Training dogs not to bark can be difficult. While some degree of barking is natural, loud dogs can make life hard on both themselves and on the people around them. While traditional training can be a good way to help your dog quiet down, some dogs just don’t respond in the ways that most would like. More drastic measures might need to be used in such cases, and finding a measure that will work but that will still keep your dog safe can be tough. Fortunately, that’s where the bark collar comes in.
What is a Bark Collar?
A bark collar is a specialized type of training collar meant to curb unwanted barking in louder dogs. This type of collar has been traditionally used by owners of dogs who bark frequently, at inappropriate times, or who are trying to train their dogs for certain roles that would be hindered by the dog barking at the wrong time. These training tools have actually been in use for quite some time and opinions vary between using them as a front-line training device or as a tool of last resort. Regardless of the option, most would agree that the collars are actually quite useful.
It’s important to remember that today’s best bark collars are significantly different than those of years past. These collars can be incredibly technically advanced, make use of several different types of correction, and are generally friendlier and easier on dogs than any of the options that were originally available.
How Do Bark Collars Work?
The scientific basis behind the bark collar is the concept of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is a learning method through which an individual, whether human or animal, learns to associate a particular behavior and a particular reward or punishment . Operant conditioning is a fairly well-studied type of behavioral science and one that dog trainers use frequently. Anyone who has ever used a treat to entice a dog to do a trick can understand the basics. Rather than providing a positive reward, though, these collars offer a negative consequence.
The typical bark collar looks much like a regular dog collar, with the exception of a receiver unit. This receiver unit can either be keyed to a remote, to a sensor on the collar, or to both. When the dog barks, some kind of negative stimulus. This might be a high-pitched sound that your dog finds uncomfortable, a spray of an unpleasant scent, a vibration, or a static shock. Regardless of the method used, your dog will come to associate the act of barking with receiving some kind of negative stimulus.
The goal with a bark collar is to eventually stop using the collar altogether. It can take weeks or even months of training, but eventually, your dog will no longer need a negative stimulus in order to cease barking. Instead, your dog will connect the idea of barking with something unpleasant and thus will stifle himself or herself. The end results generally depend upon the training methods used and the situations in which the bark collar is activated.
Are Bark Collars Safe?
One of the major questions about bark collars has to do with their level of safety. As you might imagine, most dog owners don’t want to take any kind of risk when it comes to their animals and using something that has been traditionally branded as a ‘shock’ collar is definitely a tough choice for some.
The good news, though, is that the vast majority of bark collars are incredibly safe. Some of these collars don’t even use a shock in the traditional sense of the term—instead, they use a loud beep or even a vibration. These collars might startle a dog, but they don’t have any kind of physical impact on the animal. Even those collars that do use a shock use a very mild sensation—it’s short and has no lasting effect. The idea behind the collar isn’t to hurt the dog, after all, but to interrupt its problematic behavior with a negative stimulus.
If a bark collar does hurt a dog, it is generally for one of two reasons—either the collar is being used improperly or the collar has malfunctioned. Even those collars that do cause harm don’t do any permanent damage—they simply cause the dog a level of discomfort with which most dog owners are uncomfortable. If you do notice that your dog is experiencing distress, it’s best to discontinue the use of the collar until you can figure out what went wrong.
So, Do They Really Work?
At the end of the day, the real question is whether or not bark collars really work. The truth is that bark collars absolutely have the ability to work on many dogs, but that it’s also impossible to make any kind of blanket statement. Rather than answering that with an absolute, it’s perhaps better to stop and think about why a bark collar might not work.
The most common reason why a bark collar won’t work for a given dog is that the dog’s trainer isn’t using the device correctly. They fail to put it on the dog the right way, to ensure that it is charged, or to promptly and appropriately deliver corrections. It’s impossible to train a dog with any tool if that tool isn’t used correctly, so one shouldn’t expect miracles if the dog’s trainer isn’t willing to follow through with the requirements of the device.
With that said, there are certainly other reasons why a bark collar wouldn’t work. The collar itself might be too big or too small for the dog, the collar’s correction settings might be too high or too low, or the unit itself might even be defective. What’s important to remember is that some bark collars might not work for some dogs, but that in most cases these collars can do a great job helping to reinforce lessons for most dogs when used correctly.
If you’re in the market for a dog collar, it’s important that you understand what the collars do, how they work, and how you can use them in the most effective manner. Find a collar that’s meant for a dog that’s the same size of yours and with a similar temperament so that you’ll not only feel comfortable using the collar but so that you can provide a safe and efficient training experiencing for your furry friend.