As a proud canine owner, you know that much all too well: dogs will be dogs. They will shed, drool, gnaw on furniture, and knock down expensive crystal home décor. But more so than anything else: they will bark — sometimes, to the point of giving you (and your neighbors) a massive headache.
Enter anti-barking devices. With a little patience and when combined with other training techniques, these handy little gadgets can help curb or even eliminate your dog’s excessive barking once and for all. This guide will tell you all you need to know about:
- Anti-barking devices and how they work
- What some of the best models on the market are
- How to use them to get the best results
However, first things first.
Before we get into any of that, it is vital that you get to the root cause of the problem. Remember: extreme barking is always a symptom of an underlying issue. To address it properly, you need to know what it is that you are dealing with.
Why Does My Dog Bark Excessively?
Some amount of barking is a completely natural (and, quite frankly, inevitable) component of canine behavior. In fact, it is a sign of a healthy and happy dog. If your pooch is not barking at all, chances are there is something wrong with it, and you should seek professional help.
Dogs bark to communicate with each other, humans, and just about any other animal that crosses their path. Barking is their way to greet, express emotions, signal to potential danger, tell you that they are hungry or need a walk, and attract your attention, to name but a few. And it’s all perfectly natural.
However, if your puppy is an excessive barker, it is usually a sign of an underlying problem. In that case, it is always a good idea to get your pet examined by a vet first to see if the barking might be caused by a physiological issue. If your dog is physically healthy, the reasons for its incessant barking may be purely psychological.
The most common reasons for excessive dog barking include:
Territorial or Protective Behavior
The vast majority of dogs are fiercely territorial animals that are biologically hard-wired to protect their pack (i.e., you and your family) and your property. They bark to alert you to potential threats and to ward off what they perceive as trespassers.
Territorial behaviors can be especially pronounced in breeds that were bred to work as guard or herding dogs. Think German and Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, Dobermans, Rottweilers, and the like.
If your dog starts barking excessively every time someone walks by, approaches, or tries to enter your property, the chances are that you are dealing with overzealous protective behavior. That may be a sign that your dog needs more socialization.
Fear-based barking is similar to territorial barking. Dogs that are fearful of certain people, other animals, objects, or places will bark in an attempt to scare the trigger away.
Typically, the barking will stop as soon as the threat goes away — much like territorial barking. Unfortunately, that only reinforces the problematic behavior, as the dog learns that barking helps get rid of the scary trigger.
Every dog owner has had to deal with separation anxiety at one point or another. Separation anxiety is more typical of puppies and younger dogs. However, if the incessant barking continues well into your pet’s adulthood, the behavior may have become chronic.
Unfortunately, separation-anxiety-induced howling is one of the most difficult types of barking to prevent. For one, many owners are not even aware that their dog has a problem because it only barks when they are away. Oftentimes, it is the next-door neighbors that will alert you to the issue.
In addition, separation anxiety is a catch-all for a wide array of emotions: fear, anxiety, over-excitement, attention-seeking, poor self-regulation, and more. That means you would need to adopt a holistic approach that addresses all potential underlying emotions.
And as if that were not enough, separation anxiety often comes hand-in-hand with other unwanted behaviors such as chewing on objects or furniture and eliminating in the house.
Perhaps the one saving grace of separation anxiety is that it is super easy to identify. If your dog barks whenever you leave the property, you can be pretty certain that it is suffering from separation anxiety.
Frustration-induced barking looks and sounds much the same as barking due to separation anxiety. It can be a symptom of a host of unpleasant emotions that your dog is having a hard time dealing with, such as fear, too much excitement, aggression, or anxiety.
That said, there is one major difference between frustration and separation anxiety barking. If your dog is frustrated, it will bark even when you or other members of the household are around. Common triggers of this type of barking are people, other dogs and animals, inanimate objects, loud noises, and meteoritical events such as strong winds or thunder.
If you inadvertently teach your puppy that it will get your attention if it vocalizes, you are in for trouble. As a result, your dog will bark excessively every time it wants to play, go for a walk, or get some love and cuddles.
Note that dogs can (and often do) interpret even negative reactions as positive forms of attention. That means that by yelling “No!” and “Quiet,” you might be giving your pet just what it wants, thereby further reinforcing the behavioral feedback loop.
Not all excessive barking has to do with negative emotions or experiences. Sometimes, your dog may bark at the top of its voice out of sheer happiness, such as when playing its favorite game or socializing with other dogs.
A telltale indication that your puppy is barking out of excitement is that the barking will typically stop as soon as the fun activity is over or the dog gets bored.
How Do You Prevent Excessive Barking?
