Why pet correctors don’t work

Much has been written about excessive chihuahua barking and we have had many discussions on our Facebook page about the problem.

Anyone who owns or lives with a chi will testify that chihuahuas like a bark. They will bark out the window at passers-by, car doors slamming, visitors ringing the doorbell, you name it your chihuahua will bark. Some readers say, in a kind of jokey way, that their chihuahua will bark at leaves falling off the trees or the wind blowing.

Knee jerk reactions to dog barking

It’s no surprise then, that many people want to stop the noise and will jump at anything that’s offered. Last week an advert appeared on my Facebook feed for a gadget that you pointed at the dog when it started to bark. People where commenting on its effectiveness and encouraging others to buy one. One person proclaimed

“My dog only has to see me reach for it and she shuts right up.”

I was appalled and saddened that these people so misunderstood their dogs that they felt using a product like this was the answer. They had no realisation that it was damaging their relationship with their dog. Frankly it’s just plain appalling laziness.  

What these products are

There are a few of these products on the market, they are readily available in the training section of your local pet store, unless its an ethical one, or from online retailers.

You have your pet correctors, a klaxon type affair that emits a loud noise when you press the button.

Barking collars that emit either a high pitch sound, a citrus spray or a small electric shock when the dog barks.

Surgery, yep if you have money to spend, you can have your dogs bark ‘softened’. You can read more about debarking here. But, before you jump up and down and think this is the answer, the sound a ‘debarked’ dog makes is so gut wrenching and sad it’s almost impossible to live with.

Owners even make your own ‘anti bark’ gadget from a can of coins that you shake at your dog or some owners like to squirt water at them. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you get the picture.

Why they don’t work

In fact, most of the time they do work in the moment, if your primary goal is to stop excessive chihuahua barking. But what they don’t do is teach you or your dog anything. They just frighten it into silence. Long term it will add to the excitement levels leading to stress and frustration in your dog. Exacerbating their behaviour problems. Eventually your dog may start to act aggressively towards you when you use it. What then, how and what are you going to use next? Is this how you want to treat a member of your family?

What your chihuahua is trying to say

Dog’s bark because it is how they communicate. There are several different types of bark that communicate different feelings. Happiness, playfulness, stress including loneliness & anxiety, pain, a warning of trespassers. Crucially it could be a warning that your dog doesn’t like what is happening. A dog will bark a warning that he is feeling anxious. Next step might be to defend himself the only way he knows how. A bite.

Pet correctors and the like are considered an aversive form of training. No modern, positive trainer will recommend one. If they do, then change your trainer. Aversive means an unpleasant stimulus used to modify behaviour. A punishment for communicating.

A longer term solution

I totally get why people resort to gadgets. Chihuahuas can bark like no other dog. They charge around the house in a state of high excitement letting you know that next door have shut their car door. Or they bark and lunge at other dogs in the park. Turning what is meant to be a pleasant walk that’s good for you into a pile of stress and embrassessment.

But the good news is it can be dealt with and you can get back the dog you always dreamt off. By changing the way your chihuahua sees the world. It may sound flakey but with shaping and positive reinforcement it can be done. I know I have five and I’ve helped countless other chihuahua owners.