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Training device which makes sound similar to a fire alarm?

1103 Views 16 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  mustluvdogs66
I recently discovered my dog HATES the beeping sound my fire alarm makes. The battery ran low, and it had been beeping regularly for the past two days. Didn't realize there was a problem with my dog at first, until I noticed he wasn't even finishing his meals (The food bowl is directly beneath the fire alarm) and anyone who knows Maxi knows that something is VERY wrong when he stops eating.

He had been acting strange in general, and I wasn't entirely sure he isn't just sick with something, so I took down the fire alarm, and brought it outside (He was refusing to come inside, so I had taken his bowl outside in the hopes he would eat some there), and sure enough the moment the fire alarm beeped again, he stopped eating and just stood up, looking very unhappy. Then I tried to take the battery out so it would stop and accidentally pressed the test button, so the alarm went on in full force, and my poor Maxi absolutely freaked out, and refused to eat, period, for the next two or three hours, even when I placed the bowl right next to his safe spot where he was lying down.

He's fine now and finally ate his breakfast (at 3:30 pm) after a fun and relaxing walk outside, but my dog walker/trainer made a brilliant point about this when I told him all about this story. I could use the beeping as a training mechanism, since Maxi is notorious about eating garbage off the sidewalk, no matter how much you try to dissuade him. He's an extremely food motivated dog, so the fact that there's something which bothers him enough to prevent him from eating is something to note.

I could always break the fire alarm apart and jimmy up a makeshift button beeper, but I was wondering if there's a device which mimics the sound and is already designed to be easily held and used for training purposes? It has to be EXACTLY the same sound. I've seen people try other sound devices with my dog, and he could not care less. This sound in particular is what I need.

Anyone know of something? Thanks for all the help.
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Why would you want to train your dog using a device that absolutely scares the living crap out of him and makes him uncomfortable for hours, to the point he will not eat and does not want to come inside his own home? Just, what?

Instead, get a bag of cheese or deli meat and teach him a 'leave it' cue. Yes, it certainly takes more time than using sound to scare your dog into compliance, but it will be much more effective in the long run. Using a scary noise to dissuade a dog from a certain behavior has a high chance of backfiring and accidentally teaching your dog to fear something else, like say other dogs on the street, a stranger, or a fire hydrant rather than garbage.
He didn't stop eating purely because of the sound, it was because he associated it with the fire alarm, as I explained.

Anyways, I wasn't planning on using it fr every little thing, but there are some major issues that he is very stubborn about. I adopted him as a starving pup, and he never really grew out of it. As a result, he picks up anything and everything he finds on the ground, no matter how much you try to convince him not to. I've already gone through all the standard training tips. They don't work on him. This is the first time I have ever seen anything condition him to NOT eat. I fear for his safety, as he's picked up chicken bones, food still in plastic wrapping, etc in the past.

If this is what it takes to make him stop, I think that's preferable to him choking on a bag, or having his gut torn open by a bone. But hey, maybe that's just me.
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Is your dog on a leash on these walks? I'm having a VERY hard time imaging how a dog, on a 6 ft leash, could ever get eat something he wasn't supposed to without me noticing the item and seeing him going for it, and being able to stop it. A little more clarification on what these walks look like might help other people give you more positive ways to train your dog.

I 100% agree this is a horrible, cruel idea. It doesn't matter what part of it was what scared him: The idea of replicating that fear is awful. I have a dog with plenty of issues on leash and I would NEVER dream of using something he is absolutely terrified of, to the point it prevents him from functioning in some way for a couple of hours, to try to stop those behaviors. You may just end up with a dog who develops far worse issues when out on a walk.
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Once again, he didnt cease to function... he was fine, still cuddling, still having fun on walks, still happy to see his friends... he just got it into his head that eating from his bowl was activating the alarm.

I'm all for positive reinforcement, it's been my method of training him since I got him, and we have had all sorts of amazing progress with him. Got him to stop chasing squirrels, and a host of other even worse behaviors using those tactics. Eating food off the ground though? Nothing. Zero progress, for literally 5 years now. Tried all sorts of reinforcement tactics.

I live in NYC and while I do my best to be alert and keep an eye on our surroundings, it's simply impossible to notice every single piece of food and stop him beforehand. People drop food and wrappers all over the place. I simply can't catch every piece, and one day he's going to eat something that really hurts him.
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I'd walk him in a comfortable basket muzzle rather than use a fire alarm beep.

