Monday, April 11, 2011


The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I am beating my brains out attempting to keep my dog from barking. And I finally have a method that has a fairly decent amount of success. I read about it online as a method for keeping cats from doing things you don't want them to do, like climbing on the table. Well, my dog is, I'm fairly certain, convinced she's a cat, so why not give it a try? It's not like anything else has worked recently.

The way it's supposed to work is when the cat (or in this case, Choo Choo) exhibits bad behavior, you squirt the nose with a mixture of three parts water to one part lemon juice. It's not painful, so the article claims, but I only went half way on this one. I bought a blue spray bottle for Padawan to use and a pink one for me, and I filled them with H2O, straight up.

It only took three days to break Choo Choo of the habit of barking the second she got out the door to announce her presence. She stopped barking at things she thought she saw in the distance. She stopped barking when she heard doors opening in other apartments, cars starting, and horns beeping. She stopped barking at people driving by. One day we walked right behind a young man and she didn't bark once to get his attention. Padawan reported having a much less stressful time walking her.

Now my only problem is keeping her from going barking mad when she sees a dog while on her walks. When she's on the balcony now, she's quiet. But on walks with another dog, she goes right back to her old behavior and no amount of spraying the nose or the face or scolding or bribing with treats will make her stop. It's like a halfway there kind of thing. Or maybe seventy five percent there.

And I'm thinking...maybe if I added the lemon juice, the problem would be fixed.

Or citronella. They sell dog collars online that spray citronella into the dog's face every time he/she barks, so I imagine putting it into a spray bottle would be just as effective, and easier since the smallest dog collars like that would be too bulky for Choo Choo to wear effectively. 

Either way, shock collars are definitely out. 

I know this is negative reinforcement and it's what you're not supposed to do, but since positive reinforcement training only worked for a week with each method or less, I had no alternative. (Aside from paying two hundred dollars for a personal trainer, and I didn't want to spend that much for a habit she only recently picked up.)

I'm still pretty convinced that if we could just take Clueless's dog for a while to get Choo Choo used to being around other dogs, she might relearn the correct social behavior that she used to know but seems to have forgotten. (Or it could go the other way and Sausage could pick up Choo Choo's recently picked up bad habit, but Corgis are notoriously smart dogs, so I think it would be the other way around. (Then again, Chihuahuas are usually smart dogs, according to my vet, and yet Choo Choo does some pretty dumb things.)

But even with this not quite there success, the amount of success we have had makes Padawan much less cranky about having to take Choo Choo out for walks when he gets home. It's no longer a battle between us where I finally win when I say, "If you don't take her out she'll either have an accident you'll have to clean up, or she'll hold it and wind up with a urinary tract infection. If the first, you deserve it, if the're taking her to the vet and paying for the urine test and the antibiotics."

Hard to argue with that, isn't it? 

Still, I don't miss the battle.  

Speaking of battles, the world is such a nice place when I can come home and there isn't a pile of dishes right in front of my face because the dishes were done last night. Yes, even though I hate doing it, that ten minutes every night of dislike is easily outstripped by the hours of happiness in a perfectly clean apartment.

There is happiness in the small things.


  1. I've been hearing this saying about the definition of insanity going around lately. It's witty and clever, but I have doubts about its accuracy.

    I would think that definition of insanity would be someone who thinks Jesus lives in their underwear because aliens eat ice cream on Fridays. I know quite a number of people who do the same thing over and over expecting different results, or at least they're surprised when the same stupid shit happens again. For instance, I'm sure you probably know a couple like this: Every Saturday night they got out, get drunk at the bar, and they end up screaming at each other in the parking-lot and having a huge fight. Next Saturday night rolls around...yep, you know where they'll be. They never learn. Some people make the same stupid mistakes their whole life. Idiotic and irresponsible yes, but insane? I don't know.

  2. Maybe stupidity is a symptom of insanity. I think it's pretty crazy to go out and get drunk repeatedly if it always ends in a fight. I also think it's stupid. Anyway, I think this particular definition was Freud's brilliant idea. And I do know a couple like that, and I'm pretty sure they're crazy.

