There are quite a few different reasons why dogs bark. They may do it out of sheer excitement. Or, because they're in pain. They bark because they are bored, because they are afraid, or simply to get our attention.
No matter the reason for their verbal communication, this habit isn’t much fun for the owner. While we want our dogs to bark when someone is trying to break into our house, that’s about it. Other than that, a quiet dog is usually considered a good dog.
Dogs do bark, sometimes to excess. This is something that needs to be addressed, but first, you’ll need to ask yourself why your dog is barking.
All dogs need physical and mental stimulation. Obviously, a well-bred English pointer might have higher physical needs than a rescue-shelter chihuahua, but the rules are the rules. If you have a dog, you have to wear it out physically. And encourage it to solve problems, somehow. Addressing these two general needs can do an awful lot to cut down on negative, attention-seeking behaviors like barking.
What if you run your dog 10 miles a day, and set up extensive games for it to use its nose to solve a bunch of canine-appropriate puzzles, and it still barks like a fiend? Then you have to be honest about your options.
Tom Dokken is one of the best trainers in the world, and in his decades of professional training, he has seen it all. There aren’t too many dog problems he can’t fix, but when it comes to a vocal dog, he admits that there’s only one real option.
“If you have a barker, you’re going to need a bark collar,” Dokken said. “This is because you need an instant correction to this behavior, and you won’t be able to do that with a traditional e-collar. Modern bark collars are really the ticket here, especially if you use them correctly.”
To do this, Dokken said, you should start as light as possible. Early versions of e-collars and bark collars, only had one light-them-up setting. Today’s offerings allow for tone, vibrate, and various levels of shock. Better yet, some bark collars allow you to set them to start super light and gradually increase in severity until the dog figures things out.
“I can’t stress how important it is to only use a bark collar on an appropriate-aged dog, and only use it as light as you can go, and still have the dog register a correction,” Dokken said.
Any dog under five months is a no-go zone for Dokken, and he said, the older the better.
If you’re fed up with your ears ringing from nonstop barking and you opt for a collar, understand that you’re in it for the long haul.
“You have to acknowledge that the dog’s habit of barking is going to stick until you address it long term,” Dokken said. “So, if you go with a collar you need to understand the timeline and how to use it properly. If you only put the collar on when the dog barks, it’ll get collar wise. If you take the collar off after a few weeks because you think the dog is cured, it’ll regress.”
While Dokken said that you can, with enough time, get a dog to fully connect barking to a correction through the collar, it’s not a short process. Barking is innate in dogs and you’re trying to get them to stop doing something that is natural. This takes time, just like most aspects of properly training a dog.
It’s also important to note that usually by the time folks get desperate enough to buy a bark collar, they are in a dangerous stage where they might be tempted to over-correct. This is one of the worst things you can do to any dog, and especially to a flusher or pointer that you’re trying to mold into a valuable hunting partner. You don’t want to correct a soft dog into a fear state, and you don’t want to correct any dog unless it fully understands the behavior that is being addressed.
It sucks to have a barker, but there is an option to fix it. It’s not a short-term deal, nor does it guarantee 100% success. But a bark collar used correctly can certainly help quiet down your house, hunting shack, or pickup as you pull up next to your favorite pheasant slough.