Dog training miracle tool

In October, I brought home a cute little mutt who promptly made me rethink the decision. We joked that she had some kind of split-personality disorder because she could be sweet as pie, but often turned into a jumping, pouncing, play-biting SPAZ-MONSTER. Although there was no aggression involved, Ken and I got mighty tired of being bruised and bitten and having holes ripped in our clothes.

We confined her to the kitchen (when we were home) in hopes of minimizing the trouble she could get into. It did keep the destruction to one room, but I’m sure being bored contributed to the destruction; the problem was that when we did let her venture beyond the kitchen, she went into hyper-Piper mode, running and sliding on our wood floors, jumping on and over the coffee table, crashing into walls…

A partial list of items eaten/destroyed by Piper:
{Go ahead and laugh! We have — after the fact!}

  • every tie on kitchen chair cushions
  • at least one actual chair cushion
  • the caning on one chair, plus rungs on several others
  • part of a windowsill
  • at least 4 kitchen rugs
  • the kitchen sink curtain (in lieu of a cabinet door there)
  • a pack of kitchen sponges
  • beadboard on one kitchen wall
  • assorted socks (stolen from the laundry)
  • one dog bed (while in her crate)
  • the foam inside another dog bed (after unzipping the bed!)

Then there was that time Piper nearly [accidentally] strangled Daisy when she twisted her collar around and Daisy couldn’t breathe; I don’t like to imagine that scenario if I hadn’t been here to intervene quickly.

But all this time, I kept telling Ken that I could tell by the way Piper watches us that she could even be one of those dogs that seem to understand commands as soon as their master thinks them.

Piper the bat dog

Ken and I had reached the end of our dog-training knowledge and while we did see progress with Piper, we knew we needed more help with her. So I signed up for obedience classes.

We’ve only had one session so far, but during class, I saw the effectiveness of a particular dog training tool with an “energetic” (understatement of the year) German Shepherd and immediately decided to buy one of these tools to take home with me.

A magical dog-training tool:

shaky can

It’s a soda can with some pennies inside, wrapped in fleece. That’s all. More dignified folks probably call it a shaker or a noise-maker, but I call it “shaky can.” After seeing how effective it is, I’m already making more. You can, too:

  1. Empty and wash out a soda can.
  2. Put some pennies in it.
  3. Seal the opening with duct tape. Decorate it up if you want.
  4. Sew a sleeve of fleece around it. Even easier: slip it inside a tube sock.
  5. Make a few and keep them in handy locations around the house.

Here’s how it works:

When the dog gets obnoxious and ignores you, give them two chances to obey your command. If they continue to ignore you, give the can a vigorous shake.

When I saw how this worked on the loud/enthusiastic/jumping/barking dog in class, I thought I’d see if it would help break Daisy from her habit of barking whenever the UPS truck stops near our house. {Or the mail truck. Or anyone working in our neighbor’s yard. Or kids getting off the school bus…} Yelling does no good; I’ve read that dogs think you’re barking along with them when you yell at them.

When the dogs start jumping on each other’s heads to get a rowdy play session going, I say “Calm.” If they keep going, shaky can makes some noise.

When Daisy gets loud, I say “Quiet!” Continuing to bark gets some shaky can action.

If Piper jumps on us or puts her front feet on the kitchen counter or table or whatever, I say “Off!” If, after one more “off” command she hasn’t obeyed, it’s shaky can time.

A game-changer in our life with dogs.

This does not harm the dog, and it’s not any louder than their barking, so it doesn’t hurt their ears. I don’t know why it’s so effective, but it has worked WONDERS in our house. Piper can get so intense we’ve literally knocked the wind out of her in the midst of a pouncing/biting session and it only deterred her for maybe two minutes. But with shaky can, after only one day both dogs learned the commands calm, quiet, and off. It works for leave it, too.

Piper and Daisy

By the second day, we’d seen such great progress we decided Piper no longer had to be confined to the kitchen.

Piper is enjoying time with the family, and we are enjoying her. Ken can walk in the door from work without being repeatedly jumped on. The kids can pet her without getting pounced. The dogs can be in the same room together — calmly — and they’ve learned that play time is for outside.

silly Piper

If this is all we get out of obedience class it will still be worthwhile because it has already changed our lives for the better. The shaker can won’t work for teaching tricks, or for teaching dogs to come when called. It simply provides an effective way to get a dog’s attention. It’s not a substitute for positive reinforcement (very important!) but when bad behaviors diminish, there are more opportunities to love on your dog and praise good behavior.

I do have further goals: Piper needs more socialization; I want more pleasant walks with both dogs; and I’d love to teach them to consistently come when I call! Ultimately I want my dogs to be a pleasure to live with and safe to take anywhere around anyone. As we continue with dog training, I’ll tell you more about what’s working for us, in hopes it will work for you and your doggie pals, too!