Stop barking now: The 3 best ultrasonic bark control devices

Stop barking now: The 3 best ultrasonic bark control devices

I’ll never forget the day I came home from work to find a note hanging from my front door:

“Your dog is driving me crazy, please do something.”

What? My dog?

Apparently, to my surprise, my poor neighbors had endured countless days of incessant howling and barking. My dog was showing classic signs of separation anxiety.

Like most dog owners, I was completely unaware of my pup’s unfortunate behavior. While I was home, my dog was quiet, composed and perfectly content with cuddling up to watch the latest season of Dog Whisperer. The minute I left the house, he immediately switched gears and turned into a neighborhood menace.  

I knew that curbing his separation anxiety would take time, training, and a lot of patience. However, I didn’t know how much time I had before my neighbors rallied to remove me from the community. I had to find a quick solution to the loudest part of the problem – the barking – while I worked on the deep-rooted issues.

That’s when I discovered that there are a ton of options out there for people and pups, just like me!

If you’re struggling with an excessive barker, you’re not alone. Thankfully, there are a variety of bark control options that you can use, including ultrasonic bark control devices, to help reduce your dog’s pesky barking behaviors. Our top ultrasonic bark control device is the Super Bark Deterrent on Amazon.

Why do dogs bark?

Dogs will be dogs, which means they’re always going to bark. Vocalizing is how dogs communicate with each other and with you! However, there’s a big difference between your average barker and an incessant barker.

It’s impossible to isolate a specific reason a dog is barking, but generally, they fall into one of these six categories: attention seeking, territorial, separation anxiety, frustration, fear and excitement.

dog barking for attention

If I had to guess this beautiful would bark for attention : ) Image: Adam W

Attention seeking

Somewhere along the line, your dog has learned that if they bark, they’ll get your attention. Whether you respond positively or negatively, when your dog wants to play, go outside, or just wants extra love, they know that barking will gain your attention.

Ironically, even by yelling “quiet!” from across the room, you’re inadvertent reinforcing the barking behavior by acknowledging the dog and giving them your attention.

Territorial

It’s normal for your dog to feel compelled to protect you and your property. This is especially true for certain breeds that were originally bred to guard or a ‘herd.’

So, if someone is walking by, approaching or trying to enter an area that they consider their territory (home, backyard, etc.) or they perceive them as a threat to you (their pack), they’ll bark to alert you of the threat. According to ASPCA, dogs that bark territorially will also signal to a potential trespasser that it isn’t a good idea to enter their property.  

In most cases, the barking will stop once the threat has diminished. However, similar to attention seeking barking, this type of barking is reinforced if the person or object is removed.  

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is one of the more common reasons that dogs bark excessively. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest types of barking to prevent because you’re not there to witness it! It takes a great deal of time and patience to remedy, but I can assure you that it is possible with the right tools and training.

To add insult to injury, separation anxiety is usually coupled with other challenging behaviors like eliminating in the house or destroying objects or furniture. If there’s a positive to separation anxiety, it’s that it’s usually pretty easy to recognize.   

When a dog has separation anxiety they are feeling a wide variety of emotions and fall into just about every category mentioned on this list. They’re afraid, anxious, overly-excited, looking for attention and cannot control their behavior.

Frustration

Dogs that bark out of frustration demonstrate similar behaviors as dogs that have separation anxiety. The key difference, is that they do so whether or not you’re present. Have you ever been walking your dog and they suddenly go bonkers and start barking at inanimate objects, dogs, or people?

If so, you may have a frustrated or anxious dog. Keep in mind, similar traits can be present in dogs that are fearful, excited or aggressive. It’s important to seek professional advice, if you’re unsure why your dog is barking excessively.

Fear

A fear-based bark can be similar (if not the same) as a territorial bark. If your dog is uncertain about a person, place, or object, they’ll usually bark because they’re hoping that vocalizing will deter the unfamiliar object/person from approaching them or their territory.

