Dogs are cute to have. But not when they bark too loudly and unnecessarily. Dog owners whose pets bark excessively look for solutions to modify the barking behavior of their dogs. Many of these dog owners contemplate on the use of anti-bark collars.
Anti- bark collars are used to deter or prevent dogs from barking. These anti-bark collars are designed to alter the barking behavior of dogs by creating an unpleasant sensation when dogs bark. These collars can either emit electric shocks, sounds or citronella fumes as the unpleasant sensation. Dogs are supposed to associate that the unpleasant sensation comes after they bark
But does the use of anti-bark collars for dog equals to animal cruelty? Let us explore what the experts are saying about this matter.
Cruel and Not Fit for Dogs
There are many criticisms hurled against the use of anti-bark collars.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA, an animal rights organization, for one strongly oppose the use of collars to prevent dogs from barking. PETA claims the pet collars are inhumane as dogs should not be punished for barking given that barking is a form of communication of these canines. “Depriving them of their primary means of expression is unjustifiably cruel,” PETA said.
PETA is particularly against the use of electric shock collars as these collars can cause health problems for canine pets. PETA said, “Shock collars can cause dogs physical pain, injury (ranging from burns to cardiac fibrillation), and psychological stress, including severe anxiety and displaced aggression.
PETA’s stand on the use of anti-bark collars is supported by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. In a position paper, the group said “AVSAB’s position is that punishment (e.g. choke chains, pinch collars, and electronic collars) should not be used as a first-line or early-use treatment for behavior problems. This is due to the potential adverse effects which include but are not limited to: inhibition of learning, increased fear-related and aggressive behaviors, and injury to animals and people interacting with animals.”
Animal welfare groups are not the only critics of the use of anti-bark collars. Noted animal behavior consultant, James O’Heare also opposes the use of anti-bark collars. O’Heare emphasized that the use of anti-bark collars is problematic as it fails to make the canines understand the reason for the punishment they receive from these collars.
“One such problem is that it simply fails to address the fact that the behavior is being performed for a reason (reinforcement) and without addressing that reinforcement you simply have pain competing with pleasure, which rarely solves the problem,” according to O’Heare.
He also stressed that anti-bark collars is a short term solution, and fails to address the root of the problem of excessive barking. “Even if pain does win out over pleasure in this case, you merely temporarily suppress the problem–it is a Band-Aid solution that, again, does not address the actual problem.”
The animal behavior specialist also underlined the negative effects on the use of anti bark collars such as depression, disempowerment, redirected aggression, deterioration of social relationships, among others.
Dr. Soraya V. Juarbe-Diaz, a Veterinary Behaviorist, strongly urge pet owners and trainers to heed to the studies that highlight the negative repercussions of anti-bark collars. “We use force, pain and fear to train animals because we can get away with it, in spite of sufficient scientific data in both humans and dogs that such methods are damaging and produce short term cessation of behaviors at the expense of durable learning and the desire to learn more in the future,” the doctor noted.
Diaz stressed that trainers and dog owners to consider other training options to curb the excessive barking of canines. “ You can go with so-called tradition or you can follow the ever expanding body of evidence in canine cognition that supports teaching methods that encourage a calm, unafraid and enthusiastic canine companion,” she noted.
Safe for your beloved dogs
Of course, there are also experts who disagree with those who oppose the use of anti-bark collars.
The study conducted by Dr. Steiss that measured the effectiveness of anti-bark collars while studying cortisol levels ( cortisol is a steroid hormone that is released in response to stress) revealed that the stress level of dogs is not increased despite wearing anti-bark collars.
Dr. Steiss et. al concluded that “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.”
There are other literatures or studies claiming that anti-bark collars are effective and safe to use. For example, the study commissioned by the Electronic Collar Manufacturers Association or ECMA on the use of electric collars with 367 dog owners as respondents showed that 71% of e-collar users believe that the collar has saved the life of their pet. The ECMA study also revealed that 97% of those questioned said their pet was either happy with or neutral about the collar.
Another study revealed that anti-bark collars also have a calming effect. This study conducted by Tania Coleman and Richard Murray showed “the collars tended to have a positive calming effect on the dogs in question. This was universally so for the dogs with barking problems.”
There are two sides about whether the use of anti-bark collars is cruel for dogs as expected. There are experts, and of course, animal welfare groups that condemn the use of the anti-bark collar especially the use of electric shock collars. There are also studies, however, that show that the stress level of dogs that wear anti-bark collars are not increased.
Dog owners who are contemplating the use of anti-bark devices such as collars should take the time to do their research and know what both sides are saying.