Wired For Sound

This particular episode began when we came home from seeing Tomb Raider, only to discover that the dogs has restaged their own version, entitled Larder Raider. Though going by the layer of white powder to be found in most rooms of the house, it could have been a remake of Scarface, albeit with flour. That was it – we’d had enough of these damn beasts. Henceforth, they could sleep outside. Er, no, they couldn’t, for Scottsdale local ordinances prohibit barking dogs. We knew that, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Cody and Cleo knew it too, as at 1am, they started up a cacophony of barking. We could either risk a visit from Officer Plod, and get no sleep anyway, or let them back in.

We caved, but the next morning saw me on Ebay, looking for a shock collar. I reasoned that to get them to sleep outside, they first needed to be trained to stop barking. And, let’s face it, while guard dogs are well and good, this trio’s inability to distinguish between a gang of heavily-armed bandits and the pool lady made them more a liability than anything. $39.99 and a few days later, the instrument by which this would be achieved turned up:

“Its light electrical stimulation delivers the instant message that barking is off limits in the kennel, backyard, crate, or wherever else it is bothersome. The KB-50 has seven adjustable levels of stimulation, allowing you to be able to tailor the level of correction stimulation to meet your dog’s temperament. This Anti-Bark Training collar is safe to use around other dogs(even in kennel situations), because the stimulus can only be activated by the dog wearing the collar. The collars receiver’s vibration probe is adjusted for sensitivity, and there is a three-second “relaxation break” between corrections.

I like the words “correction stimulation”. It looked pretty much like a normal collar, except with a small cube on the front, from which terminals extended on the inside. The collar was to be placed on the offending animal’s neck, the level of “correction” set from 1 to 7 (I was hoping it would go up to eleven, but was disappointed) and nature – or at least, the bit of nature discovered by Ben Franklin – left to take its course. I noted with some amusement that the instructions specifically warned against putting the collar on anything but a dog. Dammit. With a little tinkering, I was sure it would work just fine on a small child.

Scientific tests (or, at least, Robert sneaking out the back to ring the doorbell) revealed that Cody was the first one to bark when visitors arrived. Congratulations, Cody: you’ve just won a nice new collar. Typically, having connected her up, nobody came to our door that day; we did toy with the idea of sending Robert out again, just to check it was working, but that seemed somewhat unsporting. There was initially some problem in getting the collar tight enough; we were erring on the loose side, since we didn’t really want asphyxia to be part of the “correction”. Just to be safe, we jacked it up to level 3…

Then someone finally rang the doorbell and Cody launched into her usual “welcome”. Or at least tried to: the resultant sound can probably be approximated as follows:
Then silence. I was impressed. The speed with which it had the desired effect was certainly amazing, but we hurried to check on Cody, just to make sure she wasn’t lying on her back, legs in the air, convulsing gently. She was still moving, but in a way which suggested “Did anyone get the number of that truck?”, eyes full of hurt and confusion. Before you could think, “Bet she won’t be barking for a while”, Chris had leapt forward and removed the collar from Cody’s neck. “She’s learned her lesson,” she said firmly. Nothing could change her mind, not even my argument that if Cody had learned her lesson, then she surely had nothing to worry about?

You know how this story ends. In less than a week, the lesson had worn off, and Cody was back to full volume, thanks to my beloved Chris the softie and her fierce aversion to electrical “correction”. They say, “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs” – but I guess sometimes, we’re probably happier settling for a bacon sandwich.

[This editorial is dedicated to Max, Chris’s longtime (albeit somewhat grouchy) companion, who went to doggie heaven on July 5th]