Bark collars for dogs: are they recommended? Advice and opinions from the experts


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Barking is one of the ways our dogs communicate, both with us and with other dogs. That a dog barks is completely natural, but when barking is excessive it can be very annoying, and even become a real problem, especially if you start getting complaints from your neighbours. This has led to tools such as anti-barking collars becoming increasingly popular in recent times.

At Modernpetliving we are quite sceptical about this type of product, as we feel that what they do is inhibit a behaviour of our dog that we do not like, but without addressing the basic problem that causes this behaviour, and we believe that there are kinder methods to improve the coexistence with our four-legged friends.

However, in order to form a more informed opinion, we have turned to professionals in the sector, who are undoubtedly the ones who can speak most knowledgeably about this type of collar. Therefore, we have contacted several dog trainers who have given us their opinions about bark collars, their effectiveness and the effects that their use can have on our furry friends. But first things first. Let’s see what exactly a bark collar is, and all the variants that exist.

Note: we have also prepared an article in which dog trainers give us their opinion about electric training collars (similar to bark collars, but used in a different way and for a different purpose). And, if you’re looking for a traditional type collar, check out our dog collars post.

What is a dog bark collar and how does it work?

Anti bark collars are collars that have a small electronic box incorporated, which contains a vibration sensor that is activated when it detects the movement of the dog’s vocal cords, sending an unpleasant stimulus to him every time he barks, which can consist of spraying his nose with a spray, or emitting sounds, or vibrations or, in the case of the more forceful versions, electric shocks. The idea is that our hairy man associates that every time he barks something annoying happens to him and that, in this way, he stops barking to avoid punishment.

Types of bark collars for dogs

Currently, we can buy many bark collars on the market. They all claim to be effective against unwanted barking, and they all claim to be harmless to dogs. According to their manufacturers and sellers, these collars will not harm or bother your dog, something quite contradictory, considering that their operation is based precisely on providing the animal with an aversive stimulus to inhibit a behavior. These are the different types of bark collars that exist:

  • Bark shock collars: probably the most popular, they work by delivering a small electric shock to the dog’s throat every time it barks, and the intensity will increase if the barking persists.
  • Vibration collar: in this case, when the dog barks, the collar will emit a vibration. As in the previous case, the vibrations will increase in intensity if the dog continues to bark.
  • Ultrasonic Bark Collar: when detecting the dog’s bark, the collar will emit a sharp and unpleasant sound, imperceptible to humans, but very annoying to dogs.
  • Citronella Bark Collar: This type of bark collar has a device that is placed over the dog’s throat and sprays a jet of citronella in the direction of the dog’s nose, which dogs find very unpleasant to smell, every time they detect a bark.

Are bark collars good for our dogs? The experts’ opinions

Because dog bark collars are so controversial, we decided that the best way to find out about their supposed effectiveness and the effects that their use can have on our furry friends is to have those who can best tell us. To do this, we have contacted several professional experts in canine behaviour of recognized prestige and we have asked them several questions. This is what we’ve been told.

Communication and Respect’s opinion on bark collars for dogs

About Communication and Respect:

 

Comunicación y Respeto is a project of Irene Pérez Piñel, ethologist and veterinarian, who has been working with dogs for more than twenty years. On its website it makes available to its readers several tools to help those of us who share our lives with dogs to solve any problems we may have, in order to improve our coexistence. You can find everything from a blog, to books and personalized courses. This is your opinion.

Do you think bark collars are efficient?

Depends on how you look at it. Excessive barking is a complex problem in which noise is only a symptom. Just like the fever, we can take an antipyretic, and the fever will go away. But in many cases that fever has a reason that we have not detected, and it will still be there. So either it will come back or we will get worse (but no longer have a fever).

The same goes for the barking. If we only cover up the visible consequence (the noise) without determining the reasons, it may be useless and the dog will continue to bark even with the collar on. Or the barking may stop, but other even worse behaviors may appear (because the cause is still present).

Is there any type of bark collar that might be more recommended than the others? (ultrasound, spray…)

Again the collar focuses on the consequence, and applies varying degrees of punishment to block it.

