Looking for suggestions/experiences with citronella vs electric bark collars/other methods to teach not to bark.
Friday, I moved into a town home with neighbors sharing a wall on each side. There is an elementary school across the street from us. Lots of walkers, bikers, etc.
I have two big dogs who are used to having a substantial yard and not much traffic past the house. In the past, if someone was in our yard or driveway, they'd bark. Totally fine by me. Prefer it actually. But here, anyone who passes by is quite literally 12 feet tops from our front door.
Right now, I'm home with them most of the day and can correct them if they begin to bark. They're really not doing too badly. I'd say maybe 3 times per day one or the other of them will see something that catches their eye and give a few bark but they stop when I ask them to come and sit. I've been putting them in our bedroom with a TV on when I leave. The bedroom window faces woods so no traffic back there.
The one next door neighbor complained to my husband on day one that the dogs were "barking all day long when you weren't home." I happen to know this is BS because I was home all day--she didn't know I was here. Never left. LOL The landlord warned us that she's crabby and nit picky. Other neighbors love dogs, met them last night. They said they haven't noticed anything at all. Regardless, I don't need to be causing trouble for anyone so I'd like to find something that will reduce the barking even further.
In an ideal world, I would like them to feel okay with giving a warning bark. ONE. If someone is at the door or something. Other than that, no barking.
I've looked at citronella collars and electric ones. Both dogs have been trained to the electric fence so they get the beep/shock thing. I don't know about the citronella since it's all happening indoors.
I'm looking for experiences, recommendations, etc...
A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.
I'm in a very similar situation- very large dog who was used to minimal street noise, moved into a very urban setting very close to the road. Like you, I can wrangle it when I'm home, but NOT home is not so simple. I already had a citronella collar for him as he is a very, very conversational dude with no internal filter. He "says" everything he thinks.
I had thought I was going to have to up the ante to a e collar, but to my joyous surprise, the citronella collar has continued to be effective. He's had it for a while and is used to it so your milage may vary, but mine still alert barks when appropriate, just not at every.little.thing. The citronella has never stained anything and I don't mind it, it just smells like fly spray, although it's a real pleasure to get caught in the blowback when the dog is standing right in front of you when he barks.
This is the one I have. The included rigging is crap and required some after-market modification to keep the device pointing in the right direction, but all in all worth the investment. Having seen it go a little wacky when the battery gets low, I'm much more comfortable having this on mine than a zap collar. I'd rather he get sprayed accidentally than buzzed.
The citronella refills & batteries can be pricey, so if you go this route I suggest finding a good price online and stocking up ahead of time.
I have a stubborn barker and we have used the citronella collars as well as the regular zap collars.
While the citronella collar did work, sort of, the correction was inconsistent and the dog eventually just barked through the collar. We tried a few of them, and had the same problem with them all.
The cheapish zap collar was also not terribly consistent and would pick up her friend barking next to her in play and activate. We got rid of that one pretty quick.
The expensive, good quality zap collar has been the most effective and the most consistent. My collar has three settings--start with the lowest setting and ramp up until the barking stops, and then resets to lowest; start with lowest and ramp until barking stops, and then use that setting for future barks; or correction level set by user. It also has rechargable batteries and a low indicator, so there's no further investment after purchase.
Were I to start all over with another nuisance barker, I would really start with a high quality zap collar. The correction with one is very, very consistent, which (I think) is the MOST important factor to make it humane to the dog. If the correction is not consistent, you just wind up with a very confused dog.
You know, I don't know. My dog occasionally barks ONCE, though, while wearing it, instead of her usual Bark!Arrrr!Rooo!Rooo!Bark!Arr!Rooo! thing (she's a hound, sigh.) Her barking overall is reduced, but there are still things that she needs to talk about. Like you, I don't mind one bark.
This is the collar I have I picked it up off of Amazon. The only thing I DON'T like about it is that it comes on a buckle collar instead of a quick release.
I had a similar situation -- moved from a house with little foot traffic to a townhouse. My dog (a Lab) ALWAYS barked at the mailman and any person walking near our driveway. At first, she barked at everyone who walked past the townhouse. Within a short amount of time (I'm guessing a couple of weeks), that largely subsided as she realized it was the new "normal". Maybe give it a little time.
Skip, I think they're figuring it out to some extent already, but I really don't want to get to crossways w/ the neighbor lady if I can help it. You give me hope though!
They're not "nuisance barkers" by my definition. It's with purpose. It's just that they've got to learn new boundaries. IE: Unless someone comes INTO our house, they probably belong where they are! LOL
Luckily, they don't mind all the kids or the school busses. Whew!
A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.
