There are many high-frequency devices on the market nowadays to stop dog barking. Whether you own a dog who barks a lot or you are tired of dogs barking their heads off when you walk in your neighborhood, you may have at some time felt tempted in purchasing such items. Knowing how they work is important so to make an informed decision.
The Function of Barking
Purchasing a high-frequency device to stop dog barking can be tempting. A dog's bark is loud and ear-piercing and many people struggle with that. Ironically though, barking is a trait that was inculcated in dogs through selective breeding because it was desirable in the past.
Back in time, when dogs were living on the outskirts of their villages, they would engage in booming barks any time an intruder, human or animal, would approach. The louder the better, considering that it would alert the residents who would set up a defense as needed.
Acting as sentinels, dogs were therefore considered precious guardians preventing the need for human guardians, therefore leaving them with more time and resources to dedicate for other activities.
"This alerting function was clearly one of the motivations for domesticating dogs in the first place" observes Stanley Coren in the book: "The Modern Dog: A Joyful Exploration of How We Live with Dogs Today."
It's a shame though that nowadays, with more and more dogs kept as pets, dog barking is considered more of a nuisance than anything. Many people think that dogs bark mostly to irritate us. Countless people therefore search ways to stop dogs from barking even if these ways may not be animal-friendly.
"Barking and the use of body language are important means by which dogs communicate. Vocal sounds and body language are used by all sorts of animals and people to express a wide variety of needs and emotions. Communication is necessary to be able to live together in a relationship with minimal conflicts and to be able to understand each other well" explains Norwegian dog expert Turid Rugass in her book: "Barking, The Sound of a Language."
A Look Under the Hood
So how to high-frequency devices to stop dog barking work? Most of them work by emitting a loud, high-pitched sound that dogs can hear, but humans can't. The main objective of such devices is to startle the dog so that he stops barking.
There are two main types of high-frequency devices. One type comes under the form of a collar that emits a high-pitched sound when the dog barks, the other is a type of remote control device that allows people to emit the sound (which can be heard from a certain distance) at the push of a button.
It is therefore tempting for dog owners to purchase such devices to stop their own dogs from barking. Walkers, joggers, cyclists, delivery and utility workers as well as people annoyed by the neighbor's dogs barking, may also be drawn to high-frequency devices to stop dog barking.
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While advertised as painless, such devices therefore mainly work by startling dogs. They are punishment-based tools meant to suppress behaviors without tackling the underlying causes for barking.
The Problem With Such Devices
Despite being advertised as painless (some compare its startling effect to the reaction to hearing a smoking alarm in humans), one must consider its effects on the dog.
Sure, the dog may not be hurt in a physical way, but the animal can be impacted at an emotional level. If you are planning to use a high-frequency device to stop your own dog from barking, consider that using a device to instill fear in a dog is not a good way to train. It may lead to undesirable consequences that can be far worse than the barking itself.
Yelling or punishing a dog for barking usually leads to the opposite effect. Rather than quieting the dog, it often results in more barking, explains Turid Rugaas.
And if, by any chance, it does succeed in quieting the dog, there can be potential negative side effects such as the dog becoming fearful of the owner (or neighbor), the dog getting more and more anxious and possible afraid of being alone, or even developing chronic stress that may lead to health issues.
The fact that startling sounds can have a negative impact on dogs is something that has been known for some time. A study dating back to 1990 proved that ultrasonic sounds were aversive to dogs, triggering dogs to react aversively and with apprehension.
Now That You Know...
As seen, the use of high-frequency devices to stop dog barking is something to carefully consider. If you own a dog that barks, consider the fallout associated with using an aversive tool as such.
If you plan to use this device towards dogs as you walk, jog or cycle around your neighborhood and dogs bark, consider the negative impact it can have on dogs. Unless you are being attacked by an off-leash dog, there's no real reason for using such devices. Barking is noisy for sure, but there are many other annoying noises such as babies crying at night, children screaming when playing, and neighbors fighting or listening to loud music and no one would ever think of zapping them with a device to make them stop!
It is important for dog owners to learn to listen to their dogs and what they are trying to say. There are many types of barking in dogs. Suppressing barking doesn't do any good. It stops the noise, but doesn't address the underlying emotional turmoil. Perhaps Rover barks because he's lonely, frustrated or under-stimulated. Maybe, he's anxious or fearful.
Dogs also thrive when told what to do rather than what not to do. With praise and rewards we can increase the probability of desirable behaviors.
By addressing the underlying emotions behind your dog's barking, you can address the issue at the root. This allows us to solve problems without the fallout associated with punishment-based tools.