  3. Well, I did some research on the saying. It seems it's been attributed to everyone from Einstein to Ben Franklin. The scholarly consensus seems to be that it comes from a Rita Mae Brown, a novelist from the 1980's. However, I've found some people who claim the quote goes as far back as the 1930's. So, who knows?

    Why do I go to this trouble? These kind of urban legends and popular misinformation fascinate me. For instance, I'm sure you've heard the old idea that we only use 10% of our brain. Some say 15. Some say 20. The point is, the whole idea is a complete misnomer. It's absolute nonsense. We may not use all our brain at once at all times, but it's not like there's a tiny portion of it that's active while the rest is permanently dormant. That would mean we would have a huge lump of useless tissue in our skulls. The idea was dismissed a long time ago by anyone who knows anything about the brain, and yet it persists in popular culture. People like the notion that we have this vast reservoir of untapped potential if only we could find a way to activate it. So they perpetuate the saying, even though it makes no sense.

    So, returning to the insanity thing. Taken literally, I agree that such compulsive behavior can be a sign of insanity. If you witnessed someone flicking a light switch that didn't work, and then they kept returning and trying the light switch again and again every few minutes, you'd certainly conclude that there was something a little off with the person. However, I take issue with the idea that it's the definition of insanity, as in the defining and essential feature. That would be like saying the definition of an airplane is a place where they serve you peanuts. It's something very marginal to the fundamental nature of the thing.

  4. Oh, I've heard that thing about the brain. I never believed it. If you've ever watched a brain scan in progress you can see the different parts of the brain light up when used. I never understood why anybody would believe we only used ten percent of our brains since different regions of our brains are used for different people really believe that all bodily functions are taken care of by 10%?

    You do have a point. So repetition with the expectation of different results is a sign of insanity. Either way, you keep flipping the light switch and you're nuts.

  5. Hey, even the smartest animals make stupid mistakes sometimes. :)

    Well, I'm glad you've had some amount of success with the spray bottle method. Baby steps, right? At least she's a lot better about her barking habit overall.

    I don't know if the citronella or lemon juice would work better. I've never tried either method. Whatever you come up with though, I'm sure it will be just fine.

    PS: Yay for your clean kitchen! It's like they say, sometimes you've just gotta take matters into your own hands to get them done properly. By the way, how's Padawan doing with the whole cooking experience? I'm curious.

  6. Yes, I think my dog is above average intelligence. But when she does something stupid, she takes the cake in it.

    Baby steps are good. I think if I use lemon juice and she realizes it gets worse than just water she'll stop barking because who knows what kind of horror comes next?

    PS. Well, Padawan made a frozen Ravioli dinner one night. And then we've pretty much eaten out ever since for dinner because he doesn't like having to stop whatever he'd doing to make dinner. And even when he made the ravioli...he didn't read the directions and messed it up. Baby steps, though. Baby steps.

  7. I think your dog is secretly planning on building a device that converts your words into barks, which will then cause a giant pie machine to hurl cream pies at you every time you speak. You only think your method is working, but Choo Choo is buying time for the big pieface caper to unfold.

  8. Well when you say it like that you make it seem so mean to keep her from barking when she doesn't have a reason to do it. I'm only fixing the nuisance barking. She can still bark when someone comes to the door. She's allowed to play bark and angry bark when Padawan is annoying her. It's just the unnecessary barking that we're getting rid of.

  9. I think Scott just did a pretty fine job of defining insanity.

  10. Well it would be a world gone mad if Choo Choo turned on me...

  11. We used to have a cat that we sprayed with water everytime it did something we didn't want it to do like claw the sofa or jump on the counter. Then, I started spraying it just because it was funny to spray it. I also put tape on it's paws because that was funny too. Then it dawned on me...I don't really like cats very much. So we found it a new home.

  12. The squirt bottle thing works great. It got a cat that kept jumping up on the counter to stop, it also got his owner to stop dating me. It was win -win.
    Is Padawan a good cook? I may have missed the part where you talk about it.

