If you are reading this article, you are most likely considering purchasing a dog silencer. Dogs are loving, caring, and sensitive animals that will go to any lengths to show you how much they love you. In doing so, they tend to make a lot of noise. Dogs bark frequently and have a rowdy and loud nature. You might love your dog being loud, but the people around you might feel disturbed or uncomfortable with all this noise. For this, various kinds of dog silencers are available in the market.
Don’t worry! These silencers for dogs are not cruel objects of torture. They are environmentally friendly and painless ways of curbing all the noise your dog makes to ensure a peaceful, well-settled environment at home. However, it is important to be aware that some may cause discomfort and most use a form of negative reinforcement to curb your dog’s barking. Barking always has a reason behind it, so attempt to understand this prior.
A dog silencer works exactly according to its name. It is a device that comes in various shapes and sizes and uses methods such as ultrasonic technology to emit waves that calm your dog down and reduce loud and disruptive barking. Dog silencers are also known as anti-barking devices. There are various kinds of silencers for dogs available in the market. These include citronella spray bark collars that use spray technology to calm your dog down.
However, citronella collars have a very low success rate and usually only work on smaller dogs. They are also affected by external factors like the weather and the intensity of the wind. Another type of dog collar is the static collar. This calms your dog down by using static electricity when they bark.
The dog receives a slight shock which then trains them to not bark disruptively. This collar causes no physical harm to your dog but has been criticized for adopting an inhumane method of training and disciplining dogs. Dog silencers that use ultrasonic technology are by far the most effective and humane collars available in the market.
These popular training devices may spell trouble for dogs.
The way we live is often mirrored by how our companion animals live. One example of this the increasing electronification of our dogs and cats. Some of these electronic pet products are arguably quite useful, such as GPS chips in collars and nanny-cams, which can reassure us that our furry friends are okay while were away. Others, such as devices that allow us to video chat with our dog or car and electronic treat-releasers, are inessential but fun. But a whole segment of this electronic market poses significant welfare concerns for dogs and cats.
The commercial pet product market is saturated with electronic training devices. By far the most popular of these and also the most insidious, are electronic shock collars, often euphemistically called “e-collars” (which calls to mind “e-mail” and “e-shopping” and other benign activities).
The e-collar delivers an electric shock to a dog’s neck when a person pushes a remote-control button or when a dog steps over an underground wire “fence.” As electronic shock collars are increasingly understood to be cruel, another line of electronic products is flooding into the e-training niche and being marketed as a “harmless and humane” alternative: ultrasonic collars and “fences.”
What are ultrasonic training devices and how do they work?
These ultrasonic behavior deterrents work by emitting a high-pitched sound when activated. The anti-bark systems detect barking and emit a high-pitched sound in response. The barrier systems involve a collar worn by the dog and a device, which emits a high-pitched sound when it detects the collar within range.
These deterrent devices can be placed in areas around the house (the website for one such product shows a dog, adorned with e-collar, dutifully avoiding the couch), in the vegetable garden, or along the edge of a yard. One of the main selling points of these devices is that the deterrent sounds are inaudible to humans. (Sonic collars, in contrast, emit sounds within our hearing range.)
Manufacturers of these ultrasonic devices typically claim that they are safe and humane. But are they really?
The use of “aversives” on dogs
Is ultrasonic noise aversive to dogs? Of course. This is the basis upon which these products work. A huge literature dating back several decades explores the negative effects of unpleasant and unwanted noise on a wide range of species (including humans).
In laboratory animal behavior studies, ultrasound is one of a range of aversive techniques used to elicit a stress response. A study published as far back as 1990 confirmed that ultrasonic sounds were aversive to dogs (Blackshaw et al. 1990).
These ultrasonic devices should, thus, be classified as “aversives.” This is not how they are typically advertised, but this is how they function. They work by imposing an unpleasant sensory experience and they fall into the category of “positive punishment” — using discomfort to get a dog to behave in a particular way.
The evidence has been accumulating over the past decade that aversive training techniques are less effective than positive reinforcement and that aversive techniques and products can cause lasting psychological harm to dogs. (For a comprehensive review see, for example, Ziv 2017 and G. Fernandes, A.S. Olsson, A. C. Vieira de Castro 2017.)
