I’ll never forget the day I came home from work to find a note hanging from my front door: “Your dog is driving me crazy, please do something.”
Apparently, to my surprise, my poor neighbors had endured countless days of incessant howling and barking. My dog was showing classic signs of separation anxiety.
Like most dog owners, I was completely unaware of my pup’s unfortunate behavior. While I was home, my dog was quiet, composed and perfectly content with cuddling up to watch the latest season of Dog Whisperer. The minute I left the house, he immediately switched gears and turned into a neighborhood menace.
I knew that curbing his separation anxiety would take time, training, and a lot of patience. However, I didn’t know how much time I had before my neighbors rallied to remove me from the community. I had to find a quick solution to the loudest part of the problem – the barking – while I worked on the deep-rooted issues.
That’s when I discovered that there are a ton of options out there for people and pups, just like me!
If you’re struggling with an excessive barker, you’re not alone. Thankfully, there are a variety of bark control options that you can use, including ultrasonic bark control devices, to help reduce your dog’s pesky barking behaviors. Our top ultrasonic bark control device is the Bark Silencer.
Dogs will be dogs, which means they’re always going to bark. Vocalizing is how dogs communicate with each other and with you! However, there’s a big difference between your average barker and an incessant barker.
It’s impossible to isolate a specific reason a dog is barking, but generally, they fall into one of these six categories: attention-seeking, territorial, separation anxiety, frustration, fear, and excitement.
If I had to guess this beautiful would bark for attention : ) : Adam W
Somewhere along the line, your dog has learned that if they bark, they’ll get your attention. Whether you respond positively or negatively, when your dog wants to play, go outside, or just wants extra love, they know that barking will gain your attention.
Ironically, even by yelling “quiet!” from across the room, you’re inadvertent reinforcing the barking behavior by acknowledging the dog and giving them your attention.
It’s normal for your dog to feel compelled to protect you and your property. This is especially true for certain breeds that were originally bred to guard or a ‘herd.’
So, if someone is walking by, approaching, or trying to enter an area that they consider their territory (home, backyard, etc.) or they perceive them as a threat to you (their pack), they’ll bark to alert you of the threat. According to ASPCA, dogs that bark territorially will also signal to a potential trespasser that it isn’t a good idea to enter their property.
In most cases, the barking will stop once the threat has diminished. However, similar to attention-seeking barking, this type of barking is reinforced if the person or object is removed.
Separation anxiety is one of the more common reasons that dogs bark excessively. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest types of barking to prevent because you’re not there to witness it! It takes a great deal of time and patience to remedy, but I can assure you that it is possible with the right tools and training.
To add insult to injury, separation anxiety is usually coupled with other challenging behaviors like eliminating in the house or destroying objects or furniture. If there’s a positive to separation anxiety, it’s that it’s usually pretty easy to recognize.
When a dog has separation anxiety they are feeling a wide variety of emotions and fall into just about every category mentioned on this list. They’re afraid, anxious, overly excited, looking for attention and cannot control their behavior.
Dogs that bark out of frustration demonstrate similar behaviors as dogs that have separation anxiety. The key difference is that they do so whether or not you’re present. Have you ever been walking your dog and they suddenly go bonkers and start barking at inanimate objects, dogs, or people?
If so, you may have a frustrated or anxious dog. Keep in mind, similar traits can be present in dogs that are fearful, excited, or aggressive. It’s important to seek professional advice if you’re unsure why your dog is barking excessively.
A fear-based bark can be similar (if not the same) as a territorial bark. If your dog is uncertain about a person, place, or object, they’ll usually bark because they’re hoping that vocalizing will deter the unfamiliar object/person from approaching them or their territory.
When I’m playing my dog’s favorite game – fetch – he gets so excited that he will literally bark at me to throw the ball. Excitement can manifest itself in a number of ways, but barking is the most common way dogs communicate their excitement. If the barking stops once the fun activity is over, chances are you have an excited barker.
So, now you know why your dog barks but you’re probably wondering what you can do about it. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every dog, but there are a lot of options available.
You may find that one of the methods listed below will work beautifully for your dog, but it’s always recommended that you seek professional guidance from a veterinarian and use these tools in addition to training.
While these methods or products have worked wonders for dog owners struggling with barking issues, some just simply don’t work for others. Remember that no method or product is a one size fits all solution and that there is really no product that will magically(or instantly) solve all of the problems you are having with your dog. Our main recommendation would be to try multiple methods and see what works best for you and your dog.
Keep in mind that the actual sound of barking shouldn’t be the issue that you’re focusing on. You should be focusing on the underlying issues that are causing your dog to be an overactive barker.
This method is a lot easier said than done. The good news, is it’s free. The bad news, it’s hard! Ignoring your pup can feel a lot like letting a baby cry. Not only do you want to comfort your dog, but you also want to stop them from barking and your natural response is to do something.
According to the Humane Society, allowing your dog to bark it out reinforces that you won’t come to their beckoning call. I learned the hard way, that this is especially true for dogs that are barking due to separation anxiety or to get your attention.
