Taking the Bite Out of Bark Collars

The bark collar is a tool that doesn’t get enough credibility or exposure when dog trainers talk about all the tools in their training belt. Years ago before I knew anything about bark collars, intuitively I thought that if you put a bark collar on a barking dog and they got corrected, it would make them more anxious and frantic. What bark collars do is actually the stark opposite of that.

When dogs bark continuously they adrenalize themselves, essentially working up into a frenzy. That frenzy can lead to very dangerous behaviors, like breaking out of kennels, lighting up at other dogs or even attacking other dogs. Also, the barking leads to pacing, whining, stress panting, dilated pupils, hyperactivity and a general “cracked out” state of mind of full blown stress. If the dog cannot bark, the stress is exponentially reduced. They stay in a healthier state of mind where they are more likely to take food in crate training exercises and actually rest in the kennel. This keeps the environment much safer, as well as calm and peaceful.

Before putting a bark collar on a dog there are a few things you should know. Proper fit and placement are essential. Read the directions. Don’t just slap it on the dog. In a perfect world we like to condition dogs to the E collar first. What this means is we like to familiarize the dog to working with the stimulation in a hands-on training context. However, sometimes dogs come in so out of control that we have to put a bark collar on them day one. This is how we do that: we set the collar to the automatic setting, not a number on the dial. We only use collars that have an automatic setting. What happens is when the dog barks, they will receive the lowest level stimulation correction. If they bark again it will go up one level higher, increasing the level with each bark. This way the dogs can learn the cause and effect of the tool without being flooded by a high level correction off the bat. 

Bark collars are not only essential for maintaining a calm environment so dogs around the barking dog are not stressed, but for safety. I have to emphasize that again. I have had dogs come in, going hysterical barking in a kennel, biting at the door, throwing themselves from side to side, trying to bend the door with their head and/or trying to chew their way out. As soon as they cannot bark, the next time I check on them they’re laying there peacefully, looking like an angel. I’m serious. Worst case scenario the dog will be panting, but more often than not, the majority of dogs will be laying calmly without any signs of stress. This is how relevant bark collars are to stopping that toxic surge of adrenaline in unstable dogs. Typically, after only a few days, we don’t even need the bark collar anymore. Because of all the structure the dog is receiving in training, they quickly morph into a more balanced state.

Like anything else the tool has to be introduced properly and it cannot be abused. It should not be left on for extended periods of time and dogs with different fur and skin issues will have different needs for contact points.

Bark collars are beneficial in many other contexts outside of using them in a board and train program. Do you own a dog that incessantly barks when you leave the house whether it is crated or not? Can you not have your dog outside in the yard for more than 30 seconds without him barking like crazy and disturbing the neighbors? A dog is much more likely to make good choices when they can not spiral down an adrenaline rabbit hole by barking.

Bark collars are not a replacement for training. They are a tool just like all the other tools that we use when working with dogs. But if an owner  doesn’t have time to exercise their dog that day, using a bark collar to keep their dog quiet at times is far more humane in my opinion, than letting a dog bark his head off constantly with pupils the size of quarters.

Again, a bark collar isn’t a permanent solution to your dog’s barking. This tool helps a dog become more stable because of EVERYTHING ELSE we are putting into the dog training-wise. They help keep the dog far away from unhealthy, aroused states of mind. Dogs learn to settle faster and even dogs that are not crate trained will learn to not only accept, but enjoy the peace and comfort of being in a kennel with the help of a bark collar.

Like any other tool in the world, it can be used correctly or incorrectly, humanely or inhumanely. When used properly the bark collar is an incredible tool that can facilitate relaxation even in the most stressed and excitable dogs.

Consult a balanced trainer in your area to help teach you appropriate contexts for using a bark collar to help your dog.

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With the tools that Kerry gave us, we now take her out and about all the time with the confidence that we are in control…

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Our experience with Flash Dog Training has completely changed our lives. Up until Pepper went through 4 weeks of board and train with Kerry, we had lost hope in fixing some of her behavioral issues and we were actually changing our lives to cater to her instability. We were no longer going on hikes, taking her out in public, etc. because she simply could not handle herself around strangers, dogs, or people riding bicycles. Leading up to our decision to contact Kerry, we had tried extensive positive reinforcement training as well as rounds of different medications and nothing was working. After using balanced training with Kerry, it became clear to us that Pepper needed stronger leaders to guide her through life and the tools Kerry gave us enabled us to be that for her. We were finally able to effectively communicate with Pepper in a way where she actually listened to us as opposed to taking matters into her own hands. 

Before Pepper’s board and train, the sight of a person riding a bicycle would cause her to completely shut down. She was so fearful that she would go into hiding and not even her favorite toys or the most delicious food could bring her out. While this issue is so severe that it will always be a work in progress, she can finally see a bike pass by with little to no reaction! Pepper’s extreme excitement and demanding attitude when seeing another dog used to be so uncontrollable that we would avoid hiking and taking her out into public. Now she can walk by other dogs (even ones that are reacting to her) will little to no reaction. Her fear of strangers has always been an issue for us because her reactions were so unpredictable that we wouldn’t dare take her out in public with the fear that she could react and we wouldn’t have any control of the situation. With the tools that Kerry gave us, we now take her out and about all the time with the confidence that we are in control. We are now finally able to proactively work on socializing Pepper with strangers without the fear that something could go terribly wrong.

All in all, Pepper’s training with Kerry has been worth every penny. Our only regret is that we wish we would have gone to her sooner. 


Janna and Ben

Erie, Colorado




The Solution For Difficult Dog Nail Trims: The Grooming Sling

This is a step by step tutorial of how to use what is, in my opinion, the most effective tool for helping dogs who are fearful of nail trims. I have tried every technique out there with my dog Mudd, who developed a phobia of foot handling due to a chronic, brown nail. The nail ultimately had to be completely removed. In addition to that he has had to be put under numerous times for ripped nails. His nails grow like weeds. My attempts to trim them over the years led to a build in Mudd's distrust of me when it came to doing anything to his body. This was heartbreaking and I knew that there had to be a solution that he would be comfortable with.

The result you will see in this video took months upon months to create. Mudd was not one of those dogs that you see in some videos where they put the dog in the sling and magically they just hang there and allow the clipping. First of all, he would not even wear the sling. He would only let us put it on him as a jacket. You can see the other video of me conditioning him to wear the sling on our YouTube channel. Even after getting him to be comfortable wearing the sling, once we actually had him hanging, he would still thrash and try to bite. Long story short, this took essentially months of consistency to accomplish this result. Hopefully most of you out there don't have a dog as difficult as Mudd and that using this sling will really be a game changer off the bat, but you also must prepare that it may not be that simple.  

I consider Mudd's case to be the worst of the worst. Therefore, I am so happy to share these little tips and tricks of the trade that have taken us from worst case scenario, to an easy-breezy five minute procedure.