The less aversive ones are based on surprise or generating intense discomfort to interrupt the barking. But the surprise stops with the repetitions, so it stops working. And a nuisance will be an insufficient negative stimulus if the motivation to bark is intense enough (and it almost always is).

Therefore recommending the “softer” ones does not make much sense, because precisely for that reason their degree of effectiveness will be low or nil. And in any case they are all based on applying more or less intense punishment, and education based on punishment generates many more problems than it can solve, if it solves any.

In short, the answer is no: it is not advisable to use a tool that blocks a behaviour by punishing it.

Can bark collars cause physical pain to our dogs?

Spraying is quite unlikely, which is another reason why it is the least effective.

The ultrasound ones, it depends on the acoustic sensitivity of our dog. From the beginning the dog’s ear is much more sensitive than ours, but among breeds and individuals there are dogs that are more sensitive than others. You don’t have to be very imaginative to put it in context: if we are subjected to a beep at the right frequency and high volume, our ears hurt. It’s physical. In dogs it happens the same way but at frequencies or volumes that don’t bother us (we may not even hear them).

Electricity is still an automated “training collar”. So, yes, they hurt.

Can bark collars cause psychological damage to our dogs?

Here we can distinguish two problems.

One, the psychological damage caused by the device itself, which again would go from less to more: spray, ultrasound, electric. The fact is that its action is based on producing a good scare, an important discomfort, or directly pain. If this is used repeatedly, it causes emotional damage. It generates fear. And fear is the last thing we should voluntarily introduce into our dog’s life. For many reasons.

And two, the damage they generate IF THEY WORK: a dog can bark for many reasons, but in almost every case it is expressing (in an excessive and possibly uncontrolled way) its emotions. If we block that expression, we block a way out of certain negative emotions. But the emotions are still there (and we have added fear).

How do you think you would feel if one day you decided to tell those around you how you feel and they taped your mouth shut without any consideration? Probably fatal. You may keep your mouth shut, but emotionally you’ve been brought down.

In short, are there any circumstances in which you would recommend using a bark collar?

No. We would be choosing a method that promises comfort and immediacy, rather than focusing on making an effort to know and understand our dog, and work accordingly: your dog shows how he feels by barking. That needs to be worked on. And the barking will go away on its own.

But to “cover his mouth” so as not to hear him or to silence the neighbour who denounces us, although it is an option, is also to prepare a time bomb (a loud bark is often a warning of a possible aggression) and to produce an unhappy dog that not only nobody helps him to overcome his problems (often produced by the environment in which he has been put) but on top of that he is punished for expressing himself. I find it very sad.

LealCan Training’s opinion on bark collars for dogs

About LealCan Training:

 

LealCan Training is a company with more than 23 years of experience in the dog training sector. Throughout all these years, they have formed a team of specialist dog handlers at home and develop their services mainly in Madrid. We have spoken with Enrique Solis, Director of LealCan and President of the LealCan Association for Canine Integration. This is what he told us.

Do you think bark collars are efficient?

Not only are they inefficient, but they can cause secondary problems through improper use if the root of the problem is not addressed. Note that the barking, in this case, is only a symptom: there is always a reason for a dog to bark.

It can be fear, stress, anxiety, alert because a danger is approaching, that he has learned it to get our attention, etc. If we don’t act on what causes the barking, we may even omit it with this type of tool, but we will surely be causing the creation of other inappropriate or problematic behaviors.

For example: if a dog suffers separation anxiety and barks during the whole time he is alone in the house, using a system that pretends to make the animal uncomfortable enough to stop barking, the anxiety he feels will increase, because that pain or discomfort will generate more insecurity and fear, and that discomfort will have to come out on the other side like biting furniture or walls or anything else he can get his hands on.

If a dog barks when it sees another dog because it feels it is a threat and when it barks it gets a shock, it may react with a bite to anything nearby at that moment (redirected aggression) perhaps a person passing by, because it is not able to detect where that pain is coming from.

Is there any type of bark collar that might be more recommended than the others? (ultrasound, spray…)

We could classify as more harmful or harmful those that emit electric shocks than those that emit a sound or spray citronella when they notice the vibration in the dog’s neck, but none of them is recommended and we would not recommend them in any case, since if they are not used correctly they will have no effect and, to use them well, we would have to tighten the collar very much to our dog’s neck so that he notices the vibration when he barks, which could cause him physical injuries that would surely need veterinary attention.

