that…..will they be more likely to do them??  They sure get a lot of attention when they are noisy. This alone can make a HUGE difference.


As I said before there are loads of emotions going on and you really need to learn to understand why they are barking.  But an easy first step to any of those emotions is to focus on the behaviours they already offer that you like and acknowledge them.  If they don’t know we like them how do they know what we want?


Its like us isn’t it.  If the only feedback we get is when something is wrong, it doesn’t help our confidence and certainly doesn't teach us anything apart from that person is a insert expletive here.


If someone at work only ever screams “NO!” at you, it will make you a wreck.  You will keep trying, and probably getting worried about it.  You may stop wanting to go to work and start feeling anxious about it.  You might start getting annoyed by that person and frustrated, shouting back at them “WELL, WHAT DO YOU WANT?” 


And there you have it…..what do you want? Think carefully, apart from that cute puppy stage, have you taught them what you want? Have you taught them how you want them to behave in our world? Or, as many do, just let them work it out for themselves? Set a positive goal which informs exactly what you want. Break that down and teach them!



Don’t agree?

That’s your choice, thank you for taking the time to read what I have said.  I hope it has got you thinking that maybe there is a different approach.  I know I was resistant to change initially, and then I started to change. Try it.  It’s a nice feeling.


An apology

I genuinely don’t mean this blog to be a “Have a go” post.  I really am sorry if I seem like I am.  I’m not.  I’m frustrated and I am worried. I'm human. I am here for the dogs!


Training has moved on so much in the last 20 years. And now it’s going backwards.  These quick fixers and their providers are making a joke of those of us who work so very hard to be better and worse targets vulnerable owners who are desperate to improve their relationships with their dogs.   The industry is unregulated!  Hopefully this will change, but we've been crying out for regulation for years! One day. But meanwhile, our dogs are our family, and they deserve as much as we can give them. Give them the best!


My goal

My goal is always to empower you as their caregivers.  I want you to feel confident in understanding your dachshunds needs.  I want you to stop saying “I wish they could tell me” because you finally understand what they are saying.  I want to watch you walk past with a smile and your dachshund snuffling along with a happy tail. I want you guys to enjoy the very short time you have together.  It really goes in a flash.


They are a wonderful breed, and they are special.  They have so many positives and we really need to nurture that.  We wouldn’t keep getting more if they were as bad as all that.


The love they give is like no other breed.  They are smart, they are clever and they are highly trainable…if you work out what motivates them. 


In 2024, make it your goal to have a better and happier relationship with your dachshunds.  Approach things differently, if what you have been doing isn’t working, make positive changes and learn together.  It’s a journey, but once you get through it and reflect, its pretty awesome!





If you want to read more about the use of aversives, here's a post I did. I'll be nice and warn you about the lovely spider picture in advance!  https://www.facebook.com/perfectlypolitedachshunds/photos/a.1190235834521000/1476445395900041/


References

China, Mills and Cooper, 2020 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32793652/

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