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Wednesday, 1 June 2011

To spray or not to spray

I have a seven-year-old Cavalier who keeps barking whenever he goes into the garden because there is a horse on one side of the garden and cattle on the other side – both groups of animals often come up quite close and my Cav starts barking when he sees them.

I am thinking about using a spray collar or some sort of vibrating collar and would like some opinions on them and how effective they are. I don’t know what else to

do and do want to stop my neighbours complaining about the dog!

Maggie, Isle of Wight, by phone


  1. My opinion would be no, don't use a spray collar. In my experience, the dog can misunderstand what has caused the spray and can assume it is because he is out in the garden for example, and then you end up with a dog afraid of entering the garden! Not any help at all!

    Why do you think your dog barks at them - is he scared, wants to chase/play with them or is he barking to protect his territory? You need to work out the reason behind the barking before you can fix it.

    One simple solution if you are concerned about your neighbours complaining Would be to not allow your dog access to the garden without you being there. Not ideal I know, but if you are present you can control the barking.

  2. I agree with Lucy, there is no magic quick fix to stop a dog doing anything that is a bother to you , or anyone else. What is making the dog bark? To get the "scary" things to go away? you need to spend time with your dog and teach him that when he looks or sees another animal it is a really good thing. and if he is silent it becomes REALLY great. I suggest you ask a qualified trainer APDT or CAPBT to give you a few lessons on interacting and dealing with the problem rather than spending a lot of money on potentially creating another problem.

  3. I have a min pin/chihuhua cross who barks continuously when she sees bigger dogs and although she isn't, she sounds very aggressive. I tried carrying a water spray bottle with me and spraying her but it didn't make any difference and trying to distract her didn't work either so I purchased a collar that sprays when she barks. It doesn't stop the barking but it certainly makes her bark less. The spray is harmless and it does seem to make her bark less aggressively.

  4. I've never used any correction except my voice. There is a small dog at the back of me who barks constantly and my dog tends to join in, so I started going out with a ball, calling him to play. After a while he got the message that the ball was more fun, and now I just leave it in the garden and he doesn't bother with the other dog at all now. The thing with spray collars is that you have to time it perfectly, otherwise the dog may think he's being punished for something else. I'm not convinced that punishing is right anyway if the dog is actually afraid of something.

  5. I'm going to cover all bases here, so please bear with me. If you take nothing more away from this please remember these two things:
    1. There are numerous problems with punishment, not least is the fact that it can cause bigger problems.
    2. If anyone is dealing with aggression I suggest a) getting a vet to check there's nothing physically wrong and b) hire an APDT or CAPBT trainer.

    If he's afraid of the animals it'd be like punishing a child for screaming if they see a spider. It's irrational, and it's silly but it doesn't stop them being scared. There are different ways of teaching the child to be OK near spiders (they may never be totally fine with them, this is also true of some dogs and their reactions to scary stuff): you could hit the child [or put a shock/spray/vibrating collar on them] for screaming, but that won't stop him being scared. In fact now he's scared of the spider and being hit [or punished in whatever way]. He might stop screaming when he sees one, but he's still going to want to kill it or run away. If you force him to be near the spider, he'll prob be aggressive towards you or try to kill the spider (and without making any noise because he's been punished for screaming - this is how you end up with dogs that 'attack without warning'. They do give warning in body language but it's more subtle as they've been punished for growling), or maybe he'll shut down and go into 'learned helplessness' which is 'I can't do anything right so I won't move or respond at all'. Not nice.

    Alternatively if you give him 100 quid for being 100 meters away from the spider, he'll prob think that's awesome and spiders are pretty good to have around. That's the equivalent of rewarding dogs when they're calm. And if you back away first you've rewarded them for being calm by moving them further away as well.

    Maybe he's not scared but he's guarding territory; I'd still say that collars are harsh. It's a form of communication and I don't believe that they should be punished for it. I have a similar situation - my garden is surrounded by other houses. I can't leave my dogs outside or they would bark and annoy the neighbours. The solution? I keep them inside and have a dog walker come in the middle of the day. Yes, they do cost money but everyone's happy and it's worth it. If there's a way you can section off your garden so he can't see the other animals then great, you may be able to work around it.

    I'd also suggest extra toys and things to make the garden more exciting. You can get loads of ideas on the Internet but here are a few to get you started:

    Hope that helps you and your dog :)

  6. Firstly, a spray collar will not help you here as he will soon learn to bark over the spray and it may even make the problem worse. Secondly, explain to your neighbours you are undertaking a training programme to stop your Cavalier barking and to bear with you during the process. This will show them that you are taking steps to solve the problem and minimise their complaints. Next is to put a method in place that will stop your dog barking at the animals. This is an interesting problem as you have two types of animals to deal with and ideally you will need to get your dog used to both types to successfully stop him barking. I am going to assume that your cavalier is either afraid, worried or annoyed at these animals bordering his territory and therefore you will need a huge bag of treats, a favourite toy (preferably a squeaky one!) and a chair. The chair is for you. Firstly, allocate yourself five minutes to sit out in the garden with your dog each day and arm yourself with the treats and toy. Have him on lead initially. Then if he barks show him a treat and ask him to be quiet, keeping the treat close to his nose. Count to three and then reward as long as he stays quiet. Then play with the toy, keeping him distracted. Repeat the process with the treat if he attempts to bark again. The aim is to keep him fully focused on you for the five minutes. You may need to start with two or three minutes if he barks as soon as you get him outside. The animals in the field will probably be clustered around your garden by the end of the five minutes. If he is too focused on the animals to get him to be quiet then take him straight inside and ignore him, then try again. Repeat this each day and eventually he will look forward to going in the garden and getting to play. At other times, when he is going out to toilet, for example, as soon as he starts barking take him straight inside and once he is quiet you can let him out again. This process should also get him used to the horse and cattle, and he will no longer see them as a threat. Try and pick your moments when training or letting him out so that the horse and cattle are furthest away from your garden so you can minimise the barking straight away. Eventually, get closer and closer to the horse and then the cattle till he accepts them and is quiet when they are near. You can phase out the lead as he improves. Good luck and I hope this method works for you.

  7. I can't put it any better than Kat already has; at the end of the day it's down to you - personally I would never use aversives, yes thy can "magically" cure the problem, but more often than not (like, 99.99% of the time) you end up with a bigger problem that cannot be solved with anything other than time and patience, so it's easier to start with that in the first place!

    I would also like to emphasise Lucy's comment that leaving a dog alone at any point in time - even in your back garden - is not something I would suggest anyone doing - Isle of Wight or city centre is irrelevant. There are people who think nothing of opening a gate, climbing a wall or fence, or anything else, to get to a dog they think they can breed and/or sell for profit.

    Also, if there are no registered trainers on the Isle of Wight, many are more than happy to make "call-out" visits, some might impose distance limits, but I know of many that will travel to the ends of the earth to help a dog & owner overcome an issue (I, for one, will when I am registered)

  8. I had some more thoughts on this - If he's left outside so he can go to the toilet you could also consider buying a 'pet loo' (the ones with fake grass. You can buy them online) and put that inside for him to use. You would need to train him to use it though (like you would a puppy by taking him to it often and rewarding him for using it). This can take some time but may mean you can leave him inside.

    If he's just going out briefly I'd get him to do his business and call him back so he doesn't stay out barking. Eventually he should get into the habit of going out to the toilet and running back in for a treat/toy (which is more rewarding than staying outside). Initially you may need to take him out on a lead so he focuses on the task and reward him for going to the toilet instead of barking.