Barking serves a few different purposes. For many pet owners, barking is helpful when it comes to alerting to dangers or deterring intruders. As long as their dogs don’t overdo it, owners are generally okay with a bit of barking.
Unfortunately, some dogs bark excessively, or vocalize over seemingly minor stimuli. This can drive some people nuts, which is why they rely on bark collars to curb the noise. However, not all products offer the same relief and may not help you get to the root of the behavior.
What Owners Are Up Against
Barking is a natural canine behavior. Some breeds may bark more than others, but it is really up to an individual dog to determine their own volume and frequency. Generally speaking, the following types of barking can precede bark collars purchased by owners (and suggested by neighbors):
- Territorial – There could be actual intruders, or it could just be a squirrel on the fence. You could be expecting a visitor, or a stranger walked by the front windows. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to pinpoint triggers and then try to remove or reduce them.
- Fear-aggression – Similar to territorial barking, fear-aggression is the response to various threats and can manifest in excessive barking, growling, snapping and biting.
- Attention-seeking – This type of barking only happens when their owner is present, but not focusing on the dog. By telling the dog to quiet down, the owner inadvertently reinforces the attention-seeking behavior. Command alternate behavior, such as sit and stay.
- Separation anxiety – Barking dogs may start up as soon as their owner leaves and don’t stop until they’re fatigued. These dogs must be trained to handle their owners departures in a calm way, and may also need desensitization and counterconditioning.
- Cognitive dysfunction – This happens to aging dogs that are going senile.
- Group – Dogs that bark together can be very challenging to re-train and manage since the individual behavior is linked to their group behavior.
It’s not uncommon for dogs to vocalize excessively for more than one of the above reasons. To truly help dogs and reduce barking, it’s essential to figure out why they do it.
The Next Steps
There are barking collars that can help control noise, such as citronella, ultrasonic, or electric shock. While these can be effective, they should only be used with approval from your veterinarian. Anti-bark collars aren’t ideal for barking triggered by anxiety or fear. When used appropriately, bark collars should only be used intermittently to reduce the chances of habituation.
Are Bark Collars Safe?
Bark collars are triggered by the sound and vibration of barking. In the case of citronella collars, dogs experience a strong, unpleasant citronella spray to deter them from barking. While some experts believe that these are more humane than electric shock collars, they may not always get to the root of the problem. For example, if the collar punishes the dog for territorial barking, they may associate the scent or shock with the location and not the act of barking.
Part and Parcel
Most dog owners understand that barking is a normal canine behavior. However, when barking gets out of control and begins to disturb the peace, it’s time to address any underlying issues.
As with anything related to your dog’s health and wellness, please contact us at Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital with any questions about barking collars.