For many dog owners, constant barking is a problem. A dog that barks at all hours of the day and night can lead to a great deal of frustration and lost sleep, and not just for the pet owner! No matter how friendly the neighbors may be, it only takes a few endless nights due to a barking dog to sour the relationship.
Why Dogs Bark
Getting a dog not to bark is very hard. They are acting almost purely on instinct and there is no way for them to communicate to their owner why they are barking.
“Training not to bark is one of the hardest things there is to train, because it is not a simple action with a single cause,” Says Sharon Sakson, author of Paws & Effect: The Healing Power of Dogs while talking with us. “In many breeds, it is their ancient, hardwired response to a threat or stimulus. A Dachshund or Beagle hears a noise down the street and barks in response. He may be alerting his “pack” (or owners) to watch out. He may be yelling to a stranger, “Stay away! I’m on guard here!” He may be sending out a signal to see what kind of response he will get.”
Bark Collars are not a Magic Button
While searching for a solution to the barking problem, many pet owners will stumble upon bark collars. A bark collar is a device that is worn about the dog’s neck. The device is designed to be triggered when it senses a sudden loud noise (such as a bark). When the device is triggered it will provide a small but irritating negative stimulus to the dog, attempting to train the dog to bark less. Some collars deliver an electric shock, others spray an irritating scent into the dog’s nose.
It is easy to perceive bark collars as a magic button solution. The marketing will lead the dog owner to believe that all that has to be done is to put the collar on the dog and soon the barking problem will go away. However opinions are mixed among professional trainers.
Bark Collars can be Effective
Expert opinions generally agree that bark collars are not the most effective way to get your dog to stop barking. However for someone who does not have access to a dog trainer and is willing to study and learn the proper way to use a dog collar, then there is a chance that they could work.
“Bark collars are as effective as the trainer, and the product,” says Amy Shojai. This means that the pet owner cannot just strap any bark collar on a dog and expect a quiet pet the next day. The bark collar is just a tool to facilitate the training, it is not the trainer.
Because bark collars rely on sound to trigger, they can often be set off by noises other than the dogs barking. “Other noises or a neighbor dog could trigger the aversive and punish the dog even when he doesn’t bark,” Shojai says. For this reason bark collars must be used cautiously and the dog wearing the collar should be well supervised.
There are Better Ways to stop a dog Barking
While a bark collar in the right hands can help a dog stop barking, there are better and more reliable ways. A pet owner who has a dog with a severe barking problem should seek the advice of a qualified vet or animal trainer before investing in a bark collar. Many people consider using the electric collars a unsafe and inhumane, especially since there are other ways to train the dog outside of using negative reinforcement. If the time is taken, then an owner can learn to use a bark collar effectively but alternative treatments should at least be explored before investing in a bark collar.
“Obedience training should always be the first step for any problem,” Kris Goddard, Owner of Paradise Ranch Pet Resort and Training Center told. Non stop barking is usually caused by boredom. A Bark Collar used properly may stop the barking, but if the dog is still bored he will find another outlet such as digging or chewing. Finding a solution to the boredom is the real answer.”
Dogs can be kind and loving pets but like all animals they are hardwired with instincts that guide their behavior. A dog barks because dogs have barked for centuries. Training a dog to no longer bark is not an easy task, even with a bark collar. Care should be taken to ensure that whatever course of action is decided upon that the owner is willing to commit the time and resources necessary to ensure that the training actually works.