Excitement

When I’m playing my dog’s favorite game – fetch – he gets so excited that he will literally bark at me to throw the ball. Excitement can manifest itself in a number of ways, but barking is the most common way dogs communicate their excitement. If the barking stops once the fun activity is over, chances are you have an excited barker.  

two dogs barking and playing with each other

Barking show down or just playing? Image: Jon Hurd

Bark Control Options

So, now you know why your dog barks but you’re probably wondering what you can do about it. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every dog, but there are a lot of options available.

You may find that one of the methods listed below will work beautifully for your dog, but it’s always recommended that you seek professional guidance from a veterinarian and use these tools in addition to training.

Ignore

This method is a lot easier said than done. The good news, it’s free. The bad news, it’s hard! Ignoring your pup can feel a lot like letting a baby cry. Not only do you want to comfort your dog, you want to stop them from barking and your natural response is to do something.

According to the Humane Society, allowing your dog to bark it out reinforces that you won’t come to their beckoning call. I learned the hard way, that this is especially true for dogs that are barking due to separation anxiety or to get your attention.

Remember, this will not work for all dogs and should be used in addition to other methods of training. I recommend talking to your vet or a trainer to find out if ignoring your pup is the way to go.

Plug-in diffusers

Plug-in diffusers are one of the newer methods on the market to calming an anxious or excited dog. Though I haven’t personally tried a diffuser, I’ve put special pheromone calming sprays on a blanket to keep my dog calm during fireworks and it worked like a charm.

Diffusers are plugged into an outlet, much like an air freshener, and periodically emit a soothing, natural pheromone that is meant to replicate the pheromones a mother releases during nursing. If strategically placed throughout your home, a plug-in diffuser will calm your anxious or destructive dog.

Plug-in diffusers work best for dogs that are confined to smaller spaces, because if they don’t breathe in the pheromone it will have little to no effect on them.

Citronella bark collar

When I found out my dog had separation anxiety, this was the first recommendation I received from friends and family. A citronella bark collar is sort of a hybrid between a diffuser and a shock collar. In my opinion, it is more humane than a shock collar and offers more mobility than a diffuser.

Similar to a shock collar, the citronella bark collar is triggered by the vibrations of your dog’s bark. However, instead of a shock, the collar emits a pet-safe citronella substance that is intended to deter your dog from barking.

Believe it or not, this is what stopped my incessant barker in his tracks. In fact, after just a few times wearing the collar, I was able to put it on my dog without turning it on and he wouldn’t bark.

Shock Collar

A shock collar is certainly one of the more controversial methods to deterring unwanted barking behaviors. Here at Natural Dog Owner we’re against the use of them. You can read about our stance on shock collars here.

Shock collars work in a similar way as a citronella bark collar, but instead of a spray they use an electric simulation between two points on the collar to shock your dog when they bark.

These collars are an aversive training method, which means your dog will not like the feeling and want to stop barking to prevent the shock. Shock collars are used on a variety of unwanted behaviors, not just barking.

What is ultrasonic bark control?

So, you might be asking yourself, what exactly is an ultrasonic bark control and is it safe? When I first heard the word ‘ultrasonic’ I assumed these devices were a complex shock collar. However, this type of bark control is surprisingly simple and differs significantly from a shock collar.

Ultrasonic bark devices work like this: Your dog barks, the device detects the bark and immediately emits a high pitch tone that is intended to distract your dog and stop their barking.

Because your dog’s hearing is substantially better than human hearing, the pitch of the tone is heard only by your dog. It’s also very unpleasant for them. They stop barking and the device stops emitting the sound. Over time your dog will recognize that barking equals unpleasant high pitch tone, so they won’t bark unless it’s important.

There are varying opinions on whether or not these products are safe for pets. However, reputable pet brands like PetSafe have completed safety related research on a variety of dogs to make sure their products are safe for all dogs.

There are also a variety of ultrasonic devices available and you’ll want to find the right type of device for your pup; After all, you know your dog best!