Remember, this will not work for all dogs and should be used in addition to other methods of training. I recommend talking to your vet or a trainer to find out if ignoring your pup is the way to go.
Plug-in diffusers are one of the newer methods on the market to calm an anxious or excited dog. Though I haven’t personally tried a diffuser, I’ve put special pheromone calming sprays on a blanket to keep my dog calm during fireworks and it worked like a charm.
Diffusers are plugged into an outlet, much like an air freshener, and periodically emit a soothing, natural pheromone that is meant to replicate the pheromones a mother releases during nursing. If strategically placed throughout your home, a plug-in diffuser will calm your anxious or destructive dog.
Plug-in diffusers work best for dogs that are confined to smaller spaces because if they don’t breathe in the pheromone it will have little to no effect on them.
When I found out my dog had separation anxiety, this was the first recommendation I received from friends and family. A citronella bark collar is sort of a hybrid between a diffuser and a shock collar. In my opinion, it is more humane than a shock collar and offers more mobility than a diffuser.
Similar to a shock collar, the citronella bark collar is triggered by the vibrations of your dog’s bark. However, instead of a shock, the collar emits a pet-safe citronella substance that is intended to deter your dog from barking.
Believe it or not, this is what stopped my incessant barker in his tracks. In fact, after just a few times wearing the collar, I was able to put it on my dog without turning it on and he wouldn’t bark.
A shock collar is certainly one of the more controversial methods to deter unwanted barking behaviors. Here at Natural Dog Owner, we’re against the use of them. You can read about our stance on shock collars here.
Shock collars work in a similar way as a citronella bark collar, but instead of a spray, they use an electric stimulation between two points on the collar to shock your dog when they bark.
These collars are an aversive training method, which means your dog will not like the feeling and want to stop barking to prevent the shock. Shock collars are used on a variety of unwanted behaviors, not just barking.
So, you might be asking yourself, what exactly is an ultrasonic bark control, and is it safe? When I first heard the word ‘ultrasonic’ I assumed these devices were complex shock collars. However, this type of bark control is surprisingly simple and differs significantly from a shock collar.
Ultrasonic bark devices work like this: Your dog barks, the device detects the bark and immediately emits a high pitch tone that is intended to distract your dog and stop their barking.
Because your dog’s hearing is substantially better than human hearing, the pitch of the tone is heard only by your dog. It’s also very unpleasant for them. They stop barking and the device stops emitting the sound. Over time your dog will recognize that barking equals an unpleasant high pitch tone, so they won’t bark unless it’s important.
There are varying opinions on whether or not these products are safe for pets. However, reputable pet brands like PetSafe have completed safety-related research on a variety of dogs to make sure their products are safe for all dogs.
There are also a variety of ultrasonic devices available and you’ll want to find the right type of device for your pup; After all, you know your dog best!
This device is the Sunbeam Little Sonic Egg and we have a full review of it below.
Indoor devices are small to medium-sized teardrops or rectangular-shaped objects that are meant to deter your indoor dog from barking.
They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, so if you have a curious pup or are looking to camouflage the device with your décor, you should be able to do so with ease. Each device has a unique range, which determines how far away the dog can be to trigger the device.
Generally, these devices are set to automatically activate when a dog is within range, but some have a manual feature that provides more control. Indoor ultrasonic devices are also battery powered and how long they last will depend considerably on how often your dog barks. You’ll also want to turn the device off when it’s not being used, to conserve battery and keep your pup from being desensitized to the tone.
Keep in mind that more than one device may be necessary if your excessive barker has free reign over the house – the ultrasonic sound cannot travel through walls. You’ll also want to read the instructions on how to set up the device, to make sure it works properly
Some indoor devices will also fall into the ‘handheld’ device category due to their small size. However, there are also ultrasonic bark control devices that will fit in the palm of your hand.
These smaller devices are meant to deter your pup from barking anytime, anywhere. Handheld devices usually come with a lanyard or strap to secure the device to your arm, so they can easily be taken on walks or a trip to the park.
Unlike indoor ultrasonic devices, handheld devices are manually controlled by you and can be activated with a click of a button.
Similar to indoor devices, the range of these devices varies, so you’ll want to consider the activity or environment you’ll be using the device in to make sure it’s effective for your pup.
Ultrasonic Bark collars are similar to both citronella and shock collars, in that they can be worn and are triggered by the vibrations of your dog barking.
However, bark collars emit a high-pitched noise, much like other ultrasonic devices, rather than producing a shock or spray. A small battery-powered ultrasonic box can be placed on your dog’s existing collar or you can find a pre-assembled collar sized for your dog.
Interestingly, there are ultrasonic collars that are intended for both positive and negative reinforcement. So, if you’re trying to reinforce positive behaviors like “sit,” you can emit a positive tone, much like a clicker, to signal to your dog that they’re doing the right thing.
