Parents: Learning from the Dogs?

We have rescued a watch dog.  We didn’t know we were getting a watch dog, we thought we were adopting a dog companion to share our home and love with.  Who knew she came with her own set of rules for taking care of us?

Beware of the poseur Guard dog at Bull Hill Fa...

Beware of the poseur Guard dog at Bull Hill Farm, The Banks. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s the world from Layla’s point of view:  Strange sound:  BARK.  Strange person: BARK.  Strange squirrel: BARK.  Strange bird:  BARK.  Diesel motors:  BARK.  Unknown dog somewhere within hearing distance sounding the alarm:  BARK.  A fir cone falls on the porch:  BARK.  Someone knocking on the door:  GO NUTS.

We know that Layla believes that she is “doing her job” by alerting us to all the above.  BUT, it is unpleasant to have a barking dog going off like a rocket, especially when you’ve just dozed off for a short afternoon nap.  So here’s what we’ve done to try to amend this whole situation:

1.  We tried repeatedly and as consistently as possible to interrupt Layla’s need to bark incessantly at the critters that she sometimes finds in HER yard.  Her brain cells seemed unable to process any kind of command when she was in full alert to that flashing-the-tail squirrel.  Food was not enough to deter her from her self-assigned duties.  In fatigue and fairness to ourselves and our poor neighbors, we purchased a barking deterrent in the form of a plastic bird house that emits a high pitch whenever it “hears” Layla bark.  It was so successful that Layla has never again gone under the cedar tree to BARK.  (And we think that the squirrels have gotten so tired of her not “playing the game” that they, too have gone on to other unsuspecting dogs.)

2.  When someone arrives at the door, Layla BARKS.  But after a lot of asking her to SIT, STAY and BE QUIET, she now will bark until we get to the door, then quietly sit back and wait for us to open the door.  We are still working on her “not breaking” from her sit position until given permission.  Not perfect, but getting there.

3.  Last evening, one of our first warmer eves, with folks out for a bike ride or just walking down our street, Layla raced from one corner of the yard to other, BARKING.  It was not a good situation.  We could not interrupt her brain cells, again.  So we have hung the bird house up at the far end of the yard, where she normally starts her WATCH and BARK routine.  She barked once last night, and so far today, she has not even ventured into that corner. I’m not sure if this will last, but the quiet of the morning has been quite relaxing.  Perfect?  Absolutely not.  Better.  Yes.

Of course our dilemma is that we want our dog to feel comfortable sounding the alarm at something suspicious, but unfortunately she believes everything is suspect.  We also don’t mind our dog “being a dog” and giving a few barks once in a while–come on, we all like to have a belly laugh from time to time.  But “watch dog fever” is not conducive to gentle living.  And so we keep trying.

Here’s my question:

Who get’s better training–the dog or the child? 

Do we give our pets and our children the same amount of time, consistency and patience in teaching them our expectations for appropriate behavior?

Before you think I’m over the bend on this one.  Think about it.  Both children and pets need patience, consistency and expectation.  How do you rate yourself on these teaching markers?

Be gentle with your children and your pets.

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