I asked Rain Jordan, a professional dog trainer, who specializes in helping fearful and traumatized dogs what she thought about ultrasonic training devices. “The sound emitted from the devices is punishing dogs by startling and/or causing discomfort,” she told me in an email.
These devices punish any bark that comes out of a dog’s mouth and can’t discriminate between appropriate/happy/excited barking and “nuisance” barking. Barking is a perfectly normal, even necessary, dog behavior and is only a nuisance relative to human preferences.
When normal behavior is discouraged and suppressed, you “risk either learned helplessness, on the one hand, or aggression without warning on the other.” Dogs wearing e-collars don’t necessarily understand why they are being punished, and even if they do know why, they eventually habituate to the punishment and the “problem” behavior returns. Owners, then, are tempted to up the ante by increasing the volume button on the ultrasonic device or moving to something more extreme, such as a shock collar.
Although U.S.-based animal advocacy organizations do not yet explicitly mention ultrasonic devices, RSPCA Australia has taken a firm stand. In their position statement on the use of shock collars they oppose “the use of collars that deliver aversive stimuli such as sound or scent, including citronella collars and high-pitched sound-emitting devices.” In the second point of their statement, they note: “Electronic anti-barking devices inflict pain and distress on the animal and therefore should not be used.” (See below for their full position statement.)
There are better options
An article on ultrasonic bark collars in Canine Journal describes these devices as “more humane than other bark deterring options.” But why go with something even a little inhumane when you have humane alternatives?
Collaborative work with a dog using good, old-fashioned treats and praise can be mutually enriching, build a strong relationship between human and dog, and help a dog understand what we are asking and us understand how to ask clearly for what we want. The growing consensus among dog trainers is that aversive training techniques are less effective than those based on positive reinforcements such as food rewards, play, praise, and extra love.
We also need to have realistic expectations about what we can ask from our dogs. Dogs bark. Listening to some barking is part of living with a dog. If a dog is barking all the time, it may be that the dog is experiencing frustration and lack of stimulation and we should be looking for the root causes of the barking. Dealing with the problem barking, then, means looking at a dog’s life experience holistically and honestly assessing whether a dog is getting what they need physically, socially, and emotionally.
Here is the relevant section of RSPCA Australias statement:
J.K. Blackshaw, G.E.Cook, P.Harding, C.Day, W.Bates, J.Rose, D. Bramham. Aversive responses of dogs to ultrasonic, sonic and flashing light units. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 25 (1990).
G. Ziv. The effects of using aversive training methods in dogs—A review. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. Volume 19, May–June 2017, Pages 50-60.
G. Fernandes,. A.S. Olsson, A. C. Vieira de Castro. Do aversive-based training methods actually compromise dog welfare? A literature review. Applied Animal Behaviour Science Volume 196, November 2017, Pages 1-12.
Are ultrasonic bark control devices cruel?
Yes, from the research that I have done so far, any bark control device is considered to be cruel because it puts our beloved dog under so much stress repetitively. This might, later on, result in horrific effects, where your dog’s mental and physical health are affected negatively.
So far, the ultrasonic bark control collars and other anti-barking collars are considered to be cruel by RSPCA, which is the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
But, what about the non-collar form of such devices? Well, I believe that the same ruling applies here.
Now that you have a glimpse of why ultrasonic bark control devices are considered to be cruel, let us talk about what they are and whether they are cruel or not. Knowing these things will help us understand more clearly why ultrasonic bark control devices are cruel.
Do Dog Silencers Work Through Walls?
Ultrasonic dog silencers can work through walls because they emit sound waves of a certain frequency. These waves have the potential to travel over a certain distance. This means you can easily calm your neighbor’s dog and reduce their barking.
Other types of silencers do not work through walls. For example, the citronella collar uses spray technology and has to be attached to your dog’s collar. Collars that use static electricity are also attached to your dog’s collar so they can also not reduce barking in dogs across walls.
Do dog silencers hurt dogs?
Are dog Silencers Max humane?