A Sad Day In Schnauzerville

September 6, 2012 | My Jottings

Oh, the shame.

I stared at the envelope we found in our mailbox today and felt a mixture of shock and chagrin. And even though it wasn’t signed, I knew immediately who the note was from.

After the shock and chagrin faded, I felt guilty, and then upset with myself for messing up with our neighbors so soon. We’ve only lived in this house three months, and already we’re getting hate mail. Sort of.

But it’s well-deserved, yes, yes it is. You see, in our other home, we had a huge back yard that sloped down away from our house toward a little woods, with a creek bordering the back of our property. Edith and Mildred, our two Miniature German Schnauzers, would bound outside and run around the back yard, and would usually only bark if they saw wildlife. When they barked I brought them in, but we weren’t so geographically close to neighbors there and I don’t think Edith and Millie were considered neighborhood nuisances. Their barking was infrequent, even though they’re vigilant little hounds who believe their primary reason for living is to alert us when any rogue leaf moves in the breeze.

At the other house, we also had a very large front yard, so even if Edith and Millie were looking out the front window, they weren’t close enough to see all the people walking by, and they certainly didn’t yap at each passing car.

But now they do. And it’s terrible. We love our new house, but our yard is very small, which we welcome at this stage of our lives because it’s a lot less upkeep. But now we have to let our Schnauzers outside via the front door, which takes them into the smallish front yard, where people walking by with their dogs, and neighbors working in their yards are immediately visible. And whenever Edith and Millie see people, they bark. It’s not a warning, threatening bark, because they’re friendly people-dogs and just want to be loved and have fun.

If you’re wondering what our Schnauzers sound like when they bark, this is pretty close. I know it can be irritating — we’re irritated. Whenever they start to bark, one of us goes outside right away to shush them and to bring them inside. But by the time that happens, they’ve gotten a few good shrieky barks in.

Here’s how the American Kennel Club describes the Schnauzer breed:  The Official Standard of the Miniature Schnauzer for the American Kennel Club describes temperament as “alert and spirited, yet obedient to command…friendly, intelligent and willing to please…should never be overaggressive or timid.” Usually easy to train, they tend to be excellent watchdogs with a good territorial instinct, but more inclined toward barking than biting. They are often aloof with strangers until the owners of the home welcome the guest, upon which they are typically very friendly to them. However, they will often express themselves vocally, and may bark to greet their owner, or to express joy, excitement, or displeasure.

Well, our dogs have been, uh, expressing themselves vocally, and because of that, here’s what was in our mailbox today:

I’ll say it again: oh, the shame.

I showed Michael the note and we just looked at each other. Sigh.

I then sat down at the computer, read the reviews on amazon.com and ordered two bark collars, which will be here by Saturday morning. I bought the most humane ones with good reviews. Most of the training will be done by a recognizable beep the dogs hear. Hopefully only one little jolt will be necessary at the beginning. In case you’re wondering why I ordered bark collars, it’s because I think we’ve tried everything else. We’ve tried spraying them with a small jet of water from a spray bottle when they bark. We’ve tried tossing small circlets of (harmless) chains at them when they bark. We’ve hollered at them. We’ve reasoned with them. We’ve rewarded them when they’re quiet. We’ve lowered our voices and said ominously and authoritatively, “Nooooo.” I’m sorry to say we’ve even tried swatting them a time or two. We’ve taken them to dog training classes, where they did remarkably well because they’re so smart and learn quickly. But what they learned in the arena never translated to the yard. We’ve read the books, watched the shows, and have utterly failed.

I know this is an owner problem, I really do know that. I know that if The Dog Whisperer came to our house, he would tsk-tsk at me and would have Edith and Millie trained to be sweet and silent Schauzers in no time at all. But I have not been able to keep them quiet outside with lasting success, and now I’ve alienated my neighbors because of it.

After I ordered the collars, I asked Michael to pray for me, and I walked across the street to apologize to Burt and Arlene. They’re a retired couple I introduced myself to the first day we moved in. Burt was nice enough that first meeting, but when he waved for his wife Arlene to come greet me, she was kneeling in the garden and declined, waving me off in an impatient gesture that was a little surprising. This afternoon as I approached their house (which you can see in the photo above), through an open front window I heard an interior door close, so I knew someone was home. I knocked and they didn’t answer. I rang the bell and they didn’t answer. So I walked back home. I found their phone number on the internet easily enough, and called them. They didn’t answer but their machine wished me a very good day. I left a message telling them it was their neighbor Julie from across the street, and I sincerely apologized that they had been bothered by our dogs, and I let them know that I had purchased bark collars that would be here soon. I told them we were truly so sorry, that we want to be good neighbors, and that I hoped our dogs would be under control soon. And I thanked them for telling us.

