How to Choose an Anti-Bark Collar for Your Dog
Why I Chose to Use an Anti-Bark Collar on My Dog
Maybe you're like countless dog owners around the world who have a dog who just won't stop barking when it is told to. In spite of trying everything you could possibly try, you have probably thought about using an anti-bark collar on your dog but have hesitated to do so because of their reputation as a cruel and inhumane form of punishment.
While this reputation may have been deserved (the U.S. Center for Veterinary Medicine started to take regulatory actions against devices in 1980), things have certainly changed, and today, collars are manufactured with more quality in mind. There are ultrasonic and spray collars that pose fewer risks towards dogs, but above all, you should exhaust all other options before resorting to a static-pulse collar as they do carry risks.
Have You Exhausted All Other Options?
Before you resort to using an anti-bark collar on your dog, have you:
- Discussed your dog's behaviour issues with a vet?
- Removed the barking stimulus?
- Consulted a veterinary behaviourist?
- Done your research on the 'safest' products?
Many people have reported that when these collars are used correctly from the start, their dog learned to stop barking after just a few uses. That was certainly true for my dog, an excitable Border Collie who just wouldn't stop barking when he wanted attention. We used a static-pulse anti-bark collar for him and after just a couple of uses, he learned to stop barking as soon as we put the collar on him.
Types of Anti-Bark Collars
Now, before you rush off to buy one, let me just share a few bits of advice about what to look for in one because they're not all made the same and some are definitely safer than others. Types of anti-bark collars:
- Ultrasonic collars
- Spray collars
- Static-pulse collars
Ultrasonic Collar Demonstration
1. Ultrasonic Collars: The Safesty Type
Ultrasonic collars or "sonic" collars work by emitting an ultrasonic sound at a frequency that only your dog can hear. When your dog hears the sound, he stops barking. The sound is said to be unpleasant to dogs. These types of systems also come in a stationary form, where you place them at certain spots where your dog tends to bark more, such as a gate or front door.
These systems may not as effective as the other two. My neighbours a few years ago (we have moved since) actually tried this sort of collar on their Golden Retriever for a while and then gave up because the sound was audible to humans (even though it claimed not to be), but also because the dog would continue to bark through it.
Spray Collar Demonstration
2. Spray Collars: Humane but Effectiveness Varies
Spray collars are probably the second most effective type of anti-bark collar, and they work by emitting an unpleasant-smelling spray towards your dog's snout whenever he barks. They usually emit a lemon or citronella-based spray.
These aren't always effective because many dogs learn to tolerate the odour of the spray. Another couple of downsides are that anyone near the dog will also be subjected to the unpleasant odour and spray cans might need to be replaced quite frequently, adding extra costs to the initial cost of the collar. I've also read that the batteries run out fast and can be hard to replace and sometimes the spray devices leak.
Static-Pulse Collar Demonstration
3. Static-Pulse Collars: Most Controversial
Static-pulse collars are the most controversial. They work by delivering a static pulse to your dog whenever he barks. Most of them come with several levels of correction that can be adjusted as necessary. Some of them even come with a warning beep that is emitted when your dog starts barking. We used a static-pulse collar on our dog and it was very effective.
These collars are banned in several countries and regions throughout the world as electrical burns have been reported. Injuries are hard to detect under fur, and humidity and coat density affect shock delivery and intensity; dogs also have different pain tolerances. Sometimes collars can be activated by car horns or similar loud noises.
In terms of manufacturing, the testing of products across suppliers has not been standardized, which allows for a large margin of unreliability like collar failure and malfunction. Not to mention, the use of static-pulse collars does not resolve the causes behind the behaviour and barking.
Knowing What to Look for Could Save You Money
Once you've decided which type of anti-bark collar you want to get, you need to know how to choose a good-quality one that will do the job.
Tips for Buying an Ultrasonic Collar
- Check for an adjustable collar.
- Check that the sound is indeed inaudible to humans by testing it out at the store. If you can't do this, e.g. you're buying a collar online, check that it comes with a money-back guarantee in case it's ineffective.
- If a collar isn't guaranteed for performance, then I wouldn't buy it. It's a clear sign that the manufacturer doesn't have confidence in their product.
Tips for Buying a Spray Collar
- Look for an adjustable collar or one made for your dog's size. This is important because you want the spray to go towards your dog's nose, not his eyes or in some other direction where it won't be as effective.
- Look for a collar that comes with an all-natural spray or a low-allergenic or low-irritant spray. You don't want your dog inhaling toxic or irritating chemical fumes.
- Take your dog with you to the pet store to see if you can try the spray on him to judge his reaction; if you can't do this, find out if you can get your money back if the spray isn't effective on him.
- Look for one that comes with a warranty or even better, a no-satisfaction money-back guarantee.
A Dog Reacts to a Static-Pulse Collar
Tips for Buying a Static-Pulse Collar
- Get one that is appropriate for the size of your dog or one that is adjustable. It's a good idea to discuss this with the retailer you want to buy a collar from. Some are made for particular sizes; others have adjustable collars and come with different sets of probes or sensors for pets with thicker coats. Personally, I preferred to buy one that was made for my dog's size.
- Make sure it has different levels of correction. Depending on your dog's size and thickness of fur, the level of correction might need to be adjusted. Always start at the lowest level and increase it until you find a level that is effective.
- Some static pulse collars have sensors that adjust the level of correction automatically and even remember the last level used before the collar was switched off. Our dog has quite a thick coat around his neck, but we only needed to use the lowest level of correction. Look for a collar that has at least 8 levels of correction.
- Look for a collar that has a 'beep' function that acts as a warning to the dog. The dog will soon learn that if he continues to bark after hearing the beep, he will receive a corrective pulse.
- If your dog likes water or there's a chance he might be in the rain when wearing his anti-bark collar, you might want to invest in a waterproof collar so he doesn't get electrocuted.
If your dog likes water or there's a chance he might be in the rain when wearing his anti-bark collar, you might want to invest in a waterproof collar so he doesn't get electrocuted.
- Look for a collar that takes either rechargeable or replaceable batteries and check that they actually come with the collar. Not all collars will come with batteries, so if you're buying one, make sure you'll be able to buy the batteries for it if they don't come with it.
- Look for one that won't be triggered by another dog's barking or similar sounds because you don't want your dog to be repeatedly zapped if another dog is barking nearby. Buy a collar that states that in order it to be triggered, it must be activated by sound AND vibration.
- Look for a collar that comes with a warranty or a no-satisfaction money-back guarantee.
The Collar We Chose
In case you're interested, we bought the Sportdog Rechargeable Big-Large Dog No-Bark-Control Collar SBC-10R for our dog. It works very well on our dog who stops barking the instant he sees one of us coming with the collar in our hand.
Still Unsure? You Wouldn't Be a Caring Pet Owner If You Weren't
Using an anti-bark collar does not make you a bad pet owner. You will find that a quiet dog makes for a happier you and when you're happy, your dog benefits, too. Depending on which type of collar you use and when used correctly (according to user manual instructions) and only when necessary, these collars really aren't as bad as some people would have you believe.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
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