It's been a week, and I've done several recordings on Frank with the bark collar, in different situations. First, Soren and I did a voice activated recording in my car while we were at work on Thursday. We got 30 seconds of recorded sound, and none of it included barking. We were suspicious of this, because the recorder explains the first few seconds of dictation will be cut off in voice activated mode, which means it could have missed recording the bark entirely.
That afternoon we stopped at a bar for a drink before doing some errands. We left the handheld on continuous record for the entire time we were inside. Except for the occasional whine, there was no barking on the tape.
Afterward we took Frank to Soren's house and locked him in the bathroom while we went to get my car an oil change and buy some groceries. We were gone an hour at the most. When I listened to the tape, I didn't hear any actual barking, but Frank's whines and cries became more and more intense as time went on. I'm sure that it was loud enough the surrounding apartments would have been able to hear him.
Friday we crated Frank in Soren's living room and left the recorder on the floor across the room. We left and made it half way across the parking lot when Frank started barking, LOUDLY. I immediately went back inside, pulled him out of his crate and readjusted the position of the collar on his neck. We reset the tape and left for the gym. We were gone probably half an hour. This time, the tape recorded a very soft whimper about every 10-15 seconds throughout the entire half hour period, but not a single bark. This left me wondering if the collar was correcting him at all, as it seemed like the second time we left for the gym, he hadn't even tried to bark.
I'm so frustrated. I need this to work, and I need it to work every time. The collar seems to fit poorly, and I'm concerned that this is causing it to move to a position in which it can't read his vibrations properly. The band is a hard plastic material, and because Frank's neck is only about 13-16 inches around, the side with the buckle creates a straight line instead of curving along the side of his neck. Instead of the collar being a circular neck shape, it looks more like a triangle with rounded corners. The fit guide says you should be able to slide a finger between his neck and the collar. At the back and under the correction box I can, but on the side with the buckle, I can almost fit a whole hand in the gap. It corrects him for shaking his head, but only sometimes for screaming. Also, his neck seems red and irritated, but I can't loosen it anymore because it would be too loose.
This morning I called Pet Safe for help. After reviewing everything with the rep, I feel like this collar was intended for dogs with a larger neck. He mentioned that some people have a lot of luck with the plastic band, but on some dogs it seems to just slide around. He also said it is very important that it stay in the correct position or the collar will not work.
Pet Safe makes another collar with a nylon mesh band that I think I'm going to try. I read through the user reviews on Petco's website, and almost everyone had excellent results. There were maybe three who had bad luck. A Samoyed who seemed to be panicking when the collar went off and screaming so much it continued to correct over and over, a Lab who was too stubborn to stop barking, and a Jack Russell whose bark was apparently of such a high pitch it wasn't registering. The other 20 reviews were all very positive and encompassed the full range of dogs, from Shih-tzus to Great Danes.
So we'll see. I'm really disheartened. I need this to work so badly. I did some more research on debarking as well, in case I run out of options. It seems to be pretty highly advocated by people like Sheltie owners and breeders. Shelties apparently love to bark, and one woman mentioned that her dog's bark actually shattered glass. I found a lot of people with positive things to say about it, all of whom had tried every other avenue first with no success. Meanwhile, the sites I find opposing the procedure didn't seem to have very valid arguments to support their case. They called it cruel and inhumane, but couldn't really back up their reasoning, whereas the people in support of it seemed to be very caring and intelligent people trying to do the best thing for both their dogs and themselves. Many of them pointed out that the surgery is less invasive than spay or neutering, and doesn't cause any kind of psychological damage like declawing a cat would.
After watching Frank wear this collar all week, I'm honestly concerned that having 2 metal prongs jamming into his throat 8 hours a day is going to do more damage over the long term than a few holes surgically cut into his vocal chords. Not only is his neck irritated, but he's been coughing and wheezing a lot as well. There have been a couple occasions where he bumped the collar on something like the edge of a table, and spent the next several minutes choking. Riding in the car last night he got it caught on the window and had to be rescued by Soren before he hung himself.
I love my dog so much. I want to do what's best for him, but separation anxiety is such a difficult problem to fix. Still, all I can do is keep trying until something works. I think if this third collar fails, I'm going to make an appointment with my vet to discuss other alternatives. I want to know all my options before I do something drastic.