Ultrasonic collars are much more discreet than other collars on the market because only your dog can hear the noise. However, if you’re in close proximity to other dogs, they will also be able to hear the high-pitched tone. This is important to consider if you’re out at the park or in a training environment with other dogs. While you may be signaling to your dog to stop unwanted behavior, you may be disturbing a dog in close proximity.
If my neighbors were aware of ultrasonic outdoor devices during my dog’s separation anxiety dilemma, I’m sure they would have invested in one.
At first glance, outdoor ultrasonic devices look like cute little yard decorations or birdhouses, so your unsuspecting pup won’t know that they actually emit an ultrasonic tone. These devices work in a similar way as their indoor counterparts, except they generally offer a longer range and are more durable to withstand the elements.
These are more common for neighbors that have no control over their neighbor’s barking dogs or dogs that are left outside for extended periods of time. Similar to ultrasonic collars, your dog (or your neighbor’s dog) may not be the only pets that hear the high-pitched tone, so it’s important to use discretion when considering this option.
Here’s a great video from Living On A Dime where they give a great honest look at these devices, how they work and how effective they are.
The answer to this question is complicated because it depends on the dog, but the majority of dogs will reduce or eliminate their barking with the use of an ultrasonic device. This study by Petsafe.net showed that all dogs in their test group, which ranged in size from 8lbs to 110lbs, reduced their barking with the use of an ultrasonic collar.
There are, however, a few things you’ll want to consider before purchasing a device for your canine.
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.
What They Do: Toys are great for distracting your dog from barking triggers. They also provide mental stimulation and help conquer boredom. Look for boredom-busting dog toy varieties you can stuff with kibble or other food that require your dog to work to get at the treats inside.
What They Do: Noise making machines produce high-pitched sounds in response to barking. The noise is ultrasonic, meaning humans can’t hear it, but dogs can. The tone annoys them, so it acts as a correction, and it stops when the barking stops. Therefore, your dog will learn that barking brings on the noise and silence makes it go away.
Successful approaches to nuisance barking will vary based on the dog’s motivation. For example, an anxious barker with separation anxiety needs to learn to feel comfortable alone whereas a bored barker needs mental stimulation and physical exercise. But dealing with these issues can take time. In the interim, there are many options to help keep your dog quiet while you work on the underlying problem.
You can also use positive reinforcement to train alternative behaviors, preferably ones that are incompatible with barking. For example, your dog can’t bark with a ball in his or her mouth. So, if the doorbell triggers your dog’s barking, teach your dog that the doorbell means go get your ball so we can play fetch. You can also train calm behaviors, like lying on a mat, that are emotionally incompatible with the revved-up excitement of a barking frenzy.
What It Does: Although the devices above can curb your dog’s barking, they don’t let your dog know what behavior to do instead. By rewarding the actions you would rather see, you can influence your dog’s future behavior. This is known as positive reinforcement training. Ignore your dog’s attention-seeking barks yet lavish love, cuddles, treats, and toys for sitting silently, and you will soon have a much quieter dog.
It’s important to note that anti-bark devices work best alongside other training techniques to change a dog’s behavior. This article reviews examples of anti-bark devices, how to use them, and alternatives to anti-bark devices. The reason why your dog may be barking excessively may be due to an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Even the best anti-bark devices may not stop the unwanted behavior if another issue needs to be resolved. Keep reading to learn these issues and other ways to solve them.
Anti-bark devices are a safe way to control unwanted behavior. However, they should only be used as a deterrent to excessive barking. They should not be used to stop all barking – you’ll end up doing more harm than good. Some pet owners may find it useful to consult with their vet about the appropriate device to get for their dog. It is also advisable to use the anti-bark device when you’re around. For instance, if your dog has separation anxiety, leaving him at home alone with the shock collar may cause more problems such as trauma.
Anti-bark shock collars use a small electric current to prevent your dog from barking. The shock is sharp enough to surprise your dog from barking, but it doesn’t harm your dog. They are usually considered a humane bark deterrent, but if not used carefully, some owners report that they can make dogs more aggressive.
As much as it is dog’s nature to bark, too much of it is quite annoying. Anti-bark devices were invented as a deterrent to this habit. Despite there being a debate about whether they are humane or not, the devices do work when used appropriately. They are not meant to stop barking. They are meant to stop excessive barking. There are three types; those that use ultrasonic sound, shock, and citronella. You can choose any that works for you. However, if you don’t care to use the devices, you can use exercise, socialization and obedience training to deal with the underlying issues that your dog may be facing.
The most effective remedy to boredom is exercise. You can take your dog on regular walks, get a dog treadmill, or even use a dog ball launcher, to burn off the excessive energy from your pup. This will deter him from engaging in other destructive habits like chewing furniture, running away and jumping on people.
Do ultrasonic devices stop dogs barking?
The tone annoys them, so it acts as a correction, and it stops when the barking stops. Therefore, your dog will learn that barking brings on the noise and silence makes it go away. These devices come in both indoor and outdoor versions.
Do vets recommend anti barking devices?
Do ultrasonic dog barking deterrents work through walls?