There are some products on the market that are aimed at preventing dogs from barking such as sound collars (collars that emit a high-pitched sound when the dog barks), electronic collars (collars that deliver an electric shock to the dog when it barks) and citronella collars (collars that spray the dog’s face with citronella scent when it barks). RSPCA Australia is opposed to the use of these devices.
RSPCA Australia is opposed to the use of any electronically activated or other devices which deliver electric shocks, such as anti-barking collars and invisible boundaries. Such devices are inhumane as they inflict pain, involve punishment and can be used to abuse animals. RSPCA Australia is also opposed to the use of collars that deliver aversive stimuli such as sound or scent, including citronella collars and high-pitched sound-emitting devices.
- This type of training is called 'punishment' as the dog is effectively punished by the collar for every bark. Punishment, as a method of training, is often ineffective as dogs often do not associate the punishment (the citronella spray, sound or shock) with the behaviour. Positive reinforcement is a preferable training technique as it provides an incentive for desirable behaviour. In this case, you would reward your dog when he stops barking and remains quiet, by offering her a tasty treat or play with a favourite toy. Food treats are good to start with but as training progresses your dog should recognise verbal praise and a pat as a treat.
- Electronic anti-barking devices inflict pain and distress on the animal and therefore should not be used.
- This type of behavioural modification does not tend to be successful because it fails to address the underlying cause of the behaviour. Dogs bark for many reasons: play, fear, separation anxiety, frustration, environmental factors, boredom etc. These devices will not necessarily solve the underlying cause of the barking and will only temporarily mask the problem.
- Scientific evidence shows that dogs will eventually habituate to the collar and barking will resume again.
- Sometimes it is appropriate for dogs to bark (e.g. as a means of communication) in which case the collar punishes them for normal behaviour. Because the collar does not discriminate between problem barking and normal canine behaviour, there is a potential for abuse if the collar is routinely left on for too long.
- Dogs have far more sensitive noses than we do, and therefore what we may smell as a relatively nice citrus smell, can be overpowering for a dog.
The treatment of nuisance behaviours such as excessive barking should begin by determining the root cause of the problem and then attempting to address the underlying cause humanely.
Talk to your veterinarian, they can provide advice and may refer you to a reputable animal behaviourist (who uses reward-based training methods) to assess the behaviour and provide advice on how best to humanely manage and address it.