It’s a Sad Day in Schnauzerville when inept Mommy and Daddy have to resort to a “specialty” collar to keep our little dooginses from doing what is totally instinctual: expressing themselves vocally.

I’ll let you know if The Schnauzer Silence descends.

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Comments

  1. Helen in Switzerland says:

    Oh no! I hope for your sake the collar’s work – but how ridiculous that your neighbours couldn’t manage to a) talk to you or b) open the door when you went by. My neighbours have a dog that barks if I even think about going into our garden, but they are nice people and I reckon the dog will quieten down as she gets older and it certainly isn’t worth having a row about.

  2. Just Julie says:

    I wish you were my neighbor, Helen. Or better yet, I wish I were yours! I’d bring our bark collars to Switzerland and have tea with you, and you could teach me how to make scrap rugs. :)

  3. Pat says:

    Oh Julie, I know what you’re going through. I, too, cannot keep Jasper quiet no matter what I do. Cosette is a sweet, quiet dog and Jasper is NOT! I think you have gone over and above trying to make amends and believe me, I would love to have a neighbor like you! Good luck with the bark collars. Poor Edith and Millie – they’re just being Schnauzers!

  4. Just Julie says:

    Pat – you get it! Those are the words I wish others could understand: “They’re just being Schnauzers!” — so very true. But we live in a neighborhood with real neighbors and not everyone would appreciate that explanation…boo!

  5. Patty says:

    Oh my….I totally understand both sides of this awful situation. Only mine is internal, Ben and I have a large dog, who was trained to ‘get busy’ in a certain area of the yard and not to bark or make a scene when people came to the house. Then the kid’s came to stay with us, which has turned out to be rather long term. Along with them came Misty, a chihuahua, who was not happy about their change of location and shares your Schnauzer’s desire to alert us to every change of the breeze. Which has in turn taught our large dog that it must be okay to do that as well. There are days when I want to cry. They have purchased a bark collar for her. Sadly, she doesn’t get it. She barks, it zaps her and then she barks at being zapped. I hope that you have better luck with your girls!

    I agree with Helen; how terrible that your neighbors can’t be neighborly.

  6. Just Julie says:

    Your situation sounds really hard, Patty. Oh, poor Misty! I truly hope Edith and Mildred don’t react similarly. :(. Being dog less would be so much easier…and very lonely. xxoo

  7. Kay says:

    Oh Julie, feeling so sorry for you. Alan and I think you handled the situation perfectly. Such a shame that your neighbours are lacking in good manners. (However, we both thought that Arlene’s response to your first visit was very odd – is she elderly? Maybe the start of Alzheimer’s?)
    I would much rather hear the sound of your dogs barking than the awful racket of car engines constantly revving – that was our problem earlier this year. Dog barking is a natural noise and not so grating as the noise of machinery. I hope and pray that your neighbours respond to your telephone message in the same spirit as it was made.
    Talking about pet problems, our cat Mario is being very lazy and dirty just lately. He’s leaving ‘messages’ in the conservatory instead of using the catflap to go outside to do his ‘business’. And that’s after we paid out over £80 for an all-singing all-dancing electronic catflap that responds to his microchip. Hmmm …. Would Edith and Millie like an English feline friend to come and stay? :) (Not really, I wouldn’t wish him upon you!)

  8. Just Julie says:

    You are a gracious person Kay….I love that you said dog barking is a natural noise and not so grating as the noise of machinery. I might tell my neighbor this, and will quote you: “My friend Kay in Cornwall says….” :) And you made me laugh at the word “messages” – that is a very nice word for what Mario is doing. I should like to adapt that word into my vocabulary for Edith and Millie. :)

  9. Carolyn says:

    I have a few things to say about this. First of all, yes, your dogs bark too much, and are hard to silence. HOWEVER, I feel like your neighbors were quite rude in the way they handled themselves, elderly or not. Why couldn’t they have NICELY said “Could you please see about getting your cute dogs to bark a little less?” A curt “KEEP YOUR DOGS QUIET” is not a nice way to say it, and would frankly annoy the heck out of me. You sincerely apologizing to them is far more then they deserve, in my opinion. Because, let’s face it, dogs bark. If your pups barked in the middle of the night? Bad. If they barked constantly, all day? Bad. Their barking while running outside for a few minutes a day is really not a big deal, because they aren’t waking anyone up or breaking any laws. I personally think you should ignore their rude, rude note, and not feel the need to change your behavior. The only other thing I will say is that perhaps you should look into building steps off the office, and changing their ‘shock’ area into the back stretch behind the house, instead of the front yard, where they see more to bark at, and are more likely to annoy the neighbors.
    (This reminds me of my neighbors who called the POLICE because Francie got sprayed by a skunk and barked at the skunk for perhaps 15 to 20 minutes. I mean, come on, people. Find some better things to do with your time.)

