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JUNE 23, 2009 12:47PM

Smells Like You're Not So Smart, Dog

Rate: 13 Flag

Science has wrestled with the subject of animal intelligence for hundreds of years. I can see why. Just when you think you see a glimmer of smarts behind a pair of puppy dog eyes, you face incontrovertible evidence that, compared to a bag of rocks, your dog is firmly in second place. And completely happy to be there.

My dog is a recreational barker. In order to communicate effectively with anyone who comes to the door, I have to throw the dog outside before I answer it. Here's the problem. Any time I let the dog outside--even when she asks to go out--she immediately turns around and starts barking. She'll even race from window to window checking all the entrances, barking the entire length of the house.

As dumb as this behavior must sound, I see the intelligence behind it. She has linked going outside with the possibility of a drooling serial killer at the door. So if she's got that down, why can I always fool her into taking her medicine by stuffing it in a hot dog? Why does she run for the ball no matter how many times I fake her out? And more importantly, why the HELL does she always chase the skunk?

My dog has been sprayed by a skunk 6 times in 3 years. One year, she was sprayed 3 times in 3 weeks. If a dog can link going outside with someone at the door--which happens maybe 5% of the times she gets kicked out--why can't she link being sprayed by a skunk with chasing a skunk--which happens 100% of the time?

I am reminded that we are still a species in our scientific infancy. Understanding dog brains are just beyond our capabilities.

The first time our dog was sprayed, we were unprepared. I was fast asleep, and Angryhusband was on his way to bed when he innocently let the dog out for a final pee. The dog was out a long time and didn't come back when he whistled. He could hear her acting crazy out there, snorting and wheezing and rustling around. He finally yelled loud enough to snap her out of it, and she came running toward him, pushing past him just far enough to throw herself on our living room carpet rolling around in a panic. That's when the smell hit him like an asteroid. It also hit me. Way in the back of the house, the smell travelled to me like a shock wave from a nuclear bomb, waking me up immediately. I heard Angryhusband shutting the dog into the laundry room, and I screamed THROW HER OUTSIDE through the stench.

City people: it's so much worse than you think it is, the smell of a skunk. When you're driving by, and you catch a whiff, yeah, it smells bad. But you have no idea. The smell fresh and up close makes your eyes water. It's so bad, it hurts.

Angryhusband threw the dog outside, and I came into the kitchen to survey the damage. The smell was too horrible to bear. It was embedded into the living room carpet and was terribly strong in the kitchen and laundry room. And then I heard a noise in my bedroom. I ran back, smelling what I could not see. The dog had busted through the screen door and was rubbing herself all over my bedroom carpet.

We threw her out, shut all the doors firmly, and slept as best we could with the unspeakable stench and the miserable dog pacing around outside the bedroom door all night long.

Here is what we learned after a couple of times of doing this:

1. This is not a problem you let sit overnight to be dealt with in the morning. You need to handle it immediately, or you deal with the smell for weeks. The first time this happened, three treatments the next day didn't help much. She smelled for weeks, and so did our house.

2. Forget tomato juice! Here's what you need: rubber gloves, a liter of hydrogen peroxide, 1/2 cup of baking soda, and a tablespoon or so of liquid soap just to make it all stick on the dog's fur. Mix it all together and use it immediately, remembering that a fresh container of peroxide is supposed to work best, and rub it into the dog's fur, making sure you keep it away from the eyes.

3. Let it stand for 10 minutes or so before rinsing. I like to use uncomfortably cold water to make the experience as unpleasant as possible, hoping to god she won't do it again. This does not work, but it makes me feel better.

The smell is never magically gone, but it's diminished about 95%. I can sleep with her in the same room immediately afterward.

If you have a dog and you live with skunks, do yourself a favor. Stock up on peroxide and baking soda. Have rubber gloves and a bucket ready.



Postscript: I've found myself curiously unable to write much of anything lately while waiting for surgery to remove Waldo from my uterus. That surgery is happening today. So here's hoping I'll be back on my game soon, stinky dog and all.

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'I like to use uncomfortably cold water to make the experience as unpleasant as possible, hoping to god she won't do it again. This does not work, but it makes me feel better.'

This is one of my greatest fears. Every time I let the dog out at night, it's a worry. The skunks have gotten their smell into our 1830's dirt basement (the smell makes you want to move), but the idea of the dog getting sprayed strikes terror in me. If she'd rolled around on the carpet IN MY BEDROOM, I'd be in tears for sure.

Best wishes as you evict Waldo. Tell them to leave your Angry bits intact, though. XOXO
Great post. (And all best with surgery.)

Skunk is even worse than porcupine.
I found Massengill works well. Irish spring soap may be "made for a man" but my dog smelled goos afterwards.
here's hoping indeed. best wishes. (oh, and i do love skunk/dog posts. there should be more of them, i think. way more.)
Funny and informative. My dog and I live in the city, but we have raccoons, so who knows what else is out there. Thanks and good luck.
Angrymom - I am SO with you! We live in the country with our (apparently brain-damaged) Golden Retriever and a record-busting skunk population. I may have to blog about this myself now that you've opened the door. But if I do, I will be SURE to link to your post because your recipe is priceless. Rated, printed and saved - with gratitude! (Got a great laugh from your cold-rinse line.)
Really funny AND instructive! Your dog must have a sign on his back that says Spray Me! We have cute little skunks that come up & eat the cat food on our deck. Fortunately, our dog has never been nailed by one (knock on wood), but I came close, approaching one that I thought was a cat.

Once we were driving down the road & stopped because there was a little dog in the middle of the road & he was rolling in a dead skunk, he looked to be in ecstasy. We chased him home & I can only imagine his owner's joy at his return.

Here's wishing you a quick recovery from surgery & lots of good drugs!! & maybe even some peace & quiet?
Very funny post! Best of luck on your surgery.
"This does not work, but it makes me feel better." You had me laughing out loud for quite awhile on that one.
"recreational barker" lol
My dog does that also and will not shut up. Last count (when we mistakenly took him with us on a trip where he was not welcome inside) he barked for 10 hours straight. I kept praying he'd get laryngitis!

He is also a recreational scratcher. He loves to work himself into a frenzy scratching, so savagehusband will take him for a walk (to take his mind of his itch troubles). He is constantly gnawing on himself and noisily digesting his dander.

Whenever I pick up my airbrush, that's his queue to start the short half bark, "wuh....... wuh......... wuh.......... wuh..........wuh." So I let him out and he turns around and looks at me like aren't you coming? Then starts sport barking, trying to stir up the other dogs. Plus we have some bullfrogs about the size a quarter hanging out around the pool with monstrous croaks. "croak" and "preep" and "croak" and "preep." With no variation in tone. What are they saying to each other.... "Can you hear me now? Can hear me now? What about now?"