Muzzle the Bark - Are You Serious?
Look at the image above, and no, these are not sold as cute Halloween items for your pooch. Instead, these and similar other contraptions are marketed, sold, and used to stop unwanted barking in your dog. Very sad, cruel, and rightfully made illegal in several States already.
Like other ‘tools’ marketed to the uneducated and lazy dog owner, it only serves one purpose: satisfying the urge for a quick fix and the craving for immediate gratification, at the expense of your dog’s well-being. If you like that kind of stuff, don’t get a dog but buy some sort of machine instead, which you can turn on and off with a switch.
You cannot control unwanted barking in your dog unless you understand the why.
Dogs have a lot to say, and they usually bark for appropriate and good reasons:
Alert barks happen when danger or suspicious strangers approach (defensive barking). If left unchecked these dogs have their barking reinforced as in the dog’s mind his barking made the person/situation disappear.
Attention-seeking barks are seen in most puppies, adult dogs with this behavior have simply learned that barking will incite attention from us.
Play barks are common with excitement and best controlled by slowing down or stopping the game until the dog settles.
Self-identification barking is your dog answering another dog, instinctive and difficult to extinguish.
Bored-frustration barking is a clear sign that you need to provide a better physical outlet and more stimulating environment for your dog. A tired dog is a happy owner. Physical exercise is great, mental exercise is much better.
Anxious barking is the hallmark of separation anxiety and often becomes self-reinforcing in a vicious circle of barking-upset-barking.
Startle barking occurs in response to an unfamiliar sound or movement and is best curbed by either teaching the ‘enough’ command or desensitization techniques for specific triggers.
Fear barking happens with timid dogs and approaching people. Obedience training and relying on your appropriate behavior cues are important here.
Last but not least, mental issues or deafness causes dogs to bark because their needed feedback loop is missing.
All of the above may also occur in combination and does not even factor in the environment or your behavior.
Do not be afraid to ask an expert dog trainer to witness your dog's barking episodes.
You cannot observe yourself and having a neutral party watch will often give them valuable clues on helping you solve the problem. If you want to control barking, you need a dog that obeys and can relax. Be consistent and patient. Changing behavior takes time. The longer your dog practiced the undesired behavior the longer it will take to change.
First, you need to remain calm and composed. Remove the motivation and reward if you can. Ignore the barking for as long as it takes the dog to stop, then, and only then reward the dog. Desensitize your dog to the bark stimulus and teach your dog a ‘quiet’ command.
Ask your dog for a behavior incompatible with barking such as ‘down’ and ‘stay’ and reward that. Positive reinforcement is much more powerful than punishment. Control the situation and thus the outcome. And know that ‘anti-bark muzzles’ do one thing for sure: Destroy the bond, trust and respect your dog is so willing to give you if you let him. And yes, this requires patience and learning on your part.
Professional help may sometimes be your best choice.
Our team at North Edge K9 is comprised of active police K9 handlers and trainers with decades of street experience. We are available to help you troubleshoot canine problem behavior, assist in all your training needs or find the perfect dog for you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.