I wouldn't bother with the citronella spray collars- they just don't work very well. Some bleeding hearts who freak out at the word "electricity" decided it was somehow more humane to spray a nasty smell up the nose of a highly scent-sensitive dog vs. giving a quick low-level shock.
Anyway, if we ignore these so-called humane issues, consider what we want: we want the dog to learn, rapidly, that if he barks, he experiences something unpleasant, and if he stops barking, the unpleasantness immediately STOPS, thus the most comfortable state to be in is not-barking. Well, that happens with the shock collars- the dog barks, the collar shocks, the dog stops barking, the shock immediately ceases. Doesn't happen with the spray collar- the dog barks, there's a millisecond delay as the mechanism triggers, the stink goes up his nose, he stops barking, the stink is still there, and lingers for who knows how long- how is he supposed to connect his behavior to the smell if the smell is just there and doesn't go away? Plus they run out of spray fairly quickly and then they don't do anything, totally inconsistent feedback to the poor dog. So it's pretty obvious that the citronella collars are going to be quite confusing to most dogs vs. the shock collars. I firmly believe most dogs would much rather receive a mild shock than get a stink sprayed up their nose, so I think the citronella collars are also much more aversive and inhumane than the shock collars.
So moving on to the shock collars: don't bother with a cheap one, they aren't consistent or reliable. The good ones aren't very expensive, either. http://www.gundogsupply.com/tritbar.html has a good listing and description of the good no-bark collars, read them and select the one you like.
I personally have the dogtra yapper-stopper. Mine allows the dogs one bark, then it gives a vibration, and if the dog doesn't stop barking, it proceeds to zap. I've never had a dog need more than a handful of low-level corrections before it figured out that barking wasn't a good idea. Interestingly, I find the learning from these collars to be, for most dogs, VERY situation-dependent. My dogs have only ever worn the collars at home, so they learned to not bark at home, but they bark everywhere else, which I like- warning on walks there's someone lurking over there, barking in play at the park, etc.. Someone I know only put the no-bark collar on when the dog was crated, and the dog rapidly learned to be quiet in the crate, but barked at will everywhere else. If you're not careful, some dogs do learn to only not-bark when wearing the collar, which means you can't wean them off use of the collar (most of my dogs only needed to wear the collar for a few weeks before it could be left off with no barking). YOu might like your dog to learn to not-bark when only wearing the collar; if not, try putting the turned-off collar on the dog for several days before turning it on, thus the dog doesn't associate collar presence with feedback on barking.
When you first put the active collar on your dog, it would be good to be nearby, especially if your dog is a softer, gentler sort- the dog will be rather startled at first by the collar and might need some reassurance. It also helps to praise the dog for not-barking. It's never a bad idea to reward your dog, at random, for being quietly good- try to catch the dog being quiet and reward in some way.
The problems with using yourself to train your dogs to not-bark are extensive. The primary one is you have to be there, and the dogs know this, so often they continue to bark when you are absent. The other problem is that often dogs find ANY attention to be rewarding, so if you tell your barking dog "NO", or "be quiet" this may actually reward the dog for barking; sometimes if people yell at their barking dog, it seems like the dog thinks the human is joining in with the barking, and this encourages the dog to bark even more.
You can train your dog to not-bark by rewarding silence, and you can get remote treat-delivery systems that may convince the dog your presence isn't necessary; even without these, if the dog becomes silent, well dogs are creatures of habit and it will carry over to your absence. These methods do work, but they can take considerable time and dedication to work- they are similar to the methods used to train dogs how to behave politely in the house, and such training takes months before the dog can be trusted alone. Often it's necessary to get dogs to stop barking right now or something really bad will happen to the dog. No-bark shock collars are a very effective, humane solution for these situations.
IF the problem isn't really urgent, namely you're not in danger of being evicted, instead of a bark collar you could try just waiting for a few weeks, and reward the dogs for being quiet, and see how that goes.
When discouraging dogs from barking you have to be REALLY careful that you aren't accidentally rewarding them- dogs find attention of any kind to be rewarding, and many a dog has trained their human thusly: I bark, and then she calls me to her, and then I sit, and then she gives me good stuff. The dog has trained you to behave in a certain way whenever the dog barks.
The best way to get rid of barking is to wait and only reward SILENCE, but this can take the patience of a saint- you pretend that noisy dogs don't exist, and only quiet dogs get attention. This works pretty good with very young puppies who don't have any established habits to overcome.
as to getting the dog to only bark appropriately- perhaps you should actively train that. If, say, you want the dog to bark when someone comes to the door, actively spend some time training the dog that someone coming to the door is a cue to bark. This kind of focused training should help the dog learn it's not barking per se that is bad, it's only certain kinds of barking.