This device is the Sunbeam Little Sonic Egg and we have a full review of it below.

Types of ultrasonic devices

Indoor devices

Indoor devices are small to medium sized teardrop or rectangular shaped objects that are meant to deter your indoor dog from barking.

They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors, so if you have a curious pup or are looking to camouflage the device with your décor, you should be able to do so with ease. Each device has a unique range, which determines how far away the dog can be to trigger the device.

Generally, these devices are set to automatically activate when a dog is within range, but some have a manual feature that provide more control. Indoor ultrasonic devices are also battery powered and how long they last will depend considerably on how often your dog barks. You’ll also want to turn the device off when it’s not being used, to conserve battery and keep your pup from being desensitized to the tone.

Keep in mind that more than one device may be necessary if your excessive barker has free reign over the house – the ultrasonic sound cannot travel through walls. You’ll also want to read the instructions on how to set up the device, to make sure it works properly

Handheld devices

Some indoor devices will also fall into the ‘handheld’ device category due to their small size. However, there are also ultrasonic bark control devices that will fit in the palm of your hand.

These smaller devices are meant to deter your pup from barking anytime, anywhere. Handheld devices usually come with a lanyard or strap to secure the device to your arm, so they can easily be taken on walks or a trip to the park.

Unlike indoor ultrasonic devices, handheld devices are manually controlled by you and can be activated with a click of a button.

Similar to indoor devices, the range of these devices varies, so you’ll want to consider the activity or environment you’ll be using the device in to make sure it’s effective for your pup.

Ultrasonic Collars

Ultrasonic Bark collars are similar to both citronella and shock collars, in that they can be worn and are triggered by the vibrations of your dog barking.

However, bark collars emit a high-pitched noise, much like other ultrasonic devices, rather than producing a shock or spray. A small battery-powered ultrasonic box can be placed on your dog’s existing collar or you can find a pre-assembled collar sized for your dog.

Interestingly, there are ultrasonic collars that are intended for both positive and negative reinforcement. So, if you’re trying to reinforce positive behaviors like “sit,” you can emit a positive tone, much like a clicker, to signal to your dog that they’re doing the right thing.

Ultrasonic collars are much more discreet than other collars on the market, because only your dog can hear the noise. However, if you’re in close proximity to other dogs, they will also be able to hear the high-pitched tone. This is important to consider, if you’re out at the park or in a training environment with other dogs. While you may be signaling to your dog to stop an unwanted behavior, you may be disturbing a dog in close proximity.

Outdoor devices

If my neighbors were aware of ultrasonic outdoor devices during my dog’s separation anxiety dilemma, I’m sure they would have invested in one.

At first glance, outdoor ultrasonic devices look like cute little yard decorations or bird houses, so your unsuspecting pup won’t know that they actually emit an ultrasonic tone. These devices work in a similar way as their indoor counterparts, except they generally offer a longer range and are more durable to withstand the elements.

These are more common for neighbors that have no control over their neighbors barking dogs or dogs that are left outside for extended periods of time. Similar to ultrasonic collars, your dog (or your neighbor’s dog) may not be the only pets that hear the high-pitched tone, so it’s important to use discretion when considering this option.

Here’s a great video from Living On A Dime where they give a great honest look at these devices, how they work and how effective they are.

How effective are ultrasonic devices?

The answer to this question is complicated, because it depends on the dog, but the majority of dogs will reduce or eliminate their barking with the use of a an ultrasonic device. This study by Petsafe.net showed that all dogs in their test group, which ranged in size from 8lbs to 110lbs, reduced there barking with the use of an ultrasonic collar.

There are, however, a few things you’ll want to consider before purchasing a device for your canine.

Is your dog elderly or hard of hearing?

In order for these devices to work, a dog not only has to hear the tone emitted from the device, it has to surprise them. If your dog is hard of hearing, they may not hear the sound, or they will hear a dull version of it.

Is your dog an excessive barker?