  13. I would think the socialization is really what's needed. I don't think lemon juice in the water is going to make it more unbearable than just straight water.

    I had to use a shock collar on Buddy because his barking was when I'm absent, aka at work. Which means I'm not there to actually correct the behavior. I've actually felt the shock work and was convinced it's ok. It's really just a tingling sensation that's annoying, it's not painful. It's kind of shocking to feel at first but not in an "ow" kind of way, it was a "what the hell was that and where did it come from" kind of way. Anyway, we don't even turn the collar on for him anymore or keep it on him tight. It just hangs from his neck completely useless but he still doesn't bark. Yea!

  14. Thank you sir. I try. How come I have to log in to make a comment? I wanna be anonymous once in a while.

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  16. I used the spray bottle and rolled up newspaper method on one of my Sergeants. It took awhile and alot of water, but we finally got him trained. Maybe I should have added the citronella. Or some pepper spray.

  17. Asha, I'm a cat lover...but I have to admit that we did put a sock on my roommate's cat once (not MY cat...) to see what he'd do...funniest two minutes and sixteen seconds EVER recorded in that apartment. Except maybe the time she tried to give him a bath. I'm glad you took the trouble to find the kitty a new home instead of just dumping him/her in a pound. Kudos to you. Most people don't do it that way.

    George, we still miss you, you know. And why would someone break up with you for breaking a cat of bad behavior in a way that wasn't painful or cruel? Maybe you should have sprayed the girlfriend.

    Jenna, I think shock collars must have improved since the last time I ran into one. My dad had a shock collar on his labs when I was fourteen and the dog was stuck in the fence once and when I tried to pull him away I got the shock of the collar. It knocked my whole arm numb for a while and it was unpleasant. Plus my dog is so small shocking would be harder on her. I guess if they are adjustable shock strengths it's not as evil as I imagined.

    Scott, you have to log in to comment because I had my first experience with a troll last month and making you login prevents anonymous cowards from being able to insult me without leaving me a trail to follow.

    Darev, I hear pepper spray is a great motivator for stubborn men.

  18. I'm with Ms. Jenna about the whole shock collar thing, but here's the thing: my two dogs are SEVENTY POUNDS. I have shocked myself with the shock collar. I know what it feels like and I won't shock them above any adjustable level I haven't shocked myself with. That sounds ridiculous, but it makes sense---I'm not going to subject my dog to anything I wouldn't subject myself to. And I use the shock collars for emergencies-- AKA when my marginally retarded dog is about to run across the busy street after a ball or Derrick's dog is about to eat a dog like Choo Choo (ahhhh that sounds terrible. She's not vicious. I'd trust her with my infant child if I had one. She just sees small dogs as food. And she's perfectly okay with them, even off-leash-- as long as they don't run up to her and try to bite her nose or something.)

    BUT HERE'S THE THING. I don't weigh five pounds. I don't know what a shock collar would do to such a small dog. So even though I use them, I completely understand why you wouldn't with Choo Choo. I can shock myself, sure, but I don't know what it would do to such a small dog. I think your spray bottle idea is a good one--and I love that even though you recognize a shock collar may not be right for your particular situation, you're not a blanket shock collar hater. HOORAY FOR OPEN MINDS!!

  19. I don't think your dog is vicious. My dog tries to eat big dogs that knock her over. Nobody likes being physically threatened. If my dog ever went and attacked another dog, I'd totally understand another dog trying to eat her. That's not vicious. It's self defense.

    And it doesn't sound strange that you shock yourself before subjecting your dog to the shock. I think that's a really nice thing to do. I myself have been sprayed in the face with the spray bottle by Padawan. It wasn't voluntary, but at least I know it doesn't hurt her.

    They do make small shock collars for dogs under ten pounds with adjustable shock strengths. The first trainer I spoke to explained that it's perfectly harmless if used correctly. I'm still iffy about the idea though. Trainers shouldn't suggest shock collars right off the bat...


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