Friday, May 21, 2010


I believed in purely positive (positive reinforcement only) dog training once, and then I realized that it just doesn’t always work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as though I approve of abject humiliation and constant punishment as a viable dog training method, but there are just some dogs that won’t behave no matter how many cookies you give them and no matter how many “good girl’s” they hear. Some dogs just need that extra little motivation to not act like a complete and total wacko. Sometimes a girl just needs a smack-down.

Bobo is the sweetest dog you would ever want to meet. She doesn’t have an aggressive bone n her body, she has the face of a saint and it is only on a very rare occasion that she has problems with any other dog. To her credit, she has that perfectly innocent puppy-look when she tips her head to the side, which she does relatively regularly because she knows I think it’s just the cutest thing ever. It is only because of that pathetic look that Bobo got away with what she got away with when we first brought her home. Although this is not an essay about dog training, let me just give you one small piece of advice. No matter how cute they are, don’t let your new dog get away with bad behavior. It’ll only come back to bit you in the ass. This I can promise.

When we first got Bobo she was horrid. Aside from the fact that she was a year old, not house trained and she ate just about everything in sight: socks, shoes, our new glasses, books, magazines, pillows and the venetian blinds, she was also relentless chasing the cats and refused to give Zac a moment of peace. After a few weeks of sleepless nights we finally decided that training Bobo correctly was outside of our area of expertise and decided to bring in the professionals. We actually didn’t much care for the trainer we hired because aside from the fact that she was unable (or unwilling) to remember the names of our dogs she, for some reason, insisted on focusing her attention on Zac, the dog who didn’t really need the help. She also informed us that it was actually not a bad thing that our out of control dog was out of control.

Bobo had so much pent up energy and so little self control that she would run around the room so fast that she would actually get enough momentum to run on the walls. This is not a lie. I never would have believed such a thing was possible if I didn’t see it myself. When we told the dog trainer about this, she actually did tell us that if we didn’t mind then we should just let her do it. OK, let me just a take a second to say, who in the world would be ok with their dog running on the walls? And what kind of dog trainer would condone it?

The problem with Bobo, and the reason that "purely positive" training techniques didn’t work that well with her is because she’s not motivated by anything but running to swimming. She’s not motivated by cookies or praise or tennis balls. She cares about nothing but running and swimming and there is nothing better to her than those two activities. Therefore, unless we could have figured out a way to reward her by letter her go swimming or running, we were out of luck. Thus we were in a pickle. She was not motivated by what we could give her and therefore she had no reason to listen and when she was misbehaving she was usually doing so in an environment where she was moving too fast for us to catch her so there was no immediate result (read: punishment) associated to her action. There was never any punishment or scolding associated with the craziness because by the time we caught her, too much time had passed and the punishment would have been useless for extinguishing a bad behavior.

A big part of our problem training Bobo was that she is very smart and a remarkably good problem solver. In fact she quickly solved the problem of how to avoid being yelled at and punished. She learned that here were never any repercussions to her running away from us because, well she was running away, and since we couldn’t catch her, we couldn’t punish her. So instead of getting punished for misbehaving, she got the double reward of getting not punished and getting to do exactly what she loved best, run. Unfortunate for us, but very fortunate for her, her speed and agility made teaching her self control extremely difficult. If she chased the cats, by the time we got to her, the cats were long gone and enough time had passed that the punishment would have been tied to nothing. If she ignored us at the dog park, she got just what she wanted, to run and continue to play, and we got to feel like the asshole dog-moms who have no control over their puppy. For the most part she knew her commands, but being the smart dog that she is, she learned that she could ignore them when she wanted to and there really wasn’t anything that we could do about it. Enter the PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer.

This collar contains a small waterproof box which when remotely activated either makes a small beep or releases a spray of citronella under the dog’s chin. The Spray Trainer has 4 levels of spray so you can increase the length of time the spray sprays if needed. Conceptually it’s a lot like a shock collar only there is no shock. Instead of the shock it’s a spritz under the chin. Nothing painful, just annoying, and yet amazingly effective. With this one small device, we could actually control our Bobo because for the first time we could catch her in the act of behaving badly and we could act accordingly. If she was chasing the cats we could stop the action without having to leap across the living room to tackle her to the ground. If she ignored a command we could give her a spritz and she would know that there was no more ignoring us. The PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer put us in charge.

We tried the Spray Commander first which is a different brand with the same functionality. The biggest differences are that the Spray Commander is a little less expensive, only has one spray level, and is not waterproof so after Bobo chased a duck into alligator infested waters, it was pretty much useless.

The PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer on the other hand is waterproof so she could swim with it and it would still work, but of course, like all of Bobo’s gear, it needed some adjusting. Bobo, for obvious reasons, is rather hard on her things. She looses jackets, she breaks collars, she is as hard on her things as she is on herself. She managed to kill the first $150 PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer we purchased. She cracked it somehow. We’re still not entirely sure how. Since the device is intended for active dogs, one would think that it would be durable enough to withstand the abuse active dogs would give it. Apparently not. So we shelled out another $150 for another one. Only this time we wrapped the small waterproof box in electrical tape to give it some extra padding. That worked, and Bobo has not, as of yet, been able to destroy it.

The PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer is only a training tool and you can’t expect that it will work wonders for your dog if you don’t take the time to work wonders in conjunction. It is however an extremely useful tool for dogs who choose to misbehave because they can. Dogs are a lot smarter than people give them credit for and Bobo is no exception. There are dogs out there that are just more difficult to train than others. Bobo falls into this category. Bobo didn’t care about treats so getting her to behave for a treat was near impossible. We spent hundreds of dollars on books and training tools and private training lessons and doggy daycare to rid her of some of her excess energy. We tried everything that we could think of to get Bobo under control. The PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer was the most effective training tool for us because Bobo needed an immediate punishment when she misbehaved. Not all dogs need that type of discipline and not all dogs are as difficult to catch in the act as Bobo, but if your dog is, I highly recommend the PetSafe Remote Spray Trainer. If it works for Bobo, it will work for any hyper dog if used correctly.

1 comment:

  1. I must say that this one is the result of great creativity. Also useful, plus cost is also less for this.

    Kind Regards,

    Colin Seal
    on the main page