Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I am Not a Bad Dog Owner

My dog barks.  At squirrels.

I've never had a barker before.  Our last dog, Cooper, was an "old soul" from birth.  We lived in a 3 year old house, in a subdivision with barely any trees.  We had no kids and plenty of "free" time.  We spent a lot of that time on the walking trails, hiking trails and open fields.  Although he showed interest in wildlife, sometimes chasing it, he rarely ever barked.  At anything.

A little over six years ago we moved to this house.  Older, in a mature subdivision filled with large trees and tons of urban wildlife.  In our backyard, we've seen rabbits, rats, chipmunks, red squirrels, grey squirrels, skunks, raccoons, possum, and even a blue heron.

A few months after moving in, Cooper died on Christmas Eve.  He was 11, and had recently been sick, but we thought he was on the mend.  We had no plans for another dog though we kept an open mind.  Then, in mid-March we found out that Cooper's brother had sired a litter of supposively purebred Goldens.  On Easter weekend, we (along with my brother's family and our parents) went to check them out.  We all ended up with a puppy.

Having a puppy again was so much harder this time.  The kids got wound up, Skippy got wound up.  He (and his brothers) did this "psycho puppy" thing of racing around the kitchen or backyard in circles (I have a video of it on my YouTube channel).  He was already a very dominant dog, not responding to our previous puppy training experience.  He was challenging to walk, took longer to housetrain, get through the biting stage, and learn commands.  He was certainly quite smart, but also very clueless at times.  The alpha-dog part is still the hardest thing.

I don't know when or why it started, but Skippy has the biggest hate towards squirrels.  There are two big trees in adjoining lots at the corners of our backyard.  Every day Skippy goes out there and has a barking showdown with the squirrels.  I yell, I try to drag him in (it's like dragging a tantruming three year old), I try to leash him.  The most effective (but time consuming) thing has been to have a staring contest until I see his tail drop.  First though, I have to get his attention which isn't easy.

Strange thing is, he doesn't do this on the weekends when Rob is home.  He might run out and give one cursory bark.  Once in a while he might go crazy, but it's not like Monday-Friday, between 7:30am-8:00am. 

Rob keeps talking about getting a training collar, but he wants one of the most expensive ones, with a huge range and lots of features that he can't even find locally.  I want the cheap (still $100+) one that just does barking, so that I don't have to stand there and wait with the controller for him to bark.  So, he's never gotten around to getting one.  And, it's not an issue for him.

What else can I do?  I can't not let him out as he's just gotten up and/or eaten breakfast.  If I leash him before he goes out, he won't go pee.  What I really want to do is get rid of the squirrels.  Other than a pellet or .22 gun, how?!  And how to stop others from moving in?

He rarely barks at people or dogs going past the house.  Doesn't bark when the doorbell rings.  He does get very hyper when people come to the door.  Generally, he's a good dog, but from 7:30-8:30am and again for a while after lunch, he is the most annoying thing on the planet.