Bell-Ringing Craziness and The Dog Who Ignores Basic Commands

Bell Ringing Craziness

Question: Our family owns a six-year-old Wirehaired Fox Terrier. Whenever the phone rings and someone go to answer it, she starts barking incessantly, runs after the person, and jumps up on them. Sometimes, she even bites that person! She seems to bark at any kind of bell ringing. Why does she do this, and what can be done to stop this craziness?

Sometimes a particular dog’s reaction to certain external stimulus is hard to determine. Some dogs react violently to thunder, some to sirens, and others to a simple automobile horn. Dog psychiatrists have written about this syndrome. They inform us that your terrier may relate bell ringing to something adverse that could have happened a long time ago. For example, he may have been inadvertently stepped on while someone was rushing to answer the phone.

Regardless of the reasons for his reaction to bell ringing, it certainly can be controlled, just as a dog who is gun shy can be conditioned to overcome his phobia. The quickest way to overcome this situation is to have someone ring your telephone at prearranged times; say, at 5 to 10-minute intervals.

When the bell rings, don’t jump up and run to the phone as most people do. Just relax and calmly give your dog a treat, something he really enjoys, such as a piece of liver, beef jerky, or her favorite snack. After a while, your dog will hear the phone ring and feel excited and happy, associating the sound with a treat instead of something terrible, the same conditioning that Russian scientist ‘Pavlov’ had discovered.

The Dog Who Decided Not To Listen

Question: I taught my dog basic commands such as heel, stay, come, down, and sit. On any of these commands, he will do them all perfectly so long as we are in the house or in the backyard, which is enclosed by a fence. But once I left the gate open accidentally, and he wandered just outside of it, he would not respond to any of my commands. Stop, Sit, Stay…. nothing worked. It was like my dog was purposefully ignoring me. Is this normal? Where did I go wrong?

It is not unusual for a dog to discover that you cannot make a correction if a leash is not attached or there is an obvious way to exit the premises (in your case the open gate from the backyard). This is usually brought about by giving commands to your dog when you are in no position to correct for disobedience.

Dog owners who usually attend basic obedience classes are usually flabbergasted to see their dog respond to the basic commands of heel, stay, down, and sit while in training. Sometimes these same dog owners want to show off just a little to their friends or neighbors, so they try to do the obedience exercises without the benefit of leash and training collar. The dog learns that without those particular ‘tools’, his owner is helpless to correct for disobedience. Your only solution is to take your dog on into advanced training, that is, where everything is accomplished off-leash.