Yes, you read that right. Anti-bark collars increase barking behavior. And you’re probably thinking, “no way, the dog knows when that collar is on and doesn’t bark.” And I tell you…. that is the kicker.
You see punishment is a funny thing. It has a bunch of side effects. One being the punisher needs to be present for the behavior to happen. (Think of driving the speed limit. Do you slow down until you see the speed trap?) The other side of this coin is once the punisher is not present, the “undesirable” behavior is reinforced automatically. (Once you pass the speed trap, you go right back to speeding.) With this concept being understood we can move on.
Slapping an anti-bark collar on a dog, whether it electrocutes them with a shock, sprays citronella in their face, or makes an ear splitting sound is the punisher. And I’d be hard pressed to find a dog who doesn’t know the collar is the “speed trap.” Ever take that collar off the dog? What happens? Does the dog bark? You bet’cha. And usually with even more gusto. So, is the dog trained at all? Nope. Have you ever been stuck behind pokey the wonder sloth while driving? You know, the huge truck going 10 miles under the speed limit. Let’s pretend you’re behind this slow poke for a good 15 minutes. Who doesn’t hit the gas (no matter the intensity), after he finally turns off the road? Doesn’t it feel good too?
The problem with anti-bark collars (besides, in my opinion, they are down right cruel) is that they don’t train squat. And if you truly understand behavior, you know they actually increase barking problems. Because as soon as you take it off, barking continues.
Barking is never the issue anyway. Barking is always a symptom of an underlying reason. And if you figure out the reason, you get rid of the barking. Don’t treat the cough, treat the cold. Don’t focus on the barking, focus on why the dog is barking.
Reasons such as frustration, fear, anxiety, or aggression are challenging enough, so adding an additional “icky thing” only makes these problem worse. If a dog barks at guests when they enter the house because he’s scared, a good solid spray in the face (or electric shock, or ear pinching sound) doesn’t help. It only proves the dog’s point that people coming in the house cause super annoying, harmful, or additional scary things to happen to him. So don’t be surprised to have a dog flip out and road rage on your guests. And trust me, you want a dog who will warn. You want a dog who will bark first.
If you know of a dog who is already wearing an anti-bark collar, let the owner know they are in for one heck of a behavior burst. So, step one go out and buy yourself some ear plugs. Step two, bring the anti-bark collar to its final resting place and file it away in the round file. Step three, call a trainer.