A new dog collar with an installed speaker swears every time your dog barks, CNN reported. The Cuss Collar isn’t intended as a substitute for dog training, but it can provide comic relief. Fortunately, you can manage your pup’s barking.
According to the CNN article, the Cuss Collar—which retails for $60—is made by a company called MSCHF, which is known for its offbeat gag gifts and internet tools. The collar fastens around the dog’s neck like a regular dog collar and emits a curse word with every bark your dog makes.
As silly as the invention is, anyone who’s ever spent time with a dog likely understands its appeal. Dogs often get overexcited and bark at anything that tickles their fancy, from passing cars to noises across the street. The Cuss Collar will likely give some dog owners some much-needed laughs amid all that barking. Then it may be time to help the dog learn to bark less often. Here’s how.
Time-Outs: Why and Where
Dogs make different barks for different reasons. Training them when to bark and when not to bark can be a frustrating road, but implementing time-outs will help them learn about penalties for undesirable actions.
“Time-outs are punishment; they are events that reduce behavior,” said Jean Donaldson, Founder and Primary Instructor of The Academy for Dog Trainers. “The principle behind time-out is the same principle as citations for abusing the carpool lane or speeding. Losing $350, a few demerit points, and having your insurance premium double until the day you die is motivating stuff.”
However, Donaldson said, there’s a vital distinction between the motivation of monetary fines and, say, being beaten with a lead pipe. “The kind of punishment we’re going to use on the dog is taking valuables away from him, not the addition of pain and fear,” she said.
So how do you give a dog a time-out?
“In dog training, the goal is to move the dog further from what he most wants at that second,” Donaldson said. “If he’s doorbell barking, he’s timed out away from the door, away from the action. If he’s demand-barking in the middle of a fetch game or a tug game, the game ends and the toy is put on the fridge.”
Time-Outs: How and When
Donaldson was also quick to point out the three vital rules of time-outs. “The first one is follow-through,” she said. “Unlike rewards, which can work very powerfully even if not administered every time, time-outs work much better if he gets one every time he makes the criteria for time-out, which brings us to the second rule: clear criteria.”
Donaldson recommended using a warning cue for a dog, like the short and quick phrase “enough please.” She said a phrase like this should let the dog know that the very next bark will get them a time-out. Then, without exception, you have to follow through.
“However you orchestrate a time-out is less important than that you orchestrate it,” she said. “Things must immediately get worse for him vis-a-vis his immediate goal. The magnitude matters, which brings us to our third rule: Use an appropriate magnitude.”
Donaldson said that dog owners often think their dog forgets they’re in a time-out after 10 seconds or so, but the opposite is true. “Just like a $500 fine is something you’ll work harder to avoid than a $25 fine, a heftier time-out is more motivating for your dog than a lower magnitude time-out,” she said. She recommends about five minutes for barking, with the caveat that if the dog is quiet, it can be let out sooner.
In order to implement a warning cue like “enough please,” Donaldson said every dog should get one chance, no exceptions.
“One warning cue, then the dog stops or he doesn’t,” she said. “If he does, thank him and carry on. If he barks, tell him he’s earned a time-out and then implement the time-out. Early on in the training process, he won’t stop when you issue the warning cue because he hasn’t learned the connection between barking after warning cues and time-outs, and he won’t learn that connection if you issue multiple warnings.”
With perseverance, patience, and consistency on your part, your dog will learn to understand warning cues as well as correlate punishment with unwanted barking. Remember, making exceptions and being too soft or inconsistent with the dog will confuse its learning process. So before long, the curse words won’t be coming out of the dog collar.
Jean Donaldson contributed to this article. She is the founder and principal instructor of The Academy for Dog Trainers. More than 700 trainers have been trained and certified in evidence-based dog behavior training, and private behavior counseling, since 1999. Ms. Donaldson is a four-time winner of the Dog Writers Association of America’s Maxwell Medallion.