Similar to an elderly dog, sometimes excessive barkers will actually bark over the sound coming from the device and won’t be deterred by an ultrasonic tone. Some consumers have reported that their excessive barkers will bark right through the tone, with little to no change in behavior.

However, some say this was due to improper use of the device, so take this with a grain of salt. If your dog can’t hear the device you may need to use multiple devices and also make sure it’s directed toward them.

Is your dog easily frightened?

When you were brainstorming on the type of barker your dog is, you may have determined that your dog is fearful. If you have a fearful dog, an ultrasonic device may actually make the barking behavior worse. Some dogs get spooked by the sudden tone and instead of relating the sound to unwanted barking, they intensify their behavior to try and escape the sound.

When are they most effective?

Ultrasonic devices are most effective when paired with other training strategies. If it’s feasible, try burning off your dog’s excess energy. A tired dog is a good dog!

You can also use interactive treats and toys, like a Kong, to distract your dog during down time. This method offers your dog a mental stimulus that will lessen the urge to bark or partake in other destructive behaviors.

Lastly, you can hire a dog walker or phone a friend to help keep your dog from being left at home alone, for extended periods of time. Dogs are pack animals and always benefit from social interaction, to reduce unwanted habits.

When used with other methods of training and on the right dog, ultrasonic bark control is a highly effective method of controlling unwanted barking.

The 3 best ultrasonic bark control devices

Now that you have a better idea of what these devices do and what type of dog they work best on here’s our top 3 choices.

Zelers Ultrasonic Bark Control

The outdoor Anti-Barking Device by Zelers is marketed as being a 100% safe and humane way to curb unwanted barking. At first glance, it looks like a simple, little black box, but what the Zelers device lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in functionality.

The Zelers outdoor Anti-Barking device uses an internal microphone to detect a barking dog for up to 50 feet. However, if you’re concerned that the device may unintentionally impact dogs in neighboring yards, there are four levels of operation available to reduce or increase range, as needed. It’s recommended that you use the test feature, to make sure the microphone and speaker are fully functional.

The Zelers device offers a durable, weatherproof cover so it can be freely hung or mounted anywhere outdoors. In fact, due to its compact size, it is a great option for deterring your pup from barking while traveling. So, if you have a camping trip planned and want your pup to accompany you on the adventure, the product can be packed and transported with ease.

It’s important to note that although this device works for dogs of all sizes, it shouldn’t be used on dogs that are less than 6 months old. So, if you’ve decided to invest in ultrasonic bark control for a neighbor’s dog, you’ll want to make sure it’s safe to do so.

The Zelers outdoor device is powered with a heavy-duty 9-volt battery, so the average battery life for this device is 5-6 months. Keep in mind, battery life is largely dependent on use, so you’ll want to consider how frequent the device will be used, to determine how often batteries will need to be replaced. Unfortunately, batteries are not included.

Zelers recognizes that ultrasonic devices are not effective on all pets, so they offer a No Bark Guarantee. If your dog (or your neighbor’s dog) is not responding to the device, you can contact Zelers to return the product.

What customers have to say about the Zelers Anti-Barking Device:

Pros:

  • Effective on territorial barkers (ex: German Shepherd)
  • Can also be used indoors on a lower setting
  • More effective than other methods (Shock collars)
  • Works on dogs of all sizes
  • Easy to install

Cons:

  • If you have more than one dog or other pets, when one barks it may confuse the others that are not barking
  • May be triggered by loud noises
  • Range of the device can be misleading – may need more than one
  • Started to rust when left outdoors

Read more reviews and purchase the Zeler Anti-Bark device on Amazon.

Super Outdoor Ultrasonic Bark Deterrent

Unlike the Zelers model, the Super Bark Control Outdoor Bark Deterrent is not a black box, but a cute little birdhouse that comes in two different colors – red and black – and blends into the aesthetics of a backyard.

