Anti-Bark Devices Silence Dogs in the Worst Way · The Wildest

Skip to main content

Getting Ads for Anti-Barking Devices? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Buy One

Two trainers advocate against using these devices—here’s why.

by Sean Zucker
January 22, 2024
Dog Barking In Nature Next To Its Owner.
Lupe Rodríguez / Stocksy

Outside of maybe DMX, people rarely encourage dog barking. Depending on the deepness of their vocals, a canine’s trademark woof can inspire anything from eye rolls to migraines to the most effectively timed jump scare this side of a Blumhouse production.

Of course, there’s a good reason why pet parents are having their work, sleep, or brief moments of peace interrupted by these howls: They’re a dog’s best form of communication. It’s also why the trend of anti-bark devices has raised more than a few eyebrows in expert circles.

These gadgets, like this one, work by releasing a high-pitched noise to deter dogs from barking. The idea is when you click the device, it’ll communicate to them to stop. That might seem harmless enough, but considering these devices resemble those used for ultrasonic repellent on mice, it’s probably a bad look to use them. Plus, that’s the same logic behind shock collars.

Barking devices can actually cause more problems. 

Trainer Jennifer Malawey adds that these tools are not only uncomfortable for our pups, but they may create a laundry list of behavioral issues. “Any time we use an unpleasant stimulus to change behavior, we risk a long list of undesirable consequences,” she explains.

Malawey warns that new fear, anxiety, and aggression unrelated to the original barking can develop causing additional problems for your pup and wallet. “This can, of course, come with liability and further costs for veterinary and behavior professionals. Meanwhile, the dog’s emotional health and quality of life may suffer as well.”

Proponents of these tools might argue that the noise isn’t enough to warrant such concern; it’s just a means of communicating back with their animal. These pet parents could claim that they’ve witnessed firsthand that the devices are effective in causing pets to stop barking. They may even suggest that they live in a loud city or listen to a lot of screamo music so their dog is used to hearing high-pitched squeals.

According to Malawey, it doesn’t really matter if the device is physically hurtful or merely irritating for dogs. Any noticeable response is cause for concern in this area. “If it causes an animal to stop doing a behavior, however, it’s actually not relevant whether it was annoying or painful or somewhere in between,” she says. “If it was uncomfortable enough to change the behavior, it comes with risk of fallout.”

These devices are unpleasant, at best, for dogs. 

Cofounder of Dogboy NYC and The Wildest Collective member Robert Haussmann confirms that pet parents should generally avoid any training method enlisting punishment onto an animal.

“I don’t pretend to know what an animal is experiencing. It becomes clear, however, that it is unpleasant,” says. “Often times unpleasant enough to send the dog cowering away shaking.”

Outside of the discomfort they cause, Haussmann notes that anti-bark devices are rarely effective in altering behavior long-term. He explains that for some dogs, these doodads may cause frustration or excessive fear while causing no reaction whatsoever in others. Another common response pet parents witness when using anti-bark devices is their pups simply running into another room — where the machine might not be able to pick up the sound — to do their barking.

Malawey cautions that this action is a warning sign of a larger issue developing and reflective of the device’s overall misuse. “That dog’s reaction — running to another room — tells us that that dog found it unpleasant enough to motivate him to escape the sound. If that were my dog, I’d be very concerned by that and would discontinue use immediately,” she says.

And it probably won’t work in the long run anyway. 

Beyond being potentially cruel, both experts agree that anti-bark devices won’t be effective long-term because they focus solely on the act of barking rather than what inspired it.

“It’s important to recognize that these devices are designed to punish a symptom, not address the root cause of the symptom,” Haussmann explains. “Until the cause is addressed, the behavior will likely continue or spill over into some equivalent or more problematic behavior.“

For Malawey, it all comes back to the fact that dogs bark as a means of communication. It happens for a plethora of reasons, none of which should be ignored: “It’s hard to address all forms of barking with a simple button.”

None of this is to minimize the struggle of pet parents trying to reduce barking. Malawey admits it’s a challenge she’s dealt with with her own pups and says she’s empathetic to the process. But ultimately, barking is necessary for our dogs and their ability to express themselves and their needs. 

It’s better to identify the cause of barking — and go from there with training.

According to Malawey and Haussmann, the most effective method of curbing excessive barking is to identify and address what’s inspiring it. “The starting point is always sleuthing out why your dog is barking. Context matters. Are they frightened? Are they excited? Are they bored? The solution will vary depending on what’s inspiring the barking,” Malawey says.

Haussmann adds that all dog behavior follows a similar sequence, with a cause preceding the consequence (barking). As the pro puts it, “Trying to change the consequence with punishment is a bit clumsy and can quickly drift into something inhumane.” 

Instead, he recommends zeroing in on the cause before working to change the dog’s emotional association to what is causing the barking in the first place. “For instance, if a dog barks at people passing from a window, using a gate to prevent the dog from getting to that window could be a great solution. This could be in place while you work on a behavior plan to change the dog’s perception of the people passing,” he says.

Malawey suggests that this form of environmental management could also include visual barriers, such as using window frosting or closing the shades. She also recommends audio masking, which would involve playing music or just keeping a fan on for white noise. Routine adjustments, such as walking your dog during less busy hours and limiting their unsupervised yard access, could go a long way, too. More than anything, management will depend entirely on your pet’s specific triggers and lifestyle, Malawey explains.

Of course, positive reinforcement training is always a plus for any behavioral issues or concerns. Malawey especially recommends recall training with treats for the best results. “One of my favorite ways to address it is by teaching the dog a strong recall cue, then bringing it into the barking context. One bark, they hear the recall cue, and they come running for a nice food reward. Voila! No more barking,” she says. 

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and whose behavioral issues rival his own.

Related articles