Canine Corner: Methods of controlling barking analyzed

There are times when one hears about companies selling mechanical devices and collars that emit high pitched or ultrasonic sounds, squirts of citronella, or even worse, bursts of electric shocks.

The prices of these devices vary from around $10 to hundreds of dollars. These people offer clients the easy "push button" option that many of them want — or think they want. So, how does our method to solve barking differ from just fitting a sonic collar or a shock collar?

The difference between what we do and what the collar or electronic devices do is poles apart.

Sonic collars actually emit a high pitched sound when a dog barks, but anything that is purely mechanical can be outsmarted by a dog, and in any case, such a device only addresses barking, and not the cause of barking. Dogs bark for very good reasons — these may not make sense to us, but they make perfect sense to the dog!

Inevitably, when we see a dog that has barking problems, we also see a dog that has other behavioral issues, such as chewing, jumping, pulling on the leash and perhaps even biting.

No mechanical collar or device that makes a high pitched sound in a dog’s ear can provide "leadership" — and that is pivotal to addressing this issue.

We actually tested such a collar for a few days, and ended up with the utterly ridiculous scenario of the dog sitting on the back step making no sound while a big truck noisily approached and the collar was beeping away merrily. The poor dog was just totally confused.

Citronella collars are even worse. The principle of these is that when a dog barks, this toxic (to dogs) substance is sprayed in their face. We have heard from many clients about the problems they experienced with citronella and other mechanical collars.

For instance, citronella fixed their dog’s barking problem quite quickly, but every time their next door neighbor’s dog barked, or the lady next door called her child in from play, the collar went off. She said her dog became a shaking mess of jelly.

One lady told us that her citronella collar caused her dog to develop cancer of the nose.

Another lady told us that her normally placid dog would attack her every time she tried to get the collar on him.

One client told us they could not afford the refills and that their dog would bark like mad until it emptied the reservoir.

Another client told us her dog would turn its head to one side and bark profusely until it emptied the chamber, and then happily bark all day.

So, in summary, whilst mechanical collars do work on the very sensitive, easy to control dogs, they fail to either diagnose the cause of barking or provide any of the leadership necessary, thus only adding to the dog’s anxiety.

Remember also "dogs learn by association" and you have to ask yourself, do you want your dog associating you with pain? I think not.

Finally, just a thought on the most grotesque solution proposed for dealing with barking, and that is surgical de-barking, ie removal of the dog’s vocal chords.

Naples is blessed with many fine and ethical vets, and I have yet to come across one who will agree to conduct this brutal act on a barking dog. While they may have the surgical skills to perform such a procedure, any vet who really cares about the animals, and wants to sleep at night, will tell you it is a behavioral issue, and refer you to a competent trainer or dog behavioral therapist who will solve your problem in a much more humane, and less expensive, manner.

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Colin Glass is the dog behavioral therapist and trainer in Collier County for Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog training company. Bark Busters trainers, who have trained more than 500,000 dogs worldwide, are renowned authorities in correcting dog behavior with all-natural, dog-friendly methods. For more information, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit www.BarkBusters.com.

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