In any case, they would not solve the root problem that causes the dog to bark, we would only be acting on the symptoms and probably causing more insecurity in the dog, which will lead to more behavioural problems.

Can bark collars cause physical pain to our dogs?

Of course, electric shocks cause pain directly and sound collars or citronella spray play with your dog’s senses to cause enough discomfort to stop him barking, so given how developed your dog’s sense of smell and hearing are, they will most likely not only cause your dog pain or discomfort, but also physical and emotional pain.

People who defend this type of collar argue that they do not have a very high voltage, but it is logical to think that if they do not cause enough pain or discomfort for the dog to want to avoid it, they will not be effective and the dog will continue to bark in spite of the shocks.

Shock collars are located in one of the most sensitive areas of the dog, the neck. Any tension or pain in the neck has consequences in the rest of the body, can cause muscle contractions, contractures, neural problems, tachycardia, etc. In addition, the thyroid gland is located in the throat which can be affected and trigger hypothyroidism in the dog with consequent both organic and behavioral problems.

Ultrasound collars can affect the ear and therefore balance and orientation.

As for those who spray citronella, they can cause loss of olfactory sensitivity or damage to the mucous membranes (due to dryness or excess mucus). Bearing in mind that smell is the most developed sense of the dog and that through its use they interpret the world around them, the damage that can be done to them is very great.

Can bark collars cause psychological damage to our dogs?

As we have mentioned before, although the side effects of using the bark collar are not quantified with scientific studies (because of the unethical thing that would be to submit to that treatment in a controlled way to a sufficient number of dogs to check its effects), we only have to imagine a situation for us, in which we could not scream or cry and we were having that need because of the anguish and anxiety that we were living in a conflictive situation, like being locked up somewhere away from our family or loved ones without knowing if we are going to see them anymore. It is easy to imagine that this situation could cause psychological damage to many people.

One of the biggest problems with these collars is that they can be activated for several reasons besides barking, such as snorting, growling or barking from a nearby dog (in the case of dogs living together). Since it is not possible to associate a specific behavior with the reception of pain, it is almost impossible to avoid it, it receives punishment without knowing why.

It is also true that barking sometimes responds to an emotion and is not voluntary, so distinguishing that the cause of the discharge is the bark and not the feeling of fear, or anxiety, or pain, or joy, or being left alone at home, is really complicated for the animal. In any case, to receive a punishment without knowing the reason or the way to avoid it, will increase the fear, the insecurity and the stress, which will cause that the levels of certain hormones (like the cortisol) will rise in blood and will reduce the quality of life of the dog causing bad mood, worse rest, irritability (very related to aggression), digestive problems and, even, to arrive at a learned defenselessness.

In short, are there any circumstances in which you would recommend using a bark collar?

Definitely not, the only way to control the dog’s barking is to act on the reason that causes it. There are many options to hire a good dog education company to solve the problems of excessive barking of our dog without resorting to this type of tools.

Arbesú Educadores Caninos’ opinion about bark collars for dogs

About Arbesú Educadores Caninos:

 


The working method of Arbesú Educadores Caninos is based on respect for the dog. The company is located in Oviedo and they work at home throughout the Principality of Asturias. This is what we have been told by the person in charge, Ramón Fernández.

Do you think bark collars are efficient?

In my opinion, no, because with these collars we are not educating the dog, but we are simply nullifying the manifestation of a problem, but not the problem itself. It’s as if you bite your nails because of stress, and to solve the problem your hands are tied: obviously, you couldn’t bite them, but the stress, which is why you were biting them, would still be there, and would even get worse.

In the case of dogs it would be the same: with a bark collar we could get the dog to stop barking at first (and not always), but, although apparently the problem has been solved, it will end up resurfacing elsewhere.

Is there any type of bark collar that might be more recommended than the others? (ultrasound, spray…)

In fact, none of them are recommended, since what should be done to achieve a real result is to work on the cause of the barking, whether it is stress, fears or separation anxiety, etc.

Can bark collars cause physical pain to our dogs?

