There are many anti-bark collar makers vying for your dollars. Most of these devices work, some better than others, but there are pros and cons to just about all of them. Most trainers and dog owners will agree that the best way to stop your dog from barking is training.
Types of Collars
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Manufacturers offer several methods to stop unwanted barking. Some anti-bark collars deliver an electric shock, some emit a noise the dog finds unpleasant, some deliver both sound and shock, and some spray a substance, usually citronella, that dogs really hate. All of them are triggered by the barking itself, which produces a vibration to which these products are designed to react.
Pros and Cons of Shock Collars
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The shock collar has been around since the early 1960s. The only pro to the shock collar is that it does stop barking. However, the idea of delivering an electric shock to man's best friend is distasteful to many dog owners, regardless of how humane the manufacturer declares it to be. The shock becomes steadily harsher as the dog continues to bark. This is a punishing device, not one designed to teach your dog not to bark. The voltage on some of these collars can be set very high, either inadvertently or not, and when that occurs, the pain is considered inhumane by savvy dog trainers who advocate positive reinforcement techniques. The pain and fear associated with the shock confuses the dog so he doesn't learn not to bark; he's too busy trying to find what hurts. He doesn't connect the barking to the shocking.
Ultrasonic collars trigger a sound humans can't hear. Some of them are triggered by the vibration in your dog's throat, others by the barking sound itself. When they work correctly, they work well. However, they can be unreliable. The ones that rely on vibration can be set off simply by your dog's movement, and the ones that rely on the sound of barking can be triggered by other ambient sounds. This means your dog is being corrected when he isn't doing any barking. Fido will find this all very confusing and that may delay attempts at training the dog not to bark. The newer, more expensive products in this category use technologies that reduce the chances of false positives; some require both the barking sound and the accompanying vibration to work.
Spray collars work by delivering a mist of (usually) citronella in the dog's face upon being triggered by barking. They are reliable in that they are not triggered inappropriately as the ultrasonic ones are. They also come in a range of prices. The citronella can be easily replaced when the supply is depleted. However—and this can be considered a pro if you want to save money—the dog will come to understand the collar's function. When your dog is wearing the collar he won't bark because he expects the spray. He doesn't know the spray is gone. The problem with the spray collar is that some dogs are so quick they can actually jump back, causing the spray to shoot off to the side and not directly in the dog's face. The smell is still bad, but if it's not directly in the dog's face, it may not be as effective. Few dogs figure this out, so if yours isn't in Mensa, you may be in luck.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.