The RSPCA is opposed to the use of anti-barking collars that deliver aversive stimuli such as high-pitched sounds, electric shocks, or citronella. These devices are inhumane as they are designed to deliberately cause suffering [1, 2]. Due to animal welfare concerns, electric shock collars are banned in several Australian states and territories and international jurisdictions.
Anti-barking collars should not be used on dogs for many reasons including:
- They are a form of punishment – Anti-barking collars punish a dog for every bark. Punishment may only make the underlying reasons for the behaviour (e.g., fear, anxiety) worse, reinforce the behaviour, and lead to further problems.
- They punish a dog for performing a normal behaviour – Barking is a normal behaviour in dogs, and there are many instances where barking is entirely appropriate (e.g., greeting, warning of a threat). Anti-barking collars cannot distinguish why a dog is barking, and the dog is punished even when barking is a normal and appropriate behaviour.
- They can be used as tools for deliberate or unwitting animal abuse [2, 3].
- They cause physical discomfort – Smells like citronella can cause physical discomfort (e.g., head shaking, sneezing) and nausea [4, 5], and electric shock collars can cause pain, among other harms. See the Knowledgebase article ‘What are the animal welfare issues with electric shock collars?’ for more information.
- They cause mental harm – The use of electric shock collars is associated with fear, anxiety, phobia, learned helplessness, and damage to the human animal bond . Serious distress reactions to citronella collars have also been recorded including hiding and trembling .
- They can malfunction – Some anti-bark collars can be oversensitive and deliver punishment when a dog just shakes their head, pants, or moves vigorously .
- They can cause habituation – Over time, dogs may habituate to the collar and will suffer the punishment while continuing to bark .
- They fail to address the underlying cause – Dogs bark for different reasons (e.g., they are bored, lonely, scared, frustrated, distressed, or trying to warn of a threat). These reasons generally mean that triggers are present and/or dogs’ mental and physical needs are not being met. Anti-bark collars fail to address the underlying cause of the behaviour.
- There are more humane alternatives – There is no evidence that punishment-based methods are more effective than reward-based methods for animal training. On the contrary, there is evidence indicating that reward-based training is more effective at addressing target behaviour and general obedience, while posing fewer animal welfare risks .
Strategies to adopt
Humane management of excessive barking focuses on identifying and addressing the reasons for the behaviour. For more information see the Knowledgebase article ‘What causes dogs to bark excessively?’.
General steps to reduce the risk of excessive barking include:
- Providing adequate resources (e.g., food, water, sheltered resting places, toys etc.)
- Giving your dog opportunities to exercise, express natural behaviours and engage in stimulating activities (enrichment)
- Removing triggers (e.g., separation from the front fence if triggered by passers-by)
- Ensuring your dog has sufficient social company
- Using reward-based methods to reinforce desirable behaviour
For more information see the Knowledgebase article ‘My dog is barking excessively, what should I do?’, and seek veterinary advice.
 Mejdell CM, Basic D, Bøe KE (2017) A review on the use of electric devices to modify animal behaviour and the impact on animal welfare.
 Masson S, de la Vega S, Gazzano A, Mariti C, Pereira GDG, Halsberghe C, Leyvraz AM, McPeake K, Schoening B (2018) Electronic training devices: Discussion on the pros and cons of their use in dogs as a basis for the position statement of the European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology. Journal of Veterinary Behavior 25:71–75
 Whiting TL (2016) Pain in human and non-human animals caused by electricity. The Canadian Veterinary Journal 57:883–886
 Flint EL (2012) The function, social implications and management of barking in dogs. CABI Reviews 1–8
 Sargisson RJ, Butler R, Elliffe D (2011) An evaluation of the Aboistop citronella-spray collar as a treatment for barking of domestic dogs. Int Sch Res Notices
 Ziv G (2017) The effects of using aversive training methods in dogs—A review. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research 19:50–60