A little while ago I was a guest on a podcast. Now just in case podcasts are not your thing I thought I would write a blog about what I was talking about on that podcast.
My friend Claire, a mum of 4 dogs, dog trainer, author and podcast host, invited me to come on and chat about something barking related. Barking is Claire’s speciality; she has written 2 books about it and does seminars on it.
Feeling slightly in awe of Claire’s knowledge around barking I decided to talk about the equipment that some people use to deter barking.
I talked about 4 pieces, water gun, fly swot (yes you read the right!) pet corrector spray and shock collars.
But let’s chat first about barking dogs. I used to have a daft greyhound, Jimmy, who loved to bark at the sky for no apparent reason. At the time I had 4 dogs who would join in and bark if one of them started. I now have one dog, Frank, who barks out of fear.
I also have had neighbours with barking dogs. I get it. I know how frustrating, annoying and embarrassing having a barking dog can be.
And yes, I’ve been in the garden saying “Frank, quiet, Frankkkkkk QUIET” or something like that.
We’ve all had a barking dog shatter our tranquillity. If your dog is the cause of that then I can completely understand why you may look for something to stop that barking quickly. Let’s talk about them.
Spraying your dog with a water bottle when they bark has been around for a long time. It’s cheap and easy. Or is it? The idea is that you spray your dog in the face when they bark. It will usually surprise your dog, so they stop barking. Yay, silence! But don’t fill up that spray bottle too soon.
What if your dog likes water? What if it teaches your dog to be fearful of water? What if you haven’t got the spray bottle to hand when your dog barks? What if you are out on a walk and your dog is face to face with another dog barking? Good luck on getting that water on their face.
You could be teaching them to become fearful of water. That could become a real problem come bath time or when they have just rolled in fox poo and you need to hose them down.
Another popular product for stopping barking dogs is Pet Corrector. This is a can, not unsimilar to a can of a very well-known ladies body spray (you can get bigger sizes.) It works by you spraying the can when your dog barks. It will then make a hissing noise which should stop your dog barking. It’s basically compressed air in a tin.
When I was out walking recently, I got to witness first-hand how useless the Pet Corrector is. A lady was walking two small dogs. They saw us across the park. There was a whole green between us. We were not even near.
Now this lady was on the phone and these two dogs began barking. In fact, I think it’s fair to say they were having a bark off with each other.
The lady on the phone delved deep into her shoulder bag whilst holding the two dogs on their leads. Some points should be awarded here for:
a) her ability to carry on her conversation
b) her ability to take a big shoulder bag on her walk
c) her ability to not shout shut up at her dogs.
However, points need to be taken away for
a) talking on the phone
b) having a ridiculously huge shoulder bag on her walk and
c) ignoring her dogs
I know you are probably wondering what the hell I’m going on about. Surely the walk is for the dogs and should be about them? If she wasn’t on the phone, then she would be more alert to her dog’s triggers and would be able to distract them.
The big bag maybe a great fashion accessory but when you are out with dogs you need everything to hand. You don’t have time to rummage in a bag to find what you need.
Anyway, I digress. In to the ginormous bag she goes, and after some rummaging (don’t forget she is on her phone and holding two dogs straining and barking on lead) out comes that distinctive red bottle.
Just in case you are wondering whether I have supersonic eyesight, yes, I do! Well I have average eyesight, but I know that red can anywhere.
Once the can was out, the lid then had to be removed. Let’s pop that lid back in the bag. And then, eventually that can is sprayed. I know that sound anywhere.
Did the dogs stop barking, well yes after the third squirt. Did they start again when they saw another dog, yes, they did.
Did the pet corrector work? I guess you could say it stopped the unwanted behaviour temporarily, but it didn’t solve the underlying problem.
Even the makers of the Pet Corrector know it doesn’t solve the problem. They have been ingenious with the naming of their product but in the small print it does say it’s only designed to interrupt a dog’s barking.
So not a problem solver in a can then.
And what about that old favourite the electric/vibrating shock collar. Well now there is a monster.
Shock collars are illegal in England although you can still get them if they are to keep animals within its grounds.
Did you know that an electric shock collar will send 6000 volts to your dog when they bark or when you press the remote control?
Then there are the ones that vibrate that cause the dog distress, and not forgetting the ones that release a hideous noxious gas.
The RSPCA did a survey and found that 5% of dog owners have used an electric collar. Let’s break that down. 24% adults in the UK have a dog which is around 8.9 million dogs. That means that around 400,000 dogs have experienced a shock collar here in the UK. 400,000 dogs. That’s shocking.
Does it solve the barking? Well yes it may stop it temporarily. It will also strip away the life and soul of your dog.
Think I’m overacting? How would you like to wear a collar that delivered a shock to you every time you raised your voice?
No doubt after a while you will learn not to raise your voice. In fact, you will likely give up making any kind of noise as you will live in fear of that collar.
You will lose your sparkle. And so, will your dog if you use one.
Of course, with all the above methods you could transfer the trigger that is making your dog bark.
For instance, if your dog is barking out of pleasure at seeing you, then gets a shock from its collar, your dog may well become fearful of you.
Why? Because every time they see you and voice their delight, they get pain. Can you see what could potentially happen?
Your dog could become so scared of you that they may end up attacking you.
And isn’t that crazy.
I know you are probably screaming at me how do we stop the barking. Well I’m sorry but I don’t have the answer. Because there is no magic answer.
The answer depends on the underlying cause of the barking. It could be a learned behaviour, it could be because your dog is fearful, it could be because your dog is bored.
A dog trainer or behaviourist can help you identify the cause.
If it’s a mild case, you may well be able to retrain your dog. But whether you decide to go it alone or get professional help you do need to invest your time, consistency and have a great reward system in place.
It’s all about finding your dog’s dummy. What will pacify (see what I did there?) them without causing pain and fear.
Of course, you should buy either or both of Claire’s books to help you.
You can listen to the podcast here and find out all about the fly swot!
Love, Sally xx
Sally Cousins is a self confessed mad dog lady!
After being mum to several rescue dogs she decided to turn her passion in to her career and set up her own dog walking business back in 2015.
Sally not only runs her business, she also writes for her own blog and also does guest blogs for other dog businesses. You can also find Sally chatting as a guest on dog related podcasts.