Dunno what it is but fire alarm beeps are particularly distressing to dogs. I mean, the low battery alarm grates my ears too like it is completely intended to do for everyone's safety but at least as a human, I know what is going on. My CO detector was beeping low battery when I got home on Tuesday and even my incredibly stable male dog was pacing around upset and my softer female was a cowering bundle of nerves. Same as last time a fire alarm waa low battery.
But he did cease to function, in one way: he quit eating. Which is a function, in some way, as I said.

I'm just saying, there are far worse behaviors that can happen on leash, and that you wouldn't want to inadvertently create from you conditioning your dog to be fearful on leash. While the idea of "eating this" = "terrifying sound" may sound appealing to you, what if he decides it was something else that he did that caused the terrifying sound? Or decides to just straight up become terrified of every blowing piece of trash on the street? Or worst case, becomes terrified of walks in general because he eats trash on every walk = scary sound happens on every walk = walks become scary. It just seems there are a lot of ways this could manifest in other ways.

I like Shell's idea. Properly introducing a basket muzzle and then the dog just can't eat the trash, if no other training is working.
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Train him to enjoy a basket muzzle, then, to prevent the behavior. A basket muzzle allows the dog to breathe freely and sniff and do dog things, but the dog can't get anything into its mouth. Once the behavior is prevented and he is unable to self-reward, it is much easier to train an alternative behavior.

I would also suggest dumping your current trainer and working with a rewards based, positive trainer who DOES NOT suggest using a fire alarm beep to upset your dog. I'm sure there are plenty in NYC. Find something that he finds more rewarding than trash on the street, like deli meat or cheese, and work with that.
There are WAY too many ways this could go wrong.

You said you've "tried everything" yet you didn't list what you tried. I doubt you've tried "everything" even in the realm of positive training. I've seen plenty of food-crazy dogs learn an easy and functional leave it for the situation you're describing. The fact that you would even think of doing this suggests to me that you don't have a solid understanding or application of training theory.

And even if I supported punishment in this scenario (and I can think of some punishment based training and tools that WOULD work for leave it), the goal for punishment is NOT to shut down a dog. It is to decrease behavior... WITHOUT shutting down the dog.

There are things you can nitpick here - primarily about lack of duration, one faint twitch, and the fact that I'm feeding what I'm asking him to leave (I was videoing for a specific purpose and needed some pretty easy/start stages)- but the principal is there.

And so is the food crazy dog.

Yes, yes it will work for something he discovers on his own.

Look into 'it's yer choice', or just about any other positive method of teaching leave it. Seriously, it works, it's not hard and it works BEST with food crazy dogs.
Yes to CptJack's suggestion! It's Yer Choice is my favorite impulse control game and it does work.

The brindle dog is what I would call "food motivated". The black dog is so food OBSESSED that he has eaten aluminum foil and plastic wrap (and thrown it up later, thankfully). I grew up in NYC so I get what you're saying about trash on the street. I struggled with 'leave it' a long time in the same way you have, with my black dog, since he was so fast he could lunge and swallow a chicken bone before I could do anything about it. But It's Yer Choice made life easy.
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I've seen people try other sound devices with my dog, and he could not care less. This sound in particular is what I need.
No. That sound is not what you need.

"You need" to stop looking at punishment as a means to train your dog, even occasionally. "You need" to stop allowing other people to punish your dog, especially amateurs. "You need" to find a qualified trainer to help you work on issues, without resorting to fear tactics. "You need" to find a new dog walker, lord knows what your current one is doing behind your back. "You need" to understand that good behaviour is always a result of good training. And above all, "you need" to realize that your dog's well-being is entirely, ultimately, up to you.

Really though, it shouldn't be about meeting your needs. It should be about meeting his.
Dogs don't often generalize punishment the way we want them to. This is why timing is so enormously important when using corrective techniques, and even then things can go wrong. As others have said, you may well wind up with a dog who:

-Is afraid to eat anything, anywhere.
-Is afraid of walks or certain streets/areas.
-Becomes terrified of other dogs/kids/bikes/guys with hats/wheelchairs/insert anything else that happens to be around when the sound goes off.
-Becomes scared of you, because you're always around when the noise happens.
-Is scared to sniff about at all, and steadily becomes more anxious and miserable because they can't perform a behavior that is hugely instinctively important to dogs and their mental well-being.
-Becomes increasingly more anxious in general because they're being regularly flooded with stress hormones.

