By Rhett Kermicle
When bark-control collars came on the market, they solved a problem that most of us have experienced at one time or another: a dog that just won’t be quiet. Most hunters are familiar with bark-control collars, the e-collars that automatically correct a dog when it barks excessively. But did you know that using a bark-control collar provides benefits that will help you make your dog a better hunter?
First, let’s look at the obvious reasons for using such a collar. If you live in town and your dog barks while you’re away, you could be in for trouble with your neighbors. Worse, many towns have an ordinance directed at nuisance barking, and if you violate it you could be in for a hefty fine.
But even if you live in a rural area and don’t have to worry about cranky neighbors, you need to keep your dog’s barking in check. A dog that spends most of its day barking for no good reason is wasting energy. Then, when it’s time to head out for a training session or a hunt, your dog can’t possibly be at the top of its game. It wasted all of its valuable energy pacing and barking in the kennel. So a dog that is calm and quiet when it’s at home or in its travel crate should be the goal of every hunter.
We use bark-control collars as necessary at our kennel. Barking seems to be contagious. It only takes one loudmouth pacing and barking to get the other dogs fired up, and soon the noise is out of control. But when we use e-collars on the worst offenders and they quiet down, the mood of the other dogs in the kennel seems to change as well.
The ultimate benefit to using a bark-control collar is something many hunters never think about: It is a tool that helps train your dog, even when you’re not around. When a dog barks while wearing the collar and feels the collar’s stimulation, it stops barking. After a few repetitions, the dog has learned how to turn the collar off. This little exercise represents the end result that every trainer who uses an e-collar wants to reach: a dog that understands which behaviors are desirable and which ones are not. This understanding increases a dog’s confidence, and confidence is something every great field performer needs.
One important consideration in choosing a bark-control collar is to get one with adjustable correction levels. We use the SportDOG Brand’s SBC-18 model at our kennel, because of its versatility. This model has three correction levels and six increments within each level for a total of 18 levels. When the collar senses a dog’s bark, it delivers a short, harmless, electronic stimulation at the lowest level. If the dog continues barking, the collar delivers another correction at the next highest level. A barking dog quickly discovers that the only way to avoid the correction is to be quiet.
When first using a bark-control collar, put it on your dog without turning the collar on. Yes, this can take patience if you’ve been battling a stubborn barker, but try to have the dog wear the collar for a week before activating it. (To avoid chafing, never leave any e-collar on a dog for more than half a day at a time.) When you finally turn the collar on, set it at the lowest setting. Don’t try to guess the level your dog will respond to. There is no reason to take a chance of over-correcting. If the lowest level doesn’t do the trick, then you can increase one level at a time until you get results.
Eventually, your dog will have conditioned itself to remain quiet regardless of whether it is wearing a collar. A dog that has learned to respect the bark-control collar is going to be calmer in the kennel, more responsive in the field and easier to train. And that’s an edge any hunter should be happy to have.