  10. Just Julie says:

    I wonder how your neighbors would like it if Millie became Francie’s sister…it’s a thought. We keep telling Millie we’re going to give her to Jeremy and Carolyn if she doesn’t straighten up and fly right. Then your neighbors would have even more to call the police over. :) I do agree with you that our neighbors could have been a little more friendly than they were. Oh well. :(

  11. Christy says:

    The “Noble Pokey” rarely barks as he is usually too busy “Sootervising” but our adjacent property owners have a barking golden retriever. They live 6 acres away and what is really annoying is that she stands on her side of the tree line and barks at me if I even open my back door. When I work in my garden, she barks until I go in the house, perhaps 3 hours later. Non-stop barking. Her owners are home and both retired so I know they hear her as well (or better)as I do. They never, ever make an effort to stop her.I guess because I’m more tolerant of dogs than people, I blame them…..not her.She’s just being a vigilant watch dog doing her job. As are my dog nieces, Mildred and Edith.

  12. Just Julie says:

    Why is it that you can leave a very casual email and have me laughing my head off at things probably no one else would get? These words: noble, Sootervising, and “as are my dog nieces, Mildred and Edith”—hahahahaha! That did me in, in a very good and needed way today. Thank you dear sister I never had…. xxoo

  13. Savannah says:

    So when I first got my bear, Malachi (who is a lab mix I got from a rescue), he would growl and bark at people at the dog park. He would chase people going by on bikes, growl at kids, and stick his nose in the trash. No amount of authoritative “noooos” or anything would work.
    So I borrowed a shock collar.
    It was hard… I thought I was being a horrible mother. The first day I put it on him, he kept going into the trashcan. So…. I pushed the “vibrate” button, which is the warning, after I had said “no”. (They say to always give the vibrate as a warning before the first shock). Still in the trashcan, so I pushed the very lightest shock.
    He scared both mom and I to death. Yelping, screaming, sliding on the tile floor, rolling around, etc. I thought he was having a seizure. After that he responded JUST FINE to the vibrate warning one.
    There was one other time at the dog park where he was actively particularly bad… so I shocked him again. And he didn’t respond the same way at all.

    So. The point of my whole story, is that when they get that first little shock… and they freak out… and you think you are the worst dog owner in the world, and go lock your doors to keep local PETA members at bay… you really aren’t that bad, and it really didn’t hurt them as bad as you think it did. =)
    Just feed them cookies.

  14. Just Julie says:

    I will try not to crumple to the floor in a heap when I see our dogs’ first reaction, Savannah…thank you for telling me about your experience! Xxoo

  15. Ember says:

    Our neighbours two doors along have Dogs That Bark. It’s hilarious. I don’t know who makes more noise, the man or the dogs, because he barks right back at them! They explode into the yard shrieking and yapping and he tries to quiet them down by threatening them in quite long sentences as if they were human (at the top of his voice). Things like “If you don’t stop that noise you’ll go right back indoors!”
    I don’t know what he did to them the other day but in the midst of all the yelling and yapping he roared, “THERE YOU ARE -TAKE NOTE!!!” And I was imagining the dogs licking their pencil ends and industriously writing down what they had to remember.
    I say to your dear neighbours what perhaps I should not commit to public record: “Oh, tough titty! Grow up, get a life and get over it!”
    You were politer than Jesus!

  16. Just Julie says:

    Ha! Will you please give my husband a call and tell him I’m politer than Jesus, Ember? He would be so surprised to know that. :). If I ever get a chance to speak to Burt and Arlene in person, may I quote you? Thank you for being on my side. Sending love AND a grin today…can you see it?

  17. Ganeida says:

    lol At least your neighbours are complaining about your dogs. Mine complain about the cat I no longer own ~ still! Because their dogs ~ STILL ~ refuse to walk anywhere near our place after Iss beat up on them. Personally I find it hilarious. Yours & mine. I say, Go Schnauzers! Your neighbours need to get a life. I’ll send Iss over. I’m sure he has an incarnate form. :D

  18. Just Julie says:

    It sounds like we both have some interesting neighbors Ganeida. Thanks for rooting Edith and Mildred on!

  19. Olga says:

    Im sorry … :(
    This things happen when people dont have an open heart; and love and compassion is not what moves them in their actions. Thank God that they showed themselves and now you know what they really are. This lets you know what kind of neighbors you have. Dont feel bad because this is a blessing!!! You dont need dense, ugly, selfish problematic people near you. A good neighbor, a good evolved person, knocks your door a let you know in a polite friendly way what bothers them about your fur babies.You are not loosing. You are gaining. Dont forget that what goes around , always comes back around.

  20. Just Julie says:

    Olga, thank you for your encouraging comments. I agree with you about how it could have been handled better. I appreciate your visit here, and that you took the time to say what you did! God bless… xo

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