Problem Barking Dogs
At the Dog Squad we get a lot of calls about problem barking dogs. Barking to a dog is as normal as a baby crying, a person shouting and a cat meowing. In most cases barking is not a problem until a neighbor complains or we receive a notice from Animal Control. You may think that your neighbor is overly sensitive and your first reaction is to get angry. But once the complaint is made you have a problem and need to deal with it.
The best approach is prevention. Don’t let the problem develop in the first place. Start training your dog when he/she is a puppy. Teach a quiet command and make sure your puppy is not allowed to bark indiscriminately and for entertainment. When you have a puppy, teach it to “Speak” on command and to be “Quiet” on command.
But what if you have an older dog that has already developed some bad habits in regards to barking? If you already have a complaint from a neighbor try to find out when the barking is taking place, how long it lasts and what is triggering it.
Dogs bark for a variety of reasons. Guarding territory is the most common. The most common territorial triggers are, a knock at the door, the doorbell ringing, the UPS delivery truck driving by, the mail person walking by, the garbage truck passing, a person with a dog walking by, the dog next door, the cat or squirrel in the tree and so on. Most dogs will bark to ward off intruders but the barking usually only lasts while the intruder is near and ends very quickly.
Dogs also bark because they are startled or frightened by an unexpected noise such as thunder, an explosion, a fire cracker, etc. And, again this barking usually passes very quickly lasting anywhere from 5 to 50 seconds. Most barking episodes do not last more than a minute. When the dog gets into a barking jag that goes on and on for long periods of time then something beyond normal barking is occurring. In order to come up with a solution for barking we need to know what is likely triggering it and the duration. If your complaining neighbor is not cooperative then we need to do our own research. One way to monitor the barking is to get a recorder that turns it self on when there is sound or to set up a web cam and monitor the dog through a day.
Tools for Problem Barking Dogs
Today there are a number of solutions for problem barking dogs that are effective. Teaching a dog to be quiet on command is very important but most dogs do not quiet themselves when their owners are gone. We need some other means of control when the owner is away.
The Barking tools that I am listing are in order of most effective to least effective. The tool that you choose must be based on the dog and its unique situation. If your dog is barking because of separation anxiety I recommend you first consult a professional before using any bark control device.
We have the most success with the Static Bark Collar. There are a number of very good Bark Collars on the market today. The collars are smaller and smarter than the collars of just a few years ago. A number of manufactures have built in smart technology with higher reliability. I recommend collars that self adjust the correction to the amount of barking. Collars that self adjust start at a low level stimulation and turn up the correction as the barking continues. When the dog stops barking then collar stops adjusting its level.
PetSafe® makes several Bark Collars for large, medium and small dogs. This is how they describe their collars: “The Bark Control Collar uses both vibration and sound sensors to discriminate each bark from other external noises. A Static Correction is administered through the Contact Points only if both the vibration from the vocal cords and the sound from the bark match the bark sampling criteria. The Bark Control Collar starts with the lowest level of Static Correction and then increases through 6 levels each time your dog barks within 30 seconds of the previous bark. If your dog does not bark again within 30 seconds, the Bark Control Collar will reset itself to the lowest level of Static Correction. As a built-in safety feature, if your dog barks 15 times or more within a 50-second period, the Bark Control Collar will automatically shut off for 3 minutes.”
Some clients do not want to use a Static Bark Collar for personal reasons and would rather use a Spray Collar. The Spray collar does work with many dogs but there is a higher maintenance factor in keeping the reservoir filled and some dogs do not respond at all to the spray.
The collar works as follows: “The PetSafe® Spray Bark Control Collar uses both vibration and sound sensors (dual-detection) to discriminate each bark from other external noises. A burst of lemon-scented spray is emitted to deter barking only if both the vibration from vocal chords and the sound from the bark match the same criteria.”
A final choice which is still somewhat unproven is Ultrasound. There are a number of devices that are manufactured today and their effectiveness is still somewhat unproven. There have been a few studies (Landsberg, 1994) testing the effectiveness of Ultrasound to control barking and the results were inconclusive, showing little effect as an aversive to stop barking. The sample sizes were small and the devices were not as sophisticated as the ones manufactured today. Further study needs to be done. However, there seems to be growing anecdotal evidence that it can be effective tool for some dogs. I have actually seen it work and have witnessed dogs stopping their barking and moving away from the source of the sound. The technology has gotten better and it is less expensive than some of the other solutions.
PetSafe® makes a variety of Ultrasound devices and they describe how it works as follows. “Place the PetSafe® Indoor Bark Control within 25 feet or less of the dog. When the microphone picks up the constant bark of the dog, it will emit a 2-second high-pitched ultrasonic tone. While the tone cannot be heard by humans, it should startle the dog. Most dogs will understand very quickly that the Indoor Bark Control is disrupting their urge to bark and will relax and stop barking. You should notice a reduction in the dog’s barking within the first 2 weeks that the Indoor Bark Control is in use. Please note this product may not work on deaf or hearing impaired dogs.”