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What is a Bark Collar?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 21, 2024
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A bark collar is a corrective device used to discourage a dog's excessive or inappropriate barking. The dog's owner places the bark collar around the animal's neck and activates a battery-powered unit containing a small microphone. As soon as the dog barks, the microphone activates one of several methods for correction. The goal is to condition the dog to equate excessive barking with immediate negative feedback. No bark collar should cause permanent pain or injury to a pet, and should never be used if the barking is a symptom of fear or separation anxiety.

Dogs bark for a number of reasons- fear, separation anxiety, territorial invasion, response to other dogs, etc. This behavior is instinctual and should rarely be 'trained out' to the point of silence. But many dog owners find themselves at odds with neighbors because of night-time barking or excessive barking during minor events. Keeping a dog's barking under control may require some stronger measures than a squirt gun or shouted commands.

The bark collar considered most humane contains a spray can filled with a citronella-based fluid. When the microphone detects both loud barking and vibration from the dog's throat, a battery-powered sprayer sends out a burst of citronella towards the dog's snout. Dogs find the scent of citronella to be very disagreeable, but the spray won't reach the eyes or burn the skin. Dogs wearing a citronella-based bark collar soon make the connection between loud barking and a dose of foul-smelling spray.

A second form of negative reinforcement is static electricity. This is perhaps the most controversial form of bark collar sold today. A pair of rechargeable 6 volt batteries lead to a set of metal probes on the collar itself. The owner can adjust the level of stimulus from 1 to 10, starting with the lowest setting which evokes a response from the dog. When the microphone detects barking and vibration, the dog receives a quick jolt of static electricity. This would be the equivalent of a human touching a doorknob after walking across a carpet. The static electricity stings momentarily, stopping the unwanted barking and conditioning the dog to modify his or her behavior.

The third most common form of correction on a bark collar is ultrasonic sound. Once a bark is detected, a transmitter on the collar sends out a loud noise in a range only dogs can hear. This would be the equivalent of an owner shouting at the dog for correction. Of the three most common bark collar methods, ultrasonic sound is considered to be the least effective. Dogs can become accustomed to extraneous sounds and not feel compelled to modify their behavior.

Bark collars should not be used on puppies or dogs lighter than two or three pounds. If the barking is triggered by genuine fear or anxiety, other corrective methods should be explored first. Dogs should learn to ignore routine territorial invasions and common noises. If a bark collar becomes necessary for the sake of other humans, it should never be used for more than eight hours. If the dog's owner is in the house, other corrective measures should be used first.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a bark collar and how does it work?

A bark collar is a device designed to deter a dog from excessive barking. It detects the vibration of the dog's vocal cords and delivers a response, which can be a mild electric shock, a spray of citronella, or an ultrasonic sound. The aim is to condition the dog to associate barking with an unpleasant consequence, thereby reducing the behavior.

Are bark collars safe and humane for dogs?

When used correctly and as a part of a comprehensive training plan, bark collars can be safe. However, their use is controversial. Experts recommend using collars that provide a warning beep or vibration before a static correction. It's crucial to choose a high-quality collar and to use it as a temporary training tool, not a permanent solution.

Can a bark collar hurt my dog?

While a bark collar is designed to provide an uncomfortable sensation rather than pain, improper use can cause physical harm or psychological stress to a dog. It's essential to follow the manufacturer's guidelines for fitting and use, and to monitor your dog's reaction to the collar. Consulting with a professional trainer is also advisable.

How do I choose the right bark collar for my dog?

Selecting the right bark collar involves considering your dog's size, breed, temperament, and the environment in which the barking occurs. It's important to choose a collar with adjustable levels of correction and to start with the lowest setting. Also, look for collars with safety features, such as automatic shut-off and a range of corrective options.

Is it possible to train a dog without a bark collar?

Yes, it is entirely possible to train a dog without using a bark collar. Positive reinforcement techniques, such as rewarding quiet behavior and teaching 'quiet' commands, are effective and build a trusting relationship. Professional trainers often recommend these methods over aversive tools like bark collars, as they promote long-term behavioral change.

How long should my dog wear a bark collar?

A bark collar should not be worn continuously and should only be used for specific training sessions. According to professional trainers, a dog should not wear a bark collar for more than 12 hours a day. Always remove the collar when not in use to prevent skin irritation and to give your dog a break from the training regimen.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to AllThingsNature, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By anon247111 — On Feb 12, 2012

One thing many people appreciate about bark control collars is that they are convenient and very easy to use. When it comes to learning the ‘how to” aspects of a bark collar, you generally put it on just like a regular collar and check for fit but do not attach a leash to it.

By anon158821 — On Mar 08, 2011

I have tried exercise, chiropractors, acupuncture, a million NSAIDs, and muscle relaxants. Nothing helps except for massage and very hot baths, sometimes with Tiger Balm applied to the lumbar region and afterward bed rest. It helps to ease up my muscles and for getting through the pain/minor injuries that sometimes happen.

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick


As a frequent contributor to AllThingsNature, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
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