Incessant barking can be a persistent and deep-rooted problem that requires a holistic approach — as well as time, patience, and a lot of hard work. There are no quick fixes here. To achieve lasting results, you would probably have to adopt a mix of different tools and techniques, including:
- Anti-barking devices
- Ignoring the dog whenever it barks
- Working with a professional trainer
- Addressing any potential health concerns with your vet
Note that you may have to work as hard as your dog here. Usually, a dog’s behavior has a lot to do with its owners’ antics.
Arguably the most important thing you should do is to ignore your dog whenever it barks, especially if it uses it as a way to seek your attention. While this method is easier said than done, it is free of charge and can be quite effective — much like letting a baby cry it out. As soon as your dog stops barking, reward it by giving it attention, pets, or a treat. With some practice, it will eventually learn that you will not respond to its beckoning call.
Another hack that many canine owners swear by is to try to burn off your dog’s pent-up energy. A tired dog is a happy — and quiet — dog. So, take your dog on regular walks and make sure that it gets plenty of exercise every day.
You can also use interactive toys to provide your puppy with mental stimulation and keep it entertained when you are not around. That can distract it from engaging in destructive behaviors and can help lessen any negative emotions.
If your dog is struggling with separation anxiety, consider hiring a dog walker or asking a friend to dog-sit for you. You can also check in your pet to a dog hotel if you will be away for an extended period. At the end of the day, dogs are pack animals and will always crave social interaction.
Check out this video tutorial on a useful training technique that can help get your dog to stop barking excessively:
What About Anti-Barking Devices?
Anti-barking devices can be incredibly useful, but they only target the symptom at the surface level. To change your dog’s behavior for good, you must use them in combination with at least one or more other methods that address the root cause of the problem.
The main thing to remember is that, when it comes to dogs, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Every animal is different and requires a personalized approach. To find out which one works best for your puppy, you may have to go through some trial and error.
What Types of Anti-Barking Devices Are There?
There are a ton of options on the market, but not all were created equal — and some are downright controversial. Here is a roundup of the most popular bark-control devices currently available:
Shock collars can help curb barking, as well as prevent dogs from entering specific areas or engaging in various undesirable behaviors.
When used for bark control, a shock collar will get triggered by the vibration of the barking. As a result, it will send an electric current through two contact points to give your dog an electric shock. That can range from a mild, tickling, and slightly unpleasant sensation to a painful shock. Eventually, the dog learns to associate barking with the electric stimulation and will refrain from vocalizing to avoid it.
It should come as no surprise that shock collars are by far the most controversial form of bark control. Most vets, professional trainers, and canine organizations advise against them. According to the Humane Society, shock collars are often misused and can induce fear, aggression, and anxiety. That only reinforces problematic behaviors and can endanger the health and safety of both the dog and the people around it.
The good news is that more and more companies and retailers have started to pull shock collars from the shelves in favor of more humane devices.
For more information on dog collars, check out this video:
Citronella Bark Collars
Citronella bark collars are a toned-down version of shock collars. When triggered by the vibrations of the dog’s bark, these devices emit a strong citronella scent that most dogs find quite offensive. While unpleasant, the substance is entirely safe for both pets and humans.
For more details, check out this user roadtest of a citronella bark collar:
Plug-in diffusers help calm anxious or excited dogs by emitting a soothing pheromone. The scent mimics the one released by nursing female dogs. All you have to do is plug the device in an electric outlet as you would a regular home air freshener.
One thing to note here is that plug-in diffusers work best in smaller spaces. In addition, you would need a separate device for every room of your house.
Pheromone sprays work just like plug-in diffusers. The only difference is that instead of plugging them in an outlet, you use them to spray your dog’s bedding and their favorite blankets and fluffy toys.
Ultrasonic Anti-Bark Devices
Ultrasonic devices are the most advanced (and, arguably, the most effective) form of bark control at the moment. While they come in all shapes and forms, they all utilize the same modus operandi. As soon as the device detects a bark, it will emit a high-pitched tone. The sudden sound distracts your dog and stuns it into blessed silence.
This method works surprisingly well. The secret behind its success lies in dogs’ hearing, which is substantially better than that of humans. While you will not be able to pick up the high-pitched sound emitted from the ultrasonic device, your dog will — and will find it very unpleasant. Over time, it will do the math: barking equals annoying noise.
Are Ultrasonic Anti-Bark Devices Safe?
As always, opinions on this matter vary. Some vets and professional dog trainers believe that ultrasonic devices, much like other aversion-training tools, startle dogs and can make them more anxious and fearful. In addition, ultrasonic devices cannot distinguish excessive from regular barking. That may result in learned helplessness and under-socialized and uncommunicative dogs.
In contrast, many reputable pet organizations and brands such as PetSafe claim that there is no evidence that ultrasonic devices can cause long-term damage.
