Do you have an excessive barker on your hands? Well, if you’re here, then you probably do and you’ve been searching for the most effective way to manage the situation. Of course, you’re also searching for the most humane way as well, and that’s why you thought dog spray collars.
In times past, people just used electric collars. But with the wave about how inhumane such treatment was (and it was), everyone is shirking the electronic collar for the dog spray collars. Apparently, dog spray collars are supposed to be more effective than electric dog collars.
But is that really the truth or is it just some other market hype?
We’re about to find out.
But just before then, maybe we are asking the wrong question. Maybe the real question here is why we are so bothered by our dogs’ barking?
We need to understand that barking for dogs is like talking for us. It’s the way dogs vocalize their feelings. But understandably, sometimes, it does get excessive and annoying.
Many scientists believe that the key to curbing a dog’s hankering for continuous barking is to understand the reason behind the barking first. In fact, the reason many of them are against bark control devices is because they feel it does not address the real underlying issue.
So, maybe we should first of all find out why dogs bark excessively. Great place to start, yeah?
Why Does My Dog Bark So Much?
- Territorialism: If a new person or animal comes into your dog’s space, it could trigger excessive barking. This is because the dog sees the new person/dog as a threat. The closer the threat gets, the more alert and aggressive your dog gets. And, of course, the more he’ll bark.
- Fear/Alarm: If any object catches their attention or startles them, dogs are sure to bark.
- Loneliness/Boredom: Like their long distant cousins, wolves, dogs are also pack animals. This means that they love to stay together and don’t really like to be alone. So, if they get lonely, sad, unhappy, or bored, they tend to bark.
- Play/Greeting: This one is more like a happy bark with lots of tail wagging and jumping.
- Attention: Sometimes, your dog is just barking because he wants attention. Maybe he wants to go out or he wants to get a treat.
- Anxiety: Dogs do not like the idea of being separated from their parents and/or their siblings. When that happens, it often causes separation anxiety, and then they can begin to bark excessively. In addition to this, dogs might also show other symptoms like destructiveness, pacing, and depression.
- Compulsion: Some dogs are compulsive barkers. This means that they just up and bark when they hear voices for no apparent reason. In addition to compulsive barking, compulsive barkers might also repeat movements, or run around in circles.
Also, many tiny dogs tend to get really noisy. They are like hard wired to be like that. Examples of noisy breeds include the Shelties, Terriers, and Poodles.
Ways To Control Your Dog’s Excessive Barking
There are three types of devices used to control excessive barking in dogs. They are:
- Sound collars: Like the name suggests, when the dog barks, the collar gives off a high pitched sound. This shocks the dog and keeps him quiet for a bit. Some people are doubtful about its effectiveness. And some others consider it a bit inhumane. Still, some dog owners still use it even though it’s relatively rarer these days.
- Electronic collars: This is considered the most inhumane of all the bark control methods. The collar is supposed to send a small electric shock to the dog when he barks. It’s actually every bit as hurtful as it sounds. And for many compulsive barkers, it doesn’t even work.
- Spray collars: This one releases a stinky, foul-smelling substance when a dog begins to bark. Usually the scent is citronella and it deters the dogs from barking. While some people seem to think that spray collars are still inhumane, many others still swear by it.
So, for the sake of our topic today, we will focus on dog spray collars for the rest of this article.
So How Do Dog Spray Collars Work?
Like we explained earlier, dog spray collars emit a substance when triggered. Many times, the scent is citronella. Some other devices make use of lemon juice or water instead.
But generally, what happens is, your collar picks up your dog’s bark through a microphone. This trigger then leads to the spraying of the substance by the collar.
The big idea of dog spray collars is supposed to be that, with the continued spraying in the face, the dog will learn to stop barking so he doesn’t get sprayed in the face.
Many dog owners swear by the citronella dog spray collars because they feel they are more humane and more effective than shock collars. There have been cases of dogs still barking even after wearing a shock collar.
In comparison to dog spray collars, dogs have been reported to be so disgusted by the foul smell of the citronella that even when the collar was replaced, they still wouldn’t bark. They were practically scarred by the spray!
But there’s another side to this story that we haven’t told yet…
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Australia), spray collars are not very effective. And when they are, they don’t stay effective for long.
Scientific evidence has shown that eventually, dogs get used to the collar. And then barking resumes again and you’re back to the same problem.
So, it would appear that dog spray collars are not the long awaited savior we all hoped for.
Now that that myth has been busted, there remains yet another myth…
Are Dog Spray Collars Actually Humane?
Well, compared to shock collars, dog spray collars are definitely more humane. However, there’s the psychological effect of this kind of treatment to consider as well.
But before we get to that, let’s see a few glitches in the working of the dog spray collar. Apparently, it isn’t such a perfect control method after all. Look at this scenario for instance…
It happens quite frequently that the microphone on a dog’s spray collar picks bark noises from other dogs. And guess what happens? Of course, the innocent dog who owns the collar, who hasn’t even barked yet, gets sprayed. Ultimately, your dog is being punished even when he does what you want him to do – not bark.
