In this fourth installment in a series on training your dog with a bark collar we’ll focus on some common mistakes made when using a bark collar.
If you missed the other three posts in the series and you’re interested in training your dog on a bark collar, check out “What’s the Best Bark Collar for Your Dog,” “Bark Collars – Frequently Asked Questions,” and “Bark Collar Training for Dogs in 7 Easy Steps.”
Mistake #1: Poorly-Fitted Bark Collar
I can’t emphasize enough how important a tight fit is to fair and effective bark collar use. The collar cannot deliver stim. unless both contact points are touching skin. IN addition, as bark collars activate based on throat vibration, the collar may not activate or may activate inconsistently if the collar isn’t fitted tight enough. Please keep the following points in mind:
- Read your user manual for proper sizing information.
- You should be able to insert 1-2 fingers under the collar strap but not pull the strap away from the dog’s neck to produce any daylight.
- The bark collar should sit high on the dog’s neck, at the smallest point, without limiting his range of motion. If it’s fitted at a wider point of his neck, when it slips to the narrower location, it will be too loose.
- Modifying a bark collar with longer or shorter contact points, or a 24-hour contact pad might help.
Consistent contrast is what teaches your dog how to interact successfully with the bark collar. Barking = unpleasant feeling; quiet = comfort EVERY TIME. If this contrast is not consistent because of a loose bark collar, your dog can’t learn how to be successful with the bark collar, and may become anxious or frustrated.
You do your dog a FAR greater service by ensuring she has a properly fitting bark collar that emits stimulation she can feel EVERY time than a loose-fitting one whose stimulation she feels some of the time.
The collar strap that comes with your bark collar is a plastic universal strap that will fit on most dogs. I strongly recommend you purchase a nylon replacement collar strap for your bark collar. Not only is the material more comfortable for your dog, especially for prolonged use, this quick-snap collar will allow you to get a near-perfect fit quickly every time you place the bark collar on your dog after an initial fitting. Most bark collar straps are 3/4-inch in width, but measure just to be sure. You can purchase replacement collar straps in a variety of colors and patterns at the following locations:
Mistake #2: Leaving Multiple Dogs Unsupervised with a Bark Collar
Many people are able to safely leave a group of dogs alone together while one (or all) of them are wearing a bark collar, especially if they have very mild-mannered, easy-going dogs. But I don’t advise the average dog owner to do so.
- The bark collar, even a really good one, is still an electronic device that can malfunction.
- Your dog wearing the bark collar may have an extreme and uncharacteristic response to the stim. which may cause the other dogs to become alarmed and react. This reaction could include attacking the dog wearing the collar, or the dog wearing the collar may redirect on another dog when he gets stimmed.
In the case of 2-dog households, this isn’t as much of a concern. But in the case where there are three or more dogs together, a dog fight can break out relatively easily when one member of the group gets his nose out of joint. When dogs of varying sizes are left together, such as an 80-lb. pitbull with an 8-lb Yorkie, the chances of a dispute being fatal for the smaller dog increase.
Again, these would be relatively uncommon situations to occur especially if you’d followed all the steps outlined in the previous post and were using the bark collar on the appropriate level. But it only takes one preventable incident for tragedy to occur.
It is a good idea to make sure any dogs you have wearing bark collars are isolated from others by a baby gate at the very least, or in a crate, for everyone’s safety.
Mistake #3: Using a Cheap Bark Collar
Electronic collars, including containment systems, bark collars, and remote training collars are very safe and effective when you’re using a high quality device and you have the support of an expert. You get what you pay for with bark collars, and I wouldn’t trust a cheap bark collar to function reliably. Your dog’s physical and emotional well-being isn’t worth saving a few bucks.
Check out my previous blog post on selecting a good bark collar for some pointers.
Mistake #4: Introducing the Bark Collar by Placing it on the Dog’s Neck and Leaving the House
This is not the best way to introduce the bark collar to your dog, even though some manufacturer’s instructions may advise you to do so. Rather, you want to make sure you’re in a controlled situation with your dog where you can observe and control your dog’s reaction. You want to be able to make adjustments to the collar (fit, level) as necessary to ensure you’re able to achieve effective contrast with the bark collar so your dog can learn: bark = uncomfortable, no bark = comfortable.
In addition, if your dog’s first and only impression of the bark collar is that it goes on when you leave and comes off when you get home, he will likely have a very negative view of the device, even if it’s set at the appropriate level.
Step by step instructions for correctly introducing and training your dog with a bark collar are available in a previous post.
Using a bark collar isn’t the only way to get golden silence from your pooch. Tune in next time and I’ll talk about training your dog to be quiet on command using some other tools and approaches.