On the other hand, you may get a dog who learns to completely ignore the beep because he becomes used to it and decides that the reward of eating garbage is worth experiencing the punishment. Then you'll be back to square one. Many dogs have blown through correction devices that cause physical pain, so this is certainly a possibility.

I feel your pain. I had a small breed (so close to the ground to begin with), food motivated puppy in a city with dangerous trash everywhere. But I agree with the others about your best bet being management with a basket muzzle - the Muzzle Up Project has great resources for teaching dogs to happily wear these - and teaching your boy how ignoring food and turning to you gets them way better rewards than scarfing down everything he sees.
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I went the other way. I don’t hear very well and some sounds I don’t hear at all. So when the battery went out on the smoke detector my Aussie noticed it first and looked up at it. I could see the blinking light so I knew she heard it. I rewarded her and praised her as well as had her stand on the table while I changed the battery. Now she will bark and look at the ceiling when the smoke alarm goes off.

I also rewarded her for barking when the building alarms go off. It’s not an angry bark but a commanding bark similar to her herding barks. She also will perk her ears up for sirens on emergency vehicles. I see nothing wrong with this. Sometimes I will give an obedience command at times like this. Usually stand or recall and come to heel position.

She also will pace to the kitchen when timers go off. It’s a great assistance for me.

Most certainly do not train to avoid noise or use noise as a negative, except maybe for someting very dangerous. Even then barking to get your attention is good, I think.
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Your dog was likely near his food dish when the alarm sounded and that is why he associated the alarm with the food dish. This is what happens when an aversive is used inappropriately or incorrectly when training. It is the exact same thing that happens when an e collar is used wrong.

Instead of the dog associating the behavior with the aversive stimulus, he associates something in the environment with the aversive stimulus.

If you use this out on a walk it is as likely he will associate the aversive with the fence post you are passing as with his behavior of scarfing trash off the sidewalk. I use aversives and I know what can happen if you do it wrong (and I have seen the fallout!).

I do not suggest the use of this sound to train your dog. I especially suggest you do not use it as it is very clear you do not understand the use of Positive Punishment (which is using aversive corrections such as collar corrections, sound, e-collar and the like).

All your use of this quadrant of training (with a sound that your dog finds every bit as bad as a collar shock) will do is damage the relationship you have with your dog and damage your ability to train him.
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There is so much nope in this post.

Why anyone would want to intentionally instill so much fear in their dog that the dog can't function, I'll never know. There are much better ways to train a leave it - and while training any behaviour you should be managing the dog or the environment to prevent them from practicing the bad behaviour anyway - i.e., it's a good idea to walk a garbage hound in a basket muzzle if you're not otherwise able to stop him from eating things, regardless of how you decide to train the leave-it. (And it's a good idea to teach dogs to accept a muzzle anyway - at worst, you've spent some time feeding your dog cookies; at best, the dog will be comfortable should they have to be muzzled in the future, like at a vet visit).
Have you worked on the "Leave It' cue when Maxi isn't actually going after garbage? This is inside with no distractions until he had it 100%? If not, then that could be part of your issue. If he won't leave alone a piece of food on your floor inside, then outside garbage is going to be too enticing. Here's a video to practice with if you haven't already done this. https://youtu.be/EVJiwa9LHiw

Putting this in people terms, Let's say you were terrified of spiders and someone didn't like how fast you were driving. Would you stop speeding if someone threw a spider on your lap? In order for your noise to work, your timing would have to be impeccable or you could scare him from all kinds of things.

I'm sure you're frustrated, but these people are just trying to help. Your words were " my dog HATES the beeping sound" "Maxi knows that something is VERY wrong when he stops eating" and "my poor Maxi absolutely freaked out". So that leads us to believe that the sound is a very negative thing for your dog. If you're doing positive reinforcement with Maxi, then I hope your dog walker / trainer isn't the one teaching you how to do it. A true R+ trainer would never suggest such a thing.

Best of luck to you.
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