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Barking Dogs – The Problems with Anti-Barking Collars

Whether you have a barking dog, or you’ve been frustrated by a barking dog, you are not alone. The Brisbane City Council alone is flooded with noise complaint calls every day.
All councils in Queensland (and around Australia) have guidelines on what is considered excessive barking.

Barking dogs can be disruptive to the neighbourhood

Barking is a normal behaviour for dogs, so don’t panic if your dog barks a couple of times at someone walking past your house. But does your dog do this 30 times per day? Then we have to ask you – Is the barking a problem for you, other people, other dogs, or your own dog?

While you might not see the problem with your dog barking 30 times per day at people walking past your house, this may be a problem for your neighbours, the people walking past, and your dog. It isn’t normal or healthy for dogs to be barking that much, particularly when they get regularly worked up and stressed.

Maybe your council, dog trainer, neighbour or friends have suggested getting a barking collar for your dog to stop the barking. Let’s find out why, as qualified trainers, we don’t recommend barking collars.

How does a barking collar work?

Barking collars work by applying a ‘punishment’ to your dog to reduce their behaviour. For a reduction in a behaviour (the barking) to work, that ‘punishment’ needs to be something that the dog does not like. So, your dog barks, the barking collar is activated (citronella spray, ultra-sonic sound, or shock), dog associates the unpleasant or painful action of the collar, therefore barking reduces.

Or does it?…..

Why you shouldn’t use a barking collar

Unfortunately, the fall out of using this type of ‘punishment’ also means that other types of learning are taking place. There is always a risk that your dog may make an association that you didn’t intend. Dogs associate things in their environment as either being pleasant or unpleasant all the time. So, just imagine your dog has a barking collar on, and they bark at the fence when a person and their dog walk past. They get a spray or shock; they can actually associate the unpleasant feeling with other dogs or people walking dogs. What about if it is children walking past? Or you have another dog right next to your dog. Other behaviour problems can stem from this such as reactivity towards other dogs and people and redirection/injury to other animals in the household.

There have been a lot of published studies about the effects of using punishment (including barking collars) on dogs. A review of the effects of using aversive training methods in dogs was published in The Journal of Veterinary Behaviour in 2017 and concluded that using aversive training methods can jeopardise both the physical and mental health of dogs.

Barking collars are just a quick fix

It is common for people to seek a quick fix for a problem behaviour, especially if there is the added pressure from neighbours and regulatory bodies. We place barking collars into the ‘quick fix’ category as it is like taking a pain killer for a sore tooth, but not actually finding out the cause of the sore tooth. So in other words, the issue is still there. It is much more effective to address the root (pardon the pun) cause by implementing a behaviour modification program.

Bottom line is, we are regularly dealing with the fallout from dogs wearing barking collars. So in our minds, there is no instances where we would recommend them.

Other options for barking dogs

If you are looking for other options to reduce unwanted barking please read our blog Force Free Methods for Reducing Unwanted or Nuisance Barking in Dogs.

If you need professional help with your dog’s barking, get in touch with a qualified force free trainer in your area.

If you want to read up more about learning theory in dog training, click here

References:

Ziv, G, (2017) The effects of using aversive training methods in dogs—A review , Journal of Veterinary Behavior, Vol 19, May-June pp 50-60 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1558787817300357

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