As a dog behaviorist for over 20 years, I have seen “quick fix” methods come and go. But typically, these devices, like bark collars, only treat the symptoms and do nothing to address the cause of the behavior. Barking, as is the case with most “bad” behaviors, is simply a byproduct of a larger problem. If the root cause of a problem is not addressed, the behavior is certain to continue.

There are many reasons why a dog barks and some of them are perfectly good. If the dog barks at an external stimulus, it will be more effective in the long run to familiarize the dog with what it is barking at. If the barking is due to fear, stress or anxiety, an anti-bark collar, either shock or citronella, will only make the situation worse. The reason is that the dog is receiving negative reinforcement at the exact moment that he is stressed. More stress equals more fear or anxiety and the cycle continues. Even if the e-collar did stop them from barking, it will most likely create a whole new and probably worse problem, the most common of which is self-mutilation. A better result is obtained by teaching the dog to be comfortable in a given situation in which he does not feel the need to bark. But for that to happen, it’s essential to determine why the dog is barking in the first place.

I am strongly opposed to electronic collars on dogs, because I have always been able to solve problems without them. I would never suggest to any of my clients that they give their dog an electric shock or spray their face with a harmful substance. The only type of e-collar that I think is beneficial is a vibrating collar for a deaf dog. This is a way to communicate with the dog if you can’t hear it. It is a kind of ‘soft touch’ to get the dogs attention. Other than that, I find consistent praise based training to be a much more effective training method compared to e-collars.

As a complement to this devocalization, there is another quick fix that just doesn’t make sense. We shouldn’t just cut a dog’s vocal cords any faster than we should use a shock collar to stop them from barking. Dogs must be trained to be comfortable in their environment. My hope is to guide people to help get dogs used to things and not punish them for showing bothersome symptoms. Look at the cause and then work to eliminate it and you will have a lasting and humane solution.