There are a number of similarities between the Zeler’s Mini Outdoor Anti-Barking Device and the Super Bark Control. Both devices are powered with a 9-volt battery (batteries not included), are driven by a microphone that isolates barking and emits a high-pitched ultrasonic noise to deter excessive barking, and both are marketed as being 100% harmless to pets and humans.

Like the Zelers Mini Outdoor Anti-Barking Device, the Super Outdoor Ultrasonic Bark Deterrent offers four ‘modes,’ so you can find the most suitable range for your pup; The lowest range is a test range and the highest reaches up to 50 feet.

The Super device can be used both indoors and outdoors, but is built with a durable, waterproof material that helps it withstand varying weather. It can also be used on all breeds and sizes but doesn’t indicate whether there is an age restriction. It’s recommended that you consult with a professional, if you have a pup under the age of 6 months.

I appreciate that Super markets this device as being a deterrent, rather than a ‘preventative,’ because it may not work on all dogs. Fortunately, Super offers a 100% money back guarantee if the device doesn’t work.  

It’s also important to note that, as mentioned above, if your dog is deaf or hearing impaired this device will not work.

What customers have to say about the Super Bark Control Outdoor Bark Deterrent:

Pros:

  • Well-packaged and easy installation
  • Works well for neighborhood dogs
  • Works well on dogs that bark when people walk by
  • Very compact
  • Looks good

Cons:

  • Only works within 10 feet
  • May not work on territorial dogs

You can check out more photos and buy the Super Ultrasonic Bark Deterrent on Amazon.

If you’re looking for a similar outdoor device that doesn’t require batteries we recommend the Petsonik Rechargeable Bark Control. 

The Little Sonic Handheld Egg by SunBeam

Unlike the other two devices, the Little Sonic Handheld Egg is catered toward dog owners that are hoping to reduce unwanted barking on the go.

The Little Sonic Handheld Egg by Sunbeam is a handheld device that can easily be packed or carried on walks, used in a dog training environment or taken with you on an outdoor adventure. This is a great option for people that are actively working to train their dog and want a convenient option outside of their home.

Similar to the Zelers Outdoor Anti Barking Device and the Super Outdoor Bark Deterrent, SunBeam’s Little Sonic Handheld Egg emits a tone that only your pup can hear, so it can be used discretely and safely around other pets and people.

Due to its small size, it only requires 4 AAA batteries (not included). Because this device is meant to be handheld, it’s important to note that its range is reduced to 15 feet. It can, however, be used for both indoor and outdoor training.

Unlike the the Zelers Outdoor Anti Barking Device and the Super Bark Control, the Little Egg is manually activated, which you will click a button to trigger the tone and alert your dog of unwanted barking behavior. For this reason, it’s important to know when it’s appropriate to activate the device. If it’s activated too early or too late, it may not be effective.

Like other handheld devices, it offers an adjustable wrist strap, so it can be carried with you, comfortably. It has a 1-year limited warranty, so if you’re concerned that this device may be ineffective, you’ll want to contact  Sunbean for details on what is covered for the first year.

What customers have to say about the Little Sonic Handheld Egg by Sunbeam:

Pros:

  • When the dog sees the device they know not to bark and it does not need to be activated
  • Effectively changes the dog’s focus back to the owner
  • Effective when used with a command like “enough” or “no”
  • Works for other methods of training, like jumping
  • More humane and effective than a shock collar

Cons:

  • Made some dogs more anxious
  • Audible to humans
  • Doesn’t work through walls or barriers of any kind

You can check out photos and read reviews of the Little Sonic Egg on Amazon.

Conclusion

You know your dog best. Although a citronella collar reduced my dog’s separation anxiety, it took a lot of time to really isolate the cause of his barking and understand which method of bark control was best for him. The most important thing to remember is that barking is a common issue for dog owners – you’re not alone! There are a number of methods, like ultrasonic bark control devices, that can help you reduce unwanted, excessive barking.

-Morgan Shannon

Morgan is a pet niche dog blogger located in Southern California. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her exploring the great outdoors with her Labrador, Kingston.

Feature image: Donnie Jones