It’s 2022 and technology is all around us, it is absolutely no surprise that technology has also filled the lives of our furry companions too. An example of some of these electronic devices is the increasing use of GPS Pet trackers attached to collars which is extremely useful in keeping pets safe and prevent them getting lost. Technologies to help solve problems or make humans lives easier and more comfortable are fast being implemented and enjoyed the world over.
Did you know? Barking is one of the most common reasons dogs are relinquished by their owners. It occurs so frequently that the pet market is flooded with various tools to curb the problem.
However desperate you might be to fix the problem there is a whole host of science and knowledge by experienced trainers that can effectively help reduce your dogs barking. As a responsible pet owner it is best to weigh all effects and methods in totality to effectively and safely train your dog to stop barking.
Training methods – negative actions or positive actions
It is widely acknowledged that there are two core approaches to training – Positive which “rewards” good behaviour with positive influences like a treat or praise. Negative, which “punishes” bad behaviour with a negative input, like saying “NO”.
Positive training methods tend to be longer lasting and more beneficial as a method to stop barking – however as humans our busy lives get in the way of constant and potentially long term training that it becomes difficult to only follow one method. This coupled with the reality that both positive and negative methods often need to be applied simultaneously. Pragmatically you can’t simply decide to only use positive inputs, for example if a dog steals cat food. A dog that commonly associates food with positive will also associate eating the cat food as a good behaviour when in fact it is negative. A positive training method to curb this behaviour is often trickier to implement for regular inexperienced humans than simply saying “NO!” or creating a physical barrier to the food.
Furthermore it becomes a very attractive option to take on a technological solution and walk away from the core underlying problems in the hopes that the problem goes away. Dog owners need to be realistic about what is likely to work and what isn’t.
Why dogs bark
Understanding your dog and why they are barking is a key aspect of solving the core problem. Another key point to remember here is that even though you may regard your dogs barking as “nuisance” barking from their perspective they don’t bark for an unknown reason.
There are many reasons a dog barks. In response to stimuli, like when someone walks past your house or another animal is close to their territory. They also bark when other dogs bark, reinforcing the dog’s territorial response. The territorial response is the most useful barking trait for humans as it offers the greatest form of protection. Dogs will also bark because they have learnt to do so. The best example is in response to your own actions – talking to them, “hyping” them up when you return from work or take them for a walk. In essence it is a response to a specific form of stimuli created by you when giving them attention. This of course goes both ways, if your dog brings you a toy, then barks, and you respond by playing with them then they learn to associate the bark with this activity and over time apply barks to other activities as they’ve learnt how to engage with you using their barking. Lastly dogs who suffer from separation anxiety may also bark as a form of seeking attention. Much like with play they learn that they get attention when they bark however in this case it may be while you’re away at work resulting in many hours of continuous barking.
Another key takeaway is that barking is seen as normal for dogs.
Is all barking bad? Is all barking good?
Problem (nuisance) barking makes up as much as 35% of behavioural problem complaints by dog owners. Barking is clearly a problem for a great many dog owners who also don’t have the tools or knowledge to adequately solve the problem.
Bark Control Study
One study has been concluded which looked at the effects of bark control collars on dogs. Those collars used an electric shock and strong scented spray. The study concluded that either method – shock or spray resulted in significantly reduced barking levels. However the dogs’ stress levels immediately increased on the first day as a result of the stimuli introduced by the collars. This was measured by cortisol levels. Although after the first day and until the study was completed the stress levels in all dogs returned to normal. Stimuli from aversive bark control methods was effective at reducing barking and after the first day all dogs reverted to normal stress levels.
The use of “aversive” triggers on dogs
Ultrasonic sound or simply a sound that is audible to dogs but not humans is not a new method for introducing an input for dogs to trigger a behavioural change nor is the sound necessarily a positive or negative input. A dog whistle for example offers both positive and negative depending on the use of the whistle.
Is ultrasonic noise aversive to dogs? Of course it is. A number of studies have been concluded over many decades that explore the impact sound on a wide range of species (including humans). A good song or jingle has been successfully used to change the behaviour of humans in terms of marketing activities for decades. Simultaneously an unpleasant sound can also change humans behaviour. Also worthwhile to note that it is the association, tone and decibels (how loud it is) that creates the behavioural change rather than a single factor. EG a loud rock concert triggers happiness while a lightning warning siren triggers fear and urgency to react. The loudness of either sound is not the only factor.
Therefore it is simple to note that an aversive sound audible to dogs is capable of changing their behaviour. They work by imposing an unpleasant sensory experience. They fall into a category of “positive punishment” input method is not negative as it doesn’t hurt or discourage the dog directly, however the behaviour is negative. Essentially as the dog barks an unpleasant tone is heard so they stop.
What Is Best for Your Dog?
We also need to have realistic expectations about what we can ask from our dogs. Listening to some barking is part of living with a dog. With any problematic behaviour, it is best to consult an expert to get to the root cause. While your primary objective may be to stop barking you do not want to stop your dog from barking entirely. Barking is a natural behaviour for a dog. With dogs, just as with humans, there is no magic cure for unsavoury behaviour.
Positive reinforcement training always should be the first step in correcting problem behaviours. If the training is unsuccessful, the use of a bark control device should be considered. However training must still be applied for the very best results.
If you do require a device to help you stop you dogs barking we can help. We have an ultrasonic device that is designed to stop barking, effectively and without the need for a collar -> https://www.tailme.co.za/ultrasonic-bark-control/