DennisBeaverMarch 19, 2010 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver

The following e-mail was sent from a couple who recently moved from Kingsburg to San Francisco.

“We are going insane because of our next door neighbor’s four dogs. From the moment they let them out into their backyard, it’s non-stop barking, and our homes are only inches apart! This begins at 7 in the morning when they go to work, and only stops at 8 in the evening. We’ve asked them to consider the families this is bothering, but all they say is, dogs bark, and they are part of our family, so live with it!

“A report has been made to the police and Animal Control, but nothing yet has resulted. We have been told there is something on the market which electronically stops dogs from barking but does not harm the dog. If true, it would be heaven! Is this for real? Can you look into it for us?”

Hey, doggy, listen to this!

Comments such as “We love our dogs. They are members of our family. Dogs bark and I don’t care what you think,” were “pure motivation for my team at PetSafe, headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn.,” Program Manager Ricky Dukes told me. They developed an absolutely amazing little device, which looks like a birdhouse — and with ultrasonic sound — flips Fido’s bark switch to “off” in an instant without hurting the pooch.

It is called the PetSafe OutDoor Ultrasonic Bark Control and I have seen it in action. Friends of ours have neighbors with an IQ in the minus category and a circus menagerie of dogs, cats and I don’t know what else lurk in their backyard. But it’s the neverending barking which caused our friends to think of “feelings of revenge, the pure sadistic enjoyment we would have by tossing the dogs onto a nearby freeway.” they admitted after one