Yes, depending on the type of collar and its intensity, they can cause from discomfort to pain in our dogs.

Can bark collars cause psychological damage to our dogs?

Absolutely. A dog that has a tendency to bark excessively is manifesting a problem of stress, fear or separation anxiety. If every time he barks he receives a correction from the collar (either a vibration, a spray or an electric shock), this will only increase the dog’s stress or anxiety, increasing his insecurity, as well as his fears, stress, and irritability.

In short, are there any circumstances in which you would recommend using a bark collar?

Never, since, as I said above, it acts on the manifestation of a problem, but not on the problem itself.

Conecta Training’s opinion on bark collars for dogs

About Conecta Training:

 


The person in charge of Conecta Training is David Montero, with whom we have spoken to prepare this article. Its working method is based on ethology and dog psychology, and understands dog training as a joint activity, based on mutual understanding, in order to achieve a great human-dog relationship. At Conecta Training they work at home, in Valencia and the surrounding area. This is your opinion.

Do you think bark collars are efficient?

They are arguably efficient in the sense that they inhibit barking, but their use is unethical in the vast majority of cases. Many people use it to avoid spending time educating their dog. They simply want to cut a behavior, but without spending time discovering its causes and working on them. And the irony is that, in many cases, it is we ourselves who have created the problem; either by upsetting the dog or by somehow enhancing the barking.

Is there any type of bark collar that might be more recommended than the others? (ultrasound, spray…)

It is advisable to work on the cause of the bark; whether it is separation anxiety, fear, stress, nervousness, etc.

Can bark collars cause physical pain to our dogs?

Ultrasounds and sprays are annoying for most dogs, as are electrics when they are in vibration mode. In the case of using them in shock mode, depending on the intensity of the current, one goes from being annoying to experiencing pain.

Can bark collars cause psychological damage to our dogs?

It is preferable to use the term emotional damage rather than psychological damage. On an emotional level these collars can have a negative impact on dogs, of course.

In short, are there any circumstances in which you would recommend using a bark collar?

Not a priori. In the vast majority of cases, good results are obtained by working in other ways.

It is important to note that some dogs, due to genetics, are more prone to bark. If barking is going to be a problem it is better not to choose barking breeds, such as a Dachshund or a Mastiff. It is not ethical to fall into the position of: “I want a Mastiff, but if he barks when he hears noises I put a bark collar on him”.

Better alternatives to bark collars for dogs

After reading everything the professionals have to say about bark collars, it will be clear to you that they are by no means a good option for getting your dog to stop barking excessively, but then what should we do with a dog that won’t stop barking? These are the answers given to this question by the experts in dog behaviour who have collaborated on this article.

Irene Perez of Communication and Respect is forceful in her response: The alternative to the bark collar is knowledge. You have to learn about dogs, about emotions and their mode of expression, about dog communication, about the real needs of the dog… and then take some time to observe your dog, ask yourself “why does he bark” and “how can I help him manage those moments? And get to work to give him a better life and alternatives that allow him to manage those emotions that lead him to bark uncontrollably.

Irene acknowledges that this is easier said than done, but says that, at the end of the day, the dog does what he can with what he has, so your job is to give him more so that he can do more, instead of just covering his mouth: she thinks that when you use an aversive collar to achieve something with a dog, you are basically acting for yourself, to achieve something you want, no matter what the reasons are that make the dog act this way, and although sometimes the goal can be achieved, the price on an emotional and behavioural level is very high.

Working to get a good relationship with your dog so that he can effectively control himself is hard and requires a lot of effort and personal growth, Irene argues, but it’s worth it and makes us better people. Wearing an electric collar doesn’t make us better people, if anything the other way around.

Enrique Solis, from LealCan Training, thinks that the first thing we should do is to evaluate with a specialist dog trainer if the problem of our dog is “excessive barking”, because, after all, as dogs have to bark, it is their natural way of expressing themselves.

If it is proven that there is a problem of excessive barking due to anxiety, the specialist would assess what is the main cause of the problem and would put forward solutions to be able to reduce the symptom of the barking, providing tools to achieve a reduction in anxiety levels with an appropriate behaviour modification and proposing alternative complementary treatments such as oligotherapy, canine appeasing pheromone, etc. A professional in canine behaviour will be able to diagnose the problem that leads the dog to that excessive bark and act on it.

