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Barking is natural for dogs. It’s how they communicate, and different barks can have different meanings. In addition, barking has many root causes. Your dog might be excited, anxious, frustrated, or even bored. Whatever the reason, excessive barking can become problematic, cause friction with housemates or neighbors, or be disruptive during times when we’re in need of quiet.
Successful treatments for nuisance barking will vary based on the dog’s motivation. For example, an anxious barker with separation anxiety needs to learn to feel comfortable alone whereas a bored barker needs mental stimulation and physical exercise. But dealing with these issues can take time. In the interim, there are many options to help keep your dog quiet while you work on the underlying problem.
What They Do: Noise making machines produce high-pitched sounds in response to barking. The noise is ultrasonic, meaning humans can’t hear it. But dogs can. The tone annoys them, so it acts as a correction, and it stops when the barking stops. Therefore, your dog will learn that barking brings on the noise and silence makes it go away.
These devices come in both indoor and outdoor versions. Both respond to barking from any dog as long as that dog is within range of the machine. This is a bonus if you have more than one dog and both are barkers. The outdoor machines are also great for shushing dogs in your neighbors’ yards which can prevent barking competitions between your dog and theirs. However, if you have multiple dogs and only one dog is a nuisance barker, take note that all the dogs will receive the device’s correction.
How to Use Them: These devices have a specific range, so placement is key. The machine should be facing your dog, and your dog must be within the detection area of the machine’s microphone. Finally, keep the area between the dog and the device clear so nothing blocks the ultrasonic noise. Be sure to turn the machine off when you aren’t dealing with nuisance barking otherwise your dog may get used to the tone.
What They Do: If you need to ensure bark control no matter where your dog is, consider a bark-deterrent collar. One variety is the vibration collar. These operate both by hearing a bark and by sensing the vibration in the dog’s throat. Therefore, only the dog wearing the device will trigger the vibration response. The vibration is designed to distract your dog and therefore stop the barking.
How to Use Them: Be sure to fit the collar properly. You should be able to slip one finger under the collar along the back of your dog’s neck, and the vibration unit should sit snugly at the middle of the throat. These devices have intensity settings, so be sure to set the level only as high as it needs to be to interrupt your dog’s barking. Be aware that your dog may learn to associate the collar with the vibration, so will only stay quiet when the collar is on.
What They Do: Another variety of bark-deterrent collar is the spray collar. These work by emitting a spurt of air or citronella when they detect a bark. The hissing sound of the spurt, the blast of spray, and the smell of the citronella are all distracting for dogs. Therefore, the collar acts to interrupt and correct barking behavior. Look for a model with accurate bark detection that responds only to the dog wearing the collar.
How to Use Them: Fit the collar so the spray apparatus is angled correctly. Take note these collars can only hold so many sprays at a time. You will have to refill them regularly, more often for frequent barkers. Just like the vibration collar, your dog may learn that the spray only comes when the collar is on. However, you should not leave any bark-deterrent collar on your dog twenty-four hours a day.
What It Does: Although the devices above can curb your dog’s barking, they don’t let your dog know what behavior to do instead. However, by rewarding the actions you would rather see, you can influence your dog’s future behavior. This is known as positive reinforcement training. Ignore your dog’s attention-seeking barks yet lavish love, cuddles, treats, and toys for sitting silently, and you will soon have a much quieter dog.
This type of training is often called clicker training because it can make use of a small noise making device known as a clicker. You use the clicker to mark the exact moment your dog performs a desired action, and every click is followed by a reward. This can improve communication with your dog and help your dog learn faster.
How to Use It: To counter barking with positive reinforcement, you need to reward your dog when your dog is quiet. If a bark collar or noise device stops your dog’s barking, click and reward the silence. As your dog catches on, wait for slightly longer periods of quiet before the click and reward.
You can also use positive reinforcement to train alternative behaviors, preferably ones that are incompatible with barking. For example, your dog can’t bark with a ball in his or her mouth. So, if the doorbell triggers your dog’s barking, teach your dog that the doorbell means go get your ball so we can play fetch. You can also train calm behaviors, like lying on a mat, that are emotionally incompatible with the revved-up excitement of a barking frenzy.
What They Do: Toys are great for distracting your dog from barking triggers. They also provide mental stimulation and help conquer boredom. Look for varieties you can stuff with kibble or other food that require your dog to work to get at the treats inside. Chamomile-scented distraction toys have a soothing odor which is great for anxious barkers.
How to Use Them: If you learn your dog’s barking triggers, you can provide a distraction toy before the trigger arrives. Then your dog may be so involved in getting the food that the trigger goes unnoticed. Toys are also great for keeping your dog busy when you’re out of the house. Your dog will be less likely to worry bark about your absence or bark out the window at passersby if there’s something else to do. You can also use these toys as rewards in a training program or to turn a time-out from a punishment into a chance to settle down.
While there are other kinds of bark control methods such as static correction, we recommend you consult with a professional trainer before trying this method. More of these collars can be explored on PetSafe’s website.