And interestingly, often people find that if they teach their dog to bark on cue- any cue they choose- the dog's barking becomes easier to control. I think that many dogs actually have very little voluntary control over their vocalizations- it's just an automatic expression of their emotional state. Thus they literally cannot learn to be quiet until they learn to take voluntary control over their barking. Which teaching them to bark on cue does. The no-bark collars do this as well. I know of one case where using a no-bark collar seemed to teach a dog how to control himself- he was one of those sad cases where he'd reached adulthood without ever learning self-control of any kind, and he'd just go into frenzies and temper tantrums and couldn't seem to snap out of it. No one had taught him the concept as a puppy. He'd start barking and just couldn't stop. A few days in a no-bark collar, "self control bootcamp", and he was a different dog.
Agree with the bark collars-my parents also used a bark discourager type box with some success. They make versions that work in the house.
Little things that also help-curtains/cover the windows and leave music or background noise on so they can't hear and see every single thing that goes on outside the door. Lots of safe toys and chewies to keep them occupied.
Mine got moved nearly a year ago and it really does take some time, even when you don't really have time and the neighbor isn't going to be cooperative about it. When you're home to help, acclimate them to the noises and sights; reward when they're quiet and curious. For me what works is to call my nervous nelly dog to me when she's barking and we do something familiar and reassuring to her, like sit/down/stay drills. We've gotten them used to everything except the neighbors that visit only occasionally and we have to reset the dogs every time they return. I spent a good 45 minutes this morning with Good girl, Shoni, you're being QUIET what a good girl you are! <low growl, warming up to bark> NOW, Shoni-here. Good dog, sit. Good dog. ect... But she gets nervous and having the reassuring brain drill calms her down and makes her think about me instead and it lasts for a while, she'll go back to her bed afterward instead of the window. YMMV, obviously.
My mom had great results with an electronic bark collar on her neurotic yappy little terrierist. Made life with that dog (who I ADORED) a lot more pleasant, especially riding in cars with her.
I had a foster dog who barked, a lot, but his barking was different (he was just a talker. He'd bark at the cats if they were not within reach, bark at me if I wasn't paying attention, etc, etc, etc. Obnoxious as hell, but not the same as barking all day.) I taught him to "speak" and the barking got A LOT better. I think giving him something positive to do with his barking ("Speak, Flash! Good boy!" vs "Shut up, Flash!") made a HUGE difference...as did tons more exercise, a routine, and some solid stability...but that's a whole other story!
I had a problem with my dog barking only at the neighbors. When I first got her, the owners had moved and the house was on the market(no one ever in the yard). The house got sold and new owner had two barky dogs. As soon as the neighbors or their dogs came out in the yard, she would stand at the fence and bark. The neighbor was a little weird and started hitting the fence with a wiffle type bat which as you can guess, just intensified the behavior. The new neighbor didn't stay long and the house was back on the market, empty for awhile. Puppy was growing up and much more obedient. When new neighbor moved in, he also has a very barky dog. My dog started back with the constant barking at the fence line. I got a Guardian anti bark collar from Walmart and it has worked well for her. She learned after just a few episodes that it wasn't pleasant to stand and bark. This collar has a warning beep and then shocks. My dog doesn't need to have the collar on all outdoors visits, but I will randomly put it on her so she doesn't get the idea to start barking again.
Thank you all for your suggestions and experiences.
Funny...I had to run a quick errand this morning. I put dogs in the bedroom. When I arrived home, crabby neighbor lady was leaving. I introduced myself, complimented her flowers, etc...and she asked "Where are your dogs?" Me: I'm sorry? "Where are your dogs? Are they gone?" Me: No, they're in the house. "Oh. So quiet!"
A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.
I tried everything to get my pup to stop demand barking for attention. He was driving me crazy. I eventually gave up and tried the citronella collar and it has worked well.
I went with the remote control collar since I am training when I am home - not when I am away. It works well because I can control it. He gets a warning beep first, then a spray. And, I only want to punish for demand barking - I don't worry to much if he lets out a bark or two during play and don't want to punish him for that.
One of my friends had a dog fight which I believe was made much worse by a bark collar. The collar happened to be on the more aggressive of the two dogs. Once the snarling started the collar kept shocking the dog. The dog perceived the pain from the collar as an attack by the other dog. He just went berserk. It took three of us to get the dogs separated. Sweet Jesus I don't understand why people would stage pit bull fights for fun. This was horrible.
I keep some Coke cans with pennies in them on my desk when I'm working at home. The first time the dog barks I yell "Thanks guys, I hear it, that's enough." If they keep barking after that I start throwing Coke cans at them. I continue until they shut up. Since they don't like the noise of the cans, it rarely takes more than two or three cans before they get the hell out of Dodge.