Barking. One of the main complaints I hear about from both dog owners, and non dog owners. We regularly get calls from people who do not own dogs looking for a bark control device they can use from their yard to silence a neighbors dog.
Dogs bark as a form of communication. Figuring out what they are communicating, and why they are choosing this time to communicate is the first step in controlling the behaviour. Are they happy? Are they alarmed? Are then protecting you? All valid and normal reasons to bark.
When dogs play, barking is a part of that. You can use this time to create the boundaries for barking. Using the “Speak” and “Quiet” commands during playtime, using praise and treats to encourage the desired response, you can transfer this training into non play times.
Some dogs bark as an immediate response when alarmed. Unexpected movement, catching them off guard, can cause them to verbalize to try and gain control of the situation, or at least stop it long enough figure out what is going on.
Threats, either real or perceived are an important use of a dogs voice. We do not want to stop them from being able to raise the alarm if danger presents, but we do want them to stop once we have been made aware. A large number of complaints are directly related to this issue, with dogs continuing to bark even after the threat has left, or the owner has been alerted.
Whether it is a stranger at the door, or a newspaper blowing across the lawn outside the window, you stalwart companion wants to protect you from the threat. It is an important part of training to reward the dog for warning you (with praise or treat), and then have them stop the behaviour, using the “Quiet” command. We don’t want to stop the behaviour completely, we want to control it.
When you are not there to give the “Quiet” command is the time that can lead to problems. Hopefully they will learn the pattern of bark and then quiet, but if not, there are remedies that can help curb the behaviour in your absence.
Many people want to use a muzzle to prevent unwanted barking. Unfortunately, this rarely works, and can be quite dangerous if used for extended periods of time. Nylon muzzle that hold the dogs jaws shut are good for short term bite control when grooming or trimming nails, but they cannot be left on for extended periods, These muzzles prevent dogs from breathing properly and from panting. Panting is an important part of the dogs temperature control, and can cause physical damage if left on unattended.
Bark control collars come in various modes, the main ones being ultrasonic (like blowing a dog whistle at them), vibration, citronella spray or static shock. The idea of a control collar is to interrupt the behaviour by introducing an additional stimulus that takes more of the dogs attention than what was causing it to bark in the first place. Ultrasonic and vibration collars work in some cases, but the stimulus is not usually enough to break the dogs attention. Citronella collars have a limited number of charges per refill, so a dog can sometimes bark it to empty on purpose, and I’ve even heard of a dog that liked the citronella smell and would bark on purpose to get sprayed.
Static control collars are the most effective, and while they sound awful, they are quite safe and humane when used properly. The “shock” is just static electricity, not unlike what happens when you walk across carpet in wool socks and touch the doorknob. I encourage my customers who use these collars to test them themselves, by setting them off while holding them. Haven’t had anyone damaged yet. These also tend to be the most reliable, the better ones relying on a combination of sound and vibration to trigger, so a loud noise nearby will not set them off.
There are also area effect units that emit ultrasonic corrections without actually being on the dog. These may work in some cases, but they will trigger not only at a bark, but also any loud noise, so using them outdoors means they may be going off too often when the dog isn’t barking to work as correction. The indoor ones are a little more effective, equating to you sitting there with a dog whistle, blowing it when the dog barks.
It all comes back to training, and being the pack leader, to control your pet’s behaviour. Be firm and consistent for the best results and a happy relationship between you, your pet, and your community.