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Paws for a cause

Last week’s “Paws for the Cause” was written by my son, and although I love him dearly, I must say that his advice for “bark control” is intended for ‘average’ cases of barking pups.

I, however, have a special case, my sweet puppy Ralphie, or “Ralphiticus” when he’s in trouble, has a volume control problem. As my son Jason would like to think, talking calmly and monitoring Ralphie’s cues does not help his compulsion to bark … at everything.

Ralphie is a very intelligent blue-heeler mix, full of energy and hyper-social. Along with always carrying a toy as a trophy, he can still manage to wake the entire neighborhood, barks projecting around his chosen rawhide of the day. I adore that he is so expressive, but he has started making enemies of the nearby neighbors, especially when he alerts everyone to our backyard leaves drifting in the wind.

I have tried everything to damper his barking. Nothing has seemed to work. Jason’s suggestions only work when my puppy is getting tired. In fact, speaking quietly to my Ralphie only makes him bark louder, as if I have a hearing problem and need him to speak-up. My neighbor has started harassing my other two dogs which have a handle on their volume, all as a result of Ralphie’s loud mouth.

I’m terrified for the safety of my beloved dogs, especially given that we live in a vindictive society exemplified by the rising prevalence of animal abuse. As once the youngest member of the Humane Society of the Ozarks, I have worked with abused and neglected animals my whole life. My late mother, Karen York, was always protecting and caring for any animal which crossed her path, and I have continue in her footsteps. As much as I would like to say there is less cruelty and mistreatment today, it is actually worse.

This experience has me at my wit’s end. So, I made a decision which I’ve been fundamentally opposed—I bought a bark collar for Ralphie. This particular bark collar sequences from beeps to vibrations and ends with a mild zing. Ralphie has learned to keep himself a little quieter while the collar is on outside, but his tensions just build up and he explodes in ever-fervent barking at me inside, complaining about his bark collar. I can tell his spirit is unhappy with the arrangement, but nothing else seems to help.

I’ve been reading books by the famed “dog whisper,” Cesar Millan and other resources online. I learned that if we can teach our dogs when to “speak” or bark, we can gain control over when the dog is allowed to bark. My Ralphie, however, does not see his barking as a trick, as he does sitting, rolling over, or running on his treadmill. This puppy likes to communicate, if only he could speak in English, and at a tolerable decibel, would my household normalize.

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