See the problem? Not very humane now, don’t you think?
Also, if you consider that a dog’s sense of smell is very sensitive, you can see why this isn’t so humane after all. Think about it. We humans might perceive something as a lovely citrusy smell. Dogs, on the other hand, might find the smell too strong and overpowering because of their sensitive noses.
The Psychological Effect of Dog Spray Collars on Dogs
Barking is natural for dogs. Dogs should bark. By associating punishment with barking, you, inadvertently, tell them that barking is bad.
And like we already explained, sometimes, dogs bark to alert you of danger. There’s a reason they are called man’s best friend.
Now, imagine a dog that has associated barking with bad behavior. Even when an intruder comes, they won’t bark for fear of punishment.
Finally, many are of the school of thought that hindering your dog from barking is wrong. After all, it’s a natural act that hurts no one. Of course, you already knew that you were going to have to deal with barking when you got the dog.
So, complain much?
Some Scary Facts About Citronella Dog Spray Collars
So, in line with our culture to always bring you the unbiased truth, we went snooping a little further. We found out some truths about citronella dog sprays. And, to be honest, they weren’t good.
Yvetter Van Veen is a dog trainer, and she published an article about citronella dog spray collars on the site, “awesomedogs”. In that article, she raised some concerns about citronella dog sprays that we considered significant enough to share with you.
- Citronella is used as a pesticide – to be precise, it is used to repel insects.
- Citronella oil could contain methyleugenol. Methyleugenol is scary because studies show that it is carcinogenic to animals.
- If ingested, citronella may lead to lung cancer.
- A canister of citronella would hardly contain 100% citronella. The safety passage, for instance, also contains 90% tetrafluoroethane and 10% ethanol.
- On the label, you find warnings like “may cause eye irritation”, “may cause skin irritation”, “may cause loss of concentration or dizziness if inhaled”. Those are pretty strong warnings.
- Ethanol, often contained in the safety passage of the canister, is an alcohol. It has the potential to make one drunk.
- Tetrafluoroethane is actually a refrigerating coolant. So, it keeps car ac units cold. Plus, it also a common street drug. It can make one high.
Thankfully, there are other options like water and lemon scent to replace citronella with. But still, one needs to be very careful.
Now, if you’re beginning to get doubtful about dog spray collars, and understandably so, there’s still a way out. Actually, several.
Certainly, these options might not be as swift and convenient as spray collars or shock collars, but they have been proven to work. And more importantly, they are humane and gentle on your dog.
Other Ways to Curb Excessive Barking Besides Dog Spray Collars
Dogs are getting lazier by the day. It’s no wonder that nearly half of the dogs in America are obese. And why not? Most of them are couch potatoes.
However, there are still many dogs that love activity as a way to keep busy and have some fun. And yeah, barking counts as activity for them too. As Dr Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist explains, without heart-pumping activity, dogs tend to display a lot of bad behavior.
Carving out even if it’s 30 minutes out of each day to play with your dog and get him panting will do him (and you) a world of good. After such an exerting activity, the only thing on your pooch’s mind would be to hunker down and get some rest. Try it!
Find The Reason Your Dog is Barking And Try To Minimize The Occurrence Of Such Triggers
You’ll need to play detective a bit for this one. Find out what triggers the barks and eliminate it.
If it’s looking through the window, shut the blinds. If it’s the sound of footsteps or doors, keep your pooch indoors and try to muffle the sound by leaving some soft music on while you’re out.
While at home with him, a nice chew can also keep him engaged enough not to bark so much.
If your dog begins to bark, you can stop the behavior by saying “stop” or “enough” or “quiet” in a firm voice. Afterwards, ensure that you reward him for good behavior by praising him.
And remember, repetition is key. The more you continue the routine, the sooner he’ll be able to connect the dots.
You could also try rattling a container of pennies. The distraction works as long it’s not done for so long at one time. Doing that could instil fear rather than correct.
Avoid shouting because it never works. Plus, your dog might think you’re cheering him on and bark even louder.
Train Him to Bark on Command
This is the way you get to wield and control the behavior. So, you can determine when he barks and when he doesn’t. Basically, you can get your dog to bark on demand.
Just like in teaching, you use the cue word to initiate barking and then praise and give a treat. And then you use the cue word to stop the barking and then praise and give a treat when it is obeyed.
So, to wrap up this talk about barking and what curb control method is best, here’s our take…
If you must use a dog spray collar, be careful and give all that you’ve read here serious consideration. Like we already mentioned, it is not a long-lasting solution. Plus, many dogs have been known to get used to it and keep barking even while wearing the collar.
Your best bet would actually be to pair a dog spray collar with any of the methods we have described above.
PS: Some people might advise you to try debarking. This is plain wrong and should not even be given a second thought.
It’s supposed to involve an alteration of your dog’s vocal cords, surgically, to reduce the volume of his bark. At the end, the bark sounds harsher and more rasping. It would be at a lower volume, no doubt, but it would still be as annoying, for sure.
Please, debarking is cruel – even illegal in many places. Do not do it.