Turning Off the Barking with Bark Collars

dog on leash barking

On Facebook I got this comment and question from Jessica, who listened to an episode of GOOD DOGS! [my training show with the Avidog International team]:

I was glad to hear you say how much you dislike excessive barking! I have a dog boarding business and I’ve always wondered if I’m unusual for my dislike of barking. And they can set the whole group off, ugh! I have also found “thank you” to be a very effective way to ask the dogs to stop barking. And if they persist, I will clap my hands and say thank you again. The hand clapping gets their attention but it isn’t yelling (barking) so it seems to be more effective. Can you please reply with your anti-bark collar recommendation? Thanks!

Petsafe has a collection of anti-bark collars, some of which I am a fan of, others not so much. I do not have confidence in the indoor/outdoor ultrasonic version that presumably quiets a pack of dogs and even neighborhood dogs barking outside. I have never seen it work. I also am not enamored of the ones that spray citronella in the dog’s face. I don’t believe that those collars have enough deterrent to stop a wound-up dog from barking, or a lasting anti-bark effect — especially with a pack of multiple dogs. However, I have had miraculous instant results with the individual bark collars that deliver a low level electronic Zap! They are magic!

These collars are positioned under the dog’s neck and react to both the vibration from the dog’s vocal cords as well as the sound of barking in order to give a “zap” when the dog barks. [If I call it a “shock” then people get disturbed, but it’s really a quick electronic zap — I have seen the startled look a dog gets when it receives the zap — and maybe it vocalizes from surprise — but that’s about it. All the dogs I’ve tried one on have a “Whoa!” reaction but no residual effect emotionally that I can see — they go about their business normally, but watching them it’s clear when they next feel the impulse to bark they actually stop themselves!]

The mechanism is actually so finely calibrated that it will not give “stim” (short for “stimulation,” the euphemism in the trade for “shock” or “zap!”) if a dog right beside the collared dog does bark. It is also designed so that if the collared dog barks again immediately despite the Zap! then it Zaps! them again, slightly stronger. If the barking stops then the “stim” goes back down to the initial level. I had three dogs that traveled beautifully on every car ride with me until Jazzy, my Collie mix, became vocally reactive later in life and barked ferociously at passing people, dogs, bikes and motorcycles. She got the other 2 dogs (my rescued Weimaraners Scooby Doo and Teddy) all wound up and the car became a high-pitched shouting match among them. I tried every “positive” form of management, which did not quiet things at all. I put a bark collar on Jazzy and that was the end of that. I put the collar on every time we went in the car but I never turned it on again! Once the collar was on, she was quiet… but still enjoying the ride.

My sister’s two small Brussels Griffons used to bark incessantly day and night, running to different windows in the house and barking uncontrollably at whatever was (or they imagined was) out there. She got the extra small Petsafe bark collars and the yapping ended as quickly as it had begun. All she needs to do now is put on their bark collars and they still run from doors to windows but without the fingernails-on-a-blackboard barking that once made conversation difficult!

The only caveat for a doggy daycare person like Jessica is that you need every dog who is inclined to bark to wear a collar for it to be fair — every dog’s barking needs to be nipped in the bud or it’s not an even playing field. And unless you can get owners to pay for it, that’s pricey (they are just under $100 apiece — which I consider a factor of them being fine-tuned pieces of equipment). And you’d need to have them in different sizes, too. In addition, a daycare provider would also need to get the owners’ permission to collar their dogs, which raises another set of questions. But it would solve the barking problem pronto — and besides making the peoples’ lives quieter and calmer, it would do the same for the dogs. Being in a high-pitched adrenalized state, barking for hours on end, is not a good centered, balanced way for a dog to be. The bark collar instantly teaches a dog to have self-control and inhibit his own barking. It’s really an elegant fix.

—Tracie Hotchner

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photo credit: Mr.TinDC Barking Dog via photopin (license)