How Do Bark Collars Work?by Brenna Davis
A bark collar is a device used to curb excessive barking. A variety are available, though the most common are collars that deliver a shock every time your dog barks. Some bark collars spray citronella or emit an unpleasant sound instead. While some people have had success using bark collars, these tools can be misused, and many dog trainers and veterinarians believe they can worsen behavior in dogs and cause fear. Only use a bark collar under the supervision of a qualified trainer or veterinarian.
Picking Up Noise
Most bark collars respond to vibrations in the dog's throat. Collar designers test several frequencies to determine which ones sound most like a dog barking, and the collars can only pick up barking that is right against their sensor. The vibrations in the dog's vocal chords trigger the sensor, which emits a shock when the vibrations continue for a set amount of time. Thus a nearby dog barking will not set off the collar, and it is unusual -- although still possible -- for noises that are not barks to cause the collar to emit a correction.
Most collars produce a warning sound or vibration before correcting your dog. The first few times you use the collar, your dog is unlikely to recognize these sounds as warnings, but will gradually develop an association between a tone, a vibration or some other signal and a punishment if the barking does not stop.
If the dog does not stop barking after the collar emits the warning, the collar will deliver a correction. Typically the correction is a mild shock that may increase slightly if the dog continues barking. These collars work using two metal prongs that become mildly charged when they pick up barking. Should the barking continue, they administer a shock. Other collars spray citronella, a scent that is irritating and obnoxious to a dog's sensitive nose. A few collars emit high pitched sounds that are unpleasant and even painful. While the correction may repeat itself a few times if your dog continues barking, most collars are designed not to continually deliver punishments.
While bark collars may work with some dogs, these tools should be a last resort when other training techniques have already failed. Further, because of the dangers these collars pose, they should only be used after consultation with a veterinarian and a dog trainer. Bark collars can cause your dog to develop a fear of collars or generalized fear that may lead to aggression. They can also injure your dog if not used correctly, and very young and very old or sick dogs should never wear bark collars. Perhaps most importantly, a bark collar does not actually train your dog not to bark. It merely stops your dog from barking when he is wearing the collar. In some cases, a dog may continue barking even after the shock is administered, increasing a dog's risk of injury. A trainer can usually help end barking without punishment.
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