As for Ramón Fernández, from Arbesú Educadores Caninos, he reminds us that for any type of canine behaviour problem the first option is to rule out a physical problem. Only a vet can help us in this respect. Once we have ruled out the physical problem, he says, the alternative would be a good treatment with a good canine professional who will analyze the case from the beginning and propose solutions not based on fear or punishment.

Most of the annoying barking can be solved by doing a good job of canine emotional reconstruction. Let’s not forget that a dog with an altered or highly preoccupied emotional system will tend to unthinkingly manifest some innate behaviours it is designed for, such as barking. It is important to keep in mind that our reactions sometimes make problems worse without realizing it: we must try to understand what is happening and analyze if our actions add or subtract from the problem.

Ramón recommends a book by Turid Rugaas, one of the most prestigious and recognized experts in canine behavior worldwide: “What can I do when my dog barks? The bark: the voice of a language.

Finally, David Montero of Conecta Training, reiterates that it is absolutely fundamental to diagnose the cause of the bark and work on it, and if it is necessary to work with a professional educator or trainer.

As alternatives, depending on the cause, he proposes to work, for example with the Quiet Dog (see in Amazon), a kind of rubber that puts pressure on the dog’s nose, helping it to relax, or with the Calming Cap (see in Animalear), a tool that makes visibility difficult and can be useful in some situations that can generate stress to the dog, for example if it is inside a car. Other options would be to assign a resting place, encourage the dog to be calm, encourage detachment, in case of separation anxiety.

Conclusions: Modernpetliving’s opinion on bark collars for dogs

I have a confession to make: sometimes my dog Rufus barks a lot. It usually happens when there are a lot of people in the house. I am very lucky to have a large and close-knit family, so we have many family meetings where we can get together as many as twelve people at home. When we have visitors, Rufus gets nervous, wants the family’s attention, asks them for food, wants them to play with him… and he barks.

Many dog trainers recommend that, when a dog barks excessively to demand attention, the best thing to do is to ignore it, so that it realizes that barking is of no use to it and thus desists, but when there are so many people in the house that is very difficult, because there is always someone who listens to it, even if it is to shout at it to be quiet…

The fact is that this has caused me more than one argument at home because, of course, you have to admit that a continuous bark is very annoying and irritating, and there are those who have suggested on more than one occasion that I buy a bark collar for him, but I have always refused outright.

On the one hand, in these cases I always remind my family that we humans make as much or more noise than Rufus at these family gatherings (yes, I have a very fun family, and we make a lot of noise, which is going to happen), and no one would ever think of wearing a collar that would give a shock when the tone of voice gets too high; so… why do they want to put it on the dog?

In my opinion, putting a bark collar on Rufus would only frustrate and stress him even more than it already does. It’s not the solution at all. When a dog barks excessively in the house, there is usually a problem of stress, or anxiety… how is putting a device that will cause more stress or anxiety going to solve it?

It is possible that with a bark collar you can make those annoying barks stop, at least for a while (many dogs get used to the discomfort and even pain of shocks, and after a while they bark again as usual… or even more), but the basic problem will not have been solved: if the dog was barking out of fear, because it was stressed or because it suffers from separation anxiety, all that will still be there, even if it does not manifest itself through its barking. In the long run he will manifest it, if not by barking, then by other means.

If you love your dog and want him to be as happy as possible, please think before getting a bark collar. On the one hand, stop and think if those barks are really excessive: bear in mind that dogs bark, it’s a form of communication, so you can’t expect them to be always quiet. If the barking is indeed excessive, it is the manifestation of a problem. If you don’t know how to solve it by yourself, contact a good dog trainer like the ones who have collaborated in this article. No doubt your hair will be infinitely grateful to you, and both he or she, and you, will be happier.

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I love animals, especially those that live with me: my dog Rufus and my cat Ronno. I like to give them the best, and I want to help you choose the right accessories for your pets.

Also, in case Amazon prices are shown in the post, they will be updated every day. But keep in mind that products change cost constantly on Amazon, so their availability and prices may be different from those published here.

 


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