Anti-bark dog collars: are they effective?

Dogs are very nice to have around the home. You can cuddle with them and play and goof with these canines. But dogs who bark excessively are also frustrating to have.

There are different ways of addressing the nuisance barking of dogs. Experts suggest that proper training including proper behavior reinforcement methods can stop the loud barking. A dog lover may also choose to employ anti-bark collars to help them make their pets quit barking excessively. Anti-bark collars use a physical deterrent to alter the behavior since dogs associate unpleasant sensation after barking. Anti-bark collars either use vibrations, beeping sounds, citronella sprays and electric shocks to interrupt the yelping of the dogs.

There are different reactions on whether anti-bark collars are effective in eliminating the nuisance barking. Some experts are against the use of anti-bark collars. “Why punish the dogs for their normal behavior?” they say.

There are also experts who advocate the use of these correctional collars. Often, these experts strongly advise that dog owners take the time to read and research about anti-bark collars prior to purchasing one.

No to anti-bark collars

Those who advise against the use of anti-bark collars argue that correctional collars may increase aggression among dogs, weaken the relationship between a dog and its owner, and cause the deterioration of a dog’s health and reduce the quality of life of the dogs, among others.

Not all anti-bark collars are created equal, and some collars may detect other sounds other than the actual barking of the dogs. It is for this reason that experts disagree with the use of anti-bark collars. Collars that are unable to detect sounds correctly will punish the dogs for no particular reason at all. In return, dogs cannot associate that the unpleasant sensation such as electric shock or fragrant sprays comes after they have barked. These canines are “punished” and they do not even know why.

A study on the use of shock collars by Schalke et al. from the Institute of Animal Welfare and Behaviour at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanove by Schalke et al. in 2007 concluded that “poor timing in the application of high-level electric pulses, such as those used in this study, means there is a high risk that dogs will show severe and persistent stress symptoms.”

The study further suggested that the use of anti-dog collars be limited. “We recommend that the use of these devices should be restricted with proof of theoretical and practical qualification required and then the use of these devices should only be allowed in strictly specified situations.”

Those who oppose the use of anti-bark collars also cite health reasons for not wanting dogs to wear corrective collars such as the case of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA, an American animal rights organization.

PETA opposes the use of correctional anti-bark saying “Dogs wearing shock collars can suffer from physical pain and injury (ranging from burns to cardiac fibrillation) and psychological stress, including severe anxiety and displaced aggression. The anxiety and confusion caused by repeated shocks can lead to changes in the heart and respiration rate or gastrointestinal disorders. Electronic collars can also malfunction, either administering nonstop shocks or delivering no shocks at all.”

Anti-bark collars dog experts also argue that not all barking are unnecessary. Barking, after all, is a form of communication of dogs. A canine who barks because an intruder has set foot will be punished for performing its function to protect its domain. And experts ask why these canines should experience unpleasant sensation for being true to its nature.

Effective and Safe to Use

But there are also experts who conducted studies on the use of anti-bark collars and they concluded that these dog-collars do not result in aggression among dogs as in the case of the Steiss et al. study conducted in 2007. Steiss et al., made a study on the canine’s physiological and behavioral responses to bark control collars with plasma cortisol as the stress measure. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is released in response to stress.

In this study, there was a control group made up of dogs that were made to wear different types of dog collars such as a shock collar, a spray collar, or a dummy collar. These dogs had to wear their collars for at least 30 minutes for a span of three days for two consecutive weeks.

Dr. Steiss concluded the study by saying “In the present study, with dogs wearing bark control collars intermittently over a 2-week period, the collars effectively deterred barking without statistically significant elevations in plasma cortisol, compared to controls, at any of the time points measured.”

Similarly, another expert also did research on the effectiveness of dog collars concluded that barking collars even have a calming effect among dogs.

In the study entitled “Collar mounted electronic devices for behavior modification in dogs” by Tania Coleman, and Richard Murray noted “Another interesting perception gleaned from this study was that the collars tended to have a positive calming effect on the dogs in question. This was universally so for the dogs with barking problems. Inclusion in the survey questionnaire of the question concerning calming effect arose from our own clinical experience where a number of clients had spontaneously commented about it after using these electronic bark collars.”

Cesar Millan, a famous dog expert who has written books and hosted shows about dogs also swears by the effectiveness of anti-bark collar saying “And finally there are bark collars that automatically set off an interruptor when the dog wearing the bark collar barks. They can all work.”

Millan, however, cautioned that dog owners seek the help of experts prior to using any anti-bark collars. “With any form of bark collar, however, I would recommend you seek expert advice before using one.”

Likewise, Coleman and Murray in their study also asserted that dog owners try to use these collars on themselves to experience the unpleasant sensation that the dogs will experience with their chosen anti-bark collars.” Each collar type (bark collar, boundary collar and remote trainer) is designed to be a specific behavior deterrent. None is a play thing. Anyone who uses one should first try it on themselves to assess the level of the aversive stimulus that is delivered.”

They further added that the use of anti-bark collars should be stopped when no major changes have been observed in the barking behavior of the dogs. “In the event that the desired effects is not achieved when used for dog training, then the application is inappropriate and should not be persevered with.”

Conclusion

There are different schools of thoughts when it comes to the use of anti-bark dog collars. Some studies have concluded that dog collars as a form to address nuisance barking is effective while other studies point out the hazards of using these collars.

But dog experts who concluded that anti-bark collars are helpful in modifying the behavior of dogs also recommended that dog owners seek the advice of experts prior to making their dogs wear anti-dog collar devices–a piece of advice that dog owners should keep in mind before picking out any anti-barking devices for their beloved pets.