The truth probably lies somewhere in between. If used in moderation and as intended, ultrasonic devices can help curb excessive barking and eliminate unwanted behaviors.
In any case, they are a much safer and more humane alternative to shock collars. They are also more effective than pheromone diffusers and sprays. A study by PetSafe found that ultrasonic collars helped reduce the barking of all dogs in the test group. The animals ranged from 8lbs to 110lbs in size.
Who Should Avoid Ultrasonic Anti-Bark Devices?
Whether or not ultrasonic devices are a good match for your pet depends largely on your dog. Before investing in an anti-bark device, be sure to answer the following questions:
Is My Dog Hard of Hearing or Elderly?
An ultrasonic device will be of no use if your dog is unable to hear the high-pitched tone. Dogs that are hard of hearing or elderly are unlikely to benefit from this technique. Even if they do register the sound, it will be too dulled down to startle them.
Does My Dog Scare Easily?
If your dog gets frightened easily and its incessant barking is fear-induced, an ultrasonic device is likely to make things worse. Your pet will get even more spooked by the unexpected high-pitched tone. As a result, it may react by intensifying its barking in an attempt to escape or scare the threat away.
Is My Dog Likely to Try to Outbark the Device?
Some dogs react to what they perceive as threatening loud or high-pitched noises by trying to outbark them into silence. If you have noticed similar behavior in your pet, an ultrasonic device might not be an effective deterrent. In fact, it could make the barking even worse.
However, an alternative explanation for such behavior could be that your dog is simply not hearing the ultrasonic sound because it is out of its range. To prevent that, make sure to position a number of devices strategically around your property and double-check their maximum range.
Types of Ultrasonic Anti-Bark Devices
Indoor ultrasonic devices are small- to medium-sized, so it shouldn’t be hard to find a place for them in most rooms. They come in all shapes and sizes but are typically rectangular- or teardrop-shaped. The colors vary, but most can easily blend in with your décor to prevent a curious dog from messing with them.
Each device comes with a unique range, so be sure to get one that can cover the largest surface area on your property.
Indoor devices are usually automatically activated whenever your dog is within range. However, some can also be operated manually to give you more control.
These devices are battery-powered, so be sure to turn them off when not in use to prolong battery life. How long the battery lasts will depend on how often your dog barks.
Bear in mind that ultrasonic sound cannot travel through walls, so you may need to buy multiple devices if you want to cover multiple rooms.
If you have a garden or a backyard, it is a good idea to also get an outdoor device. These look like birdhouses or yard decorations and can add to the curb appeal of your property.
Outdoor ultrasonic devices work much like their indoor counterparts, with the only exception that they have longer ranges and are more durable and weather-proof.
One thing to note here is that an outdoor device may be heard by your neighbors’ pets, too, so make sure to talk it over with your neighbors and get their consent.
For a review of an outdoor ultrasonic device, check out this video:
Indoor and outdoor ultrasonic devices can help control your dog’s barking when you are at home, but what about when you take your pet on a walk?
This is where handheld devices come in. They are compact, lightweight, portable, and fit in the palm of your hand. You can take them anywhere you and your dog go — in the park, at the beach, on a camping trip, or on a stroll downtown.
Most handheld devices also come with an adjustable strap or lanyard that you can use to secure the device to your arm safely.
The only thing to keep in mind here is that handheld devices are not automatic. They are activated with the click of a button, which means that you would have to stay vigilant and correct your dog’s behavior on the go. You would also have to stay in close proximity to your dog, as the range of the device may not be enough to reach your dog if it dashes off into the distance.
Last but not least, we have ultrasonic collars. These are similar to shock and citronella collars: as soon as they are triggered by the dog’s barking, they will emit a high-pitched sound.
This is made possible thanks to a small, battery-powered ultrasonic box. It can be attached to your dog’s existing collar, or you can buy a ready-to-use pre-assembled collar.
Like handheld devices, ultrasonic collars can help control barking whenever you and your pet are out and about. Unlike handheld devices, however, ultrasonic collars are automated and require no effort on your part other than replacing the batteries every once in a while.
Perhaps the best thing about ultrasonic collars is that you can use some models for both positive and negative reinforcement. To encourage desirable behaviors, you can have the collar emit a positive tone similar to that of a clicker.
The one downside to both ultrasonic collars and handheld devices is that they can disturb other animals in the vicinity of your dog. This is something you should consider if you intend to use these devices in the park or in a shared training area.
The Bottom Line
No one knows your dog better than you. Take the time to investigate the possible root causes of its excessive barking and try out different bark-control strategies to find the formula that works best for you and your pet. A strategic combination of anti-bark devices, training techniques, and positive reinforcement can do wonders.
And, at the end of the day, remember that barking is a perfectly natural canine behavior — you will never be able to get rid of it completely, and neither should you try to.