Talk to the Animals

Zoologist and animal behaviour expert, Sally Hibbard, is interested in the relationship between people and their pets. She’s a fan of frogs, scared of spiders and can be seen spotting stick insects.

Talk to the Animals: Is this electric shock treatment for dogs?

33 comments
Bark collars might be effective, but are they ethical?
Photo / Thinkstock
Bark collars might be effective, but are they ethical? Photo / Thinkstock

While checking out the latest daily deals in my email I was surprised to see bark collars offered for under ten dollars. My perception of bark collars is that they are a last resort when other less punishing methods of control have been tried. At this low price I wondered if some people may be inclined to use bark collars as a first response to unwanted barking without trying other options first.

What are bark collars and how do they work?

Bark collars are designed to automatically punish a dog for barking. The punishment must essentially be greater than the dogs desire to bark and this is achieved through an electrical charge passed between two prongs on the inside of the collar. This is the most common type. There are also bark collars that vibrate or emit citronella, a strong and unpleasant odour.

All collars should give a series of warning sounds at the first bark, giving the hound a chance to stop barking before the punishment is delivered.

Being intelligent animals, dogs quickly associate the warning sound and subsequent shock or negative outcome with barking, thereby providing a relatively fast solution to nuisance barking issues.
A similar device, the remote shock collar is operated by the handler but requires the expertise of a professional dog trainer.

I asked two leading dog training and behavior experts to share their opinion on the pros and cons of using this method of training:

Pros
They work - the dog controls the response of the collar and if it's not barking it won't be punished.
Bark collars provide a consistent deterrent to barking that is not possible to enforce as an owner.
In situations where there is complaints from neighbors' a bark collar can provide the only solution that prevents removal of the dog.

Cons
If not fitted properly the prongs of the bark collar can cause injuries to the dog's neck.
Some dogs will start other nuisance noises such as whining and whimpering as this will not activate the bark collar.
In multi-dog households, bark collars are not effective as they can be set off by another dog barking and even cause fighting.
Bark collars don't discriminate between nuisance and legitimate barking.
Some dogs may become 'collar wise' and continue barking when not wearing the collar.

Read more: Dealing with barking dogs

The reasons why dogs bark are as many and varied as the methods of dealing with it. The best way of preventing any problem behaviors in dogs is to start off by giving them regular daily exercise and ongoing training so they know what is expected and what is not acceptable. One dog expert describes training a dog as a way to 'calm their brain' resulting in more settled animal that is less inclined to react to everything.

Dogs are social animals and like to be with us on a daily basis so a commitment to time with your pet is essential. An unexercised, untrained dog with no company is highly likely to bark constantly - although in this situation I would recommend a new owner rather than a bark collar.

Bark collars are an effective means of training but should be only be used when conventional training methods have failed and the behavioral needs of the dog have been met.

What are your thoughts on bark collars? Share your opinion in the comments section below.

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 22 Sep 2014 22:18:37 Processing Time: 17ms