Dear Annie: I have never written you before. Hoping you will give some space to this subject. I pray dog owners choosing to use a bark collar will see themselves as their neighbors do.
Dog ownership in our neighborhood has risen tenfold in the past five years. We have chosen not to have a dog — but love them and frequently dog-sit for our friends and relatives. Here is the problem: incessant barking and extremely irresponsible, cruel dog-owning neighbors. We are talking one- to four-hour stretches of barking.
One neighbor leaves for work. His two dogs have a dog door and free access to the outside at any time. When the dogs decide for themselves to go out, the barking is constant for as long as the owner’s shift lasts.
Two other neighbors have resorted to using bark collars that shock their dogs. This is absolutely inhumane. I can barely stand it to hear the dogs screaming in pain when those irresponsible owners hit the buzz button — at their random convenience. The inconsistency just makes it even more confusing for the dogs, I’m sure.
Owners, please stop using bark collars. You have deluded yourselves into thinking that you are being consistent, that it is an effective means of training and that it doesn’t hurt the dog.
Reconsider your need to own a dog if you do not have the time or means to devote to proper training and adjust your life to your individual dog’s needs and personality. Do some soul-searching, and do what is right for your dog.
We live in a small rural community with very few resources, so options for reporting and taking action to address situations such as these are extremely limited. We have approached the offenders on several occasions — thus the rise of the bark collars, which was not our intention. Thanks for letting me vent. — Weary of the Cruelty
Dear Weary: Thank you for writing about this important issue. I’m printing it here in hopes that anyone guilty of these offenses will reconsider this behavior. You’re right; the shock collars are not only cruel but also ineffective. They may stop a dog from barking temporarily, but they do not address the root issues that cause excessive barking, such as stress and separation anxiety.
People who have to leave dogs alone all day while they work should consider hiring dog walkers to visit and tire them out during the day. Visit humanesociety.org for more tips on keeping animal companions happy.
Dear Annie: My wife and I have been married for 50 years. Since we first were married, we have shared a love of dogs — in particular, a love of golden retrievers. We have always had at least two goldens in our house. We currently have a 1-year-old pup, named Tucker.
Our 12-year-old dog, Trixie, just passed away. Ten years ago, we would have picked up the phone and called the breeder immediately. But we are older now; my wife has arthritis in her hand, and we feel that two large dogs would be a lot to manage at our age.
The problem is with Tucker. He really misses having a companion. Since Trixie died, Tucker has been chewing furniture and barking incessantly for us to play with him. I don’t think we can handle another big dog, but I know that Tucker needs company. What should we do? — Goldies
Dear Goldies: First off, I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sure Trixie is on the rainbow bridge with all of your other goldens. Animals grieve, too, and it sounds as if Tucker is going through that. One way to help him get over the loss of Trixie would be to get another dog, as dogs are pack animals and do better with companions. (They need not be of the same breed.)
Visit your local animal shelter, or look on Petfinder. Perhaps you could find a golden retriever mixed with a much smaller breed. That way, you would be doing two acts of kindness in one — saving a homeless dog’s life and giving Tucker a new friend.
— Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.