You love your dog, but she keeps barking despite your attempts to train her not to. She barks at every person who passes your house, barks every time your doorbell rings, and sometimes barks for seemingly no reason.
If you’ve tried a multitude of methods to discourage the barking with no success, trying an anti-bark collar might seem like an attractive option. You’ve probably heard strong opinions for and against bark collars, but some information on how they work and affect your dog is helpful for making the best decision for your pet.
How Do Bark Collars Work?
Bark collars are designed to respond to the stimulus of your dog’s barking by delivering an unpleasant consequence. While many collars deliver a mild electrical shock, there are also collars that emit annoying sounds, vibrate, or spray citronella to discourage the behavior.
Usually, the collar operates by using prongs against the dog’s neck to detect vibration or sound so that the consequence is triggered. Ideally, only your dog’s barking will trigger the sound, shock or spray.
Many collars are available that emit warning beeps or increase the consequence when the barking continues. The idea behind the activity is that over time your dog will associate barking with negative results which will discourage the behavior.
Will Bark Collars Work?
A bark collar’s effectiveness is an area of controversy, as pet owners have experienced varied results. The type of collar you choose, how you introduce the collar, your dog’s temperament, and the reason your dog barks will influence the collar’s effectiveness.
Some dogs will choose to ignore the stimulus and keep barking, other dogs may become desensitized to the stimulus over time. It is recommended to speak with your dog’s vet to determine the best course of action for your pet when considering a back collar or appropriate training.
Different dogs are sensitive to different stimuli. Your dog may respond more strongly to a spray of citronella than she would to an electrical shock.
Fix Dog Problems, which is an advice site run by a professional dog trainer, recommends buying a bark collar from a reputable source to make sure you are getting your money’s worth. This trainer also warns that cheap collars will respond to stimulus other than your dog’s bark, which defeats the purpose when trying to train them and set clear boundaries.
Some experts are concerned that the stimulus might just increase the dog’s anxiety and lead to more barking or other, worse reactions. Again, deciding which training methods to use for your dog is a personal decision that should be considered after careful observation of your dog’s tendencies and research on the topic.
The best case scenario is that bark collars should be a temporary correction for long term benefits. When the collar works ideally, once your dog learns the new behavior expectations they should not keep wearing the collar.
Are Bark Collars Safe?
Physically, most bark collars are designed to deliver a mild stimulation that will not harm your dog. Most people who feel unfavorably about bark collars are concerned with the potential negative psychological effects on the dog.
In Matthijs B.H. Schilder and Joanne A.M. van der Borg’s study on the effects of bark collars, they concluded that bark collars have an overall negative effects on the dogs. Dogs are shown to display more anxious and fearful behavior and respond negatively to their owners.
Europe has banned shock collars, and the RSPCA’s (Australia) official stance is against bark collars. They believe it causes unnecessary pain and distress to the animal, and doesn’t properly discern between normal dog behavior and problem behavior.
Barking is a regular outlet for dogs who are anxious or alert, and if barking isn’t available as an outlet they may react aggressively. Some experts believe it may be more worthwhile to use positive techniques to show your dog that the stimulus isn’t threatening.
For dog owners who love their pets, determining whether or not to use a bark collar can be a complicated decision. We recommend trying other training methods to discourage barking before resorting to a bark collar.
Bark collars are controversial and it is important to do your research and try to understand the underlying reasons your dog is barking before initiating a training plan. As stated before, talk to your dog’s vet to understand more on the issue and their recommendations for your dog.