Do Anti-Bark Collars Work?

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Do Anti-Bark Collars Work?
Do Anti-Bark Collars Work? (Image: Photo credit: Anne Rose)

An anti-bark collar is sometimes used for dogs whose barking is disruptive or annoying. Excessive barking can disturb owners, neighbors and may even result in dogs needing to be re-homed. Anti-bark collars work by teaching a dog to associate an unpleasant response to their barking. This is called positive punishment, because a physical deterrent is used to correct unwanted behavior. If an anti-bark collar is used incorrectly, and without a comprehensive training plan to alleviate the causes or conditions relating to the undesirable behavior, dogs will not moderate their barking satisfactorily. If an anti-bark collar delivers the deterrent inconsistently, too late or two early, the dog will not associate the correction with its barking and will become confused, frustrated or agitated.

Identification

An anti-bark collar is a dog collar with a sound sensor attached. The collar is usually simple web fabric with a plastic locking clasp. The collar is securely fastened around a dog's neck, with the sensor positioned under the dog's chin. Sensors are sensitive to either vibration or noise. The sound sensor delivers a correction--spray, tone or shock--in response to the vibration or noise stimulus. Bark collars usually require small batteries. Some are rechargeable. They work best if they are waterproof.

Types

Anti-bark collars work in two steps: first, they detect a bark, then they deliver a deterrent. When a dog's bark sets off the sensor, the collar delivers a spray, a tone or shock as a deterrent. A spray collar is filled with citronella-scented liquid and delivers an unpleasant mist toward the dog's face when it barks. The spray nozzle should be carefully set to spray at the dog's face, not into its fur or skin. Dogs often also dislike the hissing sound made by a spray collar. Some anti-bark collars deliver an ultrasonic correction in response to barking. The ultrasonic tone is not comfortable for a dog's ears, but cannot be heard by a human. A shock collar will deliver a shock when a dog barks. The shock intensity can sometimes be adjusted from mild to strong. Shock is not only unpleasant, it is painful. Anti-bark collars that correct with a shock are either controlled by the trainer with a remote device or are set to automatically deliver a shock when the sensor is activated. Some spray collars are also remotely controlled, and often work up to 250 feet away.

Shock collars are only half as effective as citronella collars, some university studies have shown.

Considerations

It is problematic to punish a dog for its natural behavior. The underlying causes for a dog's nuisance barking should be analyzed before using an anti-bark collar. Dogs bark for a number of reasons. Vocalizing is a natural activity for dogs. They bark to warn of intruders, ask for something like food or water, from boredom or from excitement. Some breeds are more naturally inclined to bark than others. Many dog trainers believe that anti-bark collars are inhumane and ineffective. Shock collars are painful and may create other behavior issues like aggression, fear and instability.

Warning

A low quality sound sensor might mistake external noises or another dog barking and trigger when the dog wearing the anti-bark collar is not barking. Some sound sensors react to normal movement. This means the device corrects your dog at random times or when he's not barking, which derails training and prevents a dog from connecting the correction to his barking. Dogs might avoid the trainer if he begins to associate punishment of the collar with the trainer putting on the collar. The same holds true for a dog's kennel if that is the place where he is outfitted with an anti-bark collar.

Expert Insight

Used correctly, anti-bark collars can teach a dog not to bark excessively through behavior modification. Some collars work better than others, and should be selected based upon a dog's size, breed and causes of excessive barking. Anti-bark collars need to be properly fitted to the dog. Many trainers suggest starting with the least intensive type of anti-bark collar, like the citronella mist collar, before resorting to a shock collar. Shock collars can be an effective way to train a dog to stop barking. However, a shock collar is part of a comprehensive training program and should only be used by an owner knowledgeable in its use.

Effects

Excessive barking results in hundreds of thousands of dogs being given to shelters. Many other dogs have their vocal chords removed at the insistence of their owners. Barking is a frustrating behavior problem, and causes millions of dogs to be shouted at, punished, muzzled and abused. Used judiciously, anti-bark collars can save a dog's relationship with the humans in its home.

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