What Are Bark Collars?

What Are Bark Collars?

A white dog wearing a bark collar, which isn't an appropriate method to combat excessive barking.A white dog wearing a bark collar, which isn't an appropriate method to combat excessive barking.
A white dog wearing a bark collar, which isn't an appropriate method to combat excessive barking.A white dog wearing a bark collar, which isn't an appropriate method to combat excessive barking.

Table of Contents:

  1. Types of Bark Collars
  2. Are Bark Collars Humane and Effective?
  3. Alternatives to Bark Collars
  4. Discouraging Excessive Barking: The Don’ts
  5. Talk to Your Veterinarian

Dogs bark. It’s a simple fact of pet parenthood that’s sometimes pleasant (such as when pups offer greetings) and sometimes quite the opposite (like when they keep you up at night). When unwanted barking becomes too much of a nuisance, some dog lovers look beyond traditional behavioral training to address the issue. Anti-barking collars (or “bark collars”) promise to discourage excessive vocalization quickly with corrective stimuli.

Types of Bark Collars

Bark collars use a variety of methods to discourage unwanted or excessive vocalization, such as:

  • Sound: Ultrasonic anti-bark collars emit a high-pitched sound that only dogs can hear.
  • Vibration: Designed to discourage barking by distracting dogs, these collars respond to either the sound of barks or the vibration in a dog’s throat. The collar’s vibrating pulses are intended to distract dogs and stop their behavior.
  • Scent: These collars release a spurt of citronella, the smell of which calms dogs and helps to stop unwanted barking.

Are Bark Collars Humane and Effective?

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) regards bark collars as “punishment devices” and discourages dog owners from making them a primary resource for discouraging barking. They advise against purchasing them until all other methods have been exhausted.

Aside from humane considerations, are bark collars are effective? The American Kennel Club (AKC) isn’t so sure. Responding to a reader question, an AKC staff member writes, “an ‘anti-bark’ collar will treat the symptom for immediate relief but will do nothing to fix the problem in the long run.” The Humane Society agrees, noting that bark collars only present a temporary fix.

Alternatives to Bark Collars

Whether they use sounds, scents, or other stimuli, no anti-bark collars address the underlying causes of excessive barking. The quick fix promised by such tools is simply unrealistic. Training dogs to bark less requires time, consistency, and patience.

Try the “Quiet” Command

If your dog’s barking has become a nuisance, try saying “quiet” calmly and firmly. Take care not to raise your voice which may heighten your dog’s anxiety and increase their barking. Once your dog has stopped, offer them positive reinforcement in the form of treats and praise.

Socialize Your Dog

Dogs may bark inappropriately because they haven’t been properly introduced to the world around them. Familiarizing your dog to a wide range of sights, sounds, and other sensations can help make them less likely to bark out of fear or anxiety when confronted with new things.

Ignore Them

It’s possible that your dog is barking to ask for a treat or otherwise get your attention. If you know that nothing is the matter, ignoring them may be your best bet for stopping excessive barks. Be patient! Responding will only make your dog feel as if they’re being rewarded for bad behavior.

Get More Exercise

All that barking may have something to do with your dog’s excess energy. Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise throughout the day and they may not feel the need to let it out at inconvenient times. If your dog is barking in your absence, consider hiring a professional dog walker or pet sitter.

Discouraging Excessive Barking: The Don’ts

Certain tactics intended to control barking or discourage it altogether can have the opposite effect. What’s more, some are potentially dangerous and inhumane. The ASPCA advises dog owners against the following:

  • Don’t encourage some kinds of barking while discouraging others. In behavioral training, consistency is essential.
  • Don’t punish your dog for excessive barking, especially if they’re barking out of fear or anxiety. Harsh negative reinforcement is not only inhumane, but could also amplify a dog’s negative feelings and encourage more unwanted behavior.
  • Don’t make your dog wear a muzzle for an extended period of time. With a muzzle on, dogs can’t open their mouths to eat, drink, or cool themselves by panting.
  • Don’t secure your dog’s muzzle with additional rope or cords. This is inhumane, may cause pain, and could even endanger your dog’s life.

Talk to Your Veterinarian

If the recommended methods are failing you, reach out to your veterinarian. They may be able to offer guidance for addressing the behavior and potentially determine if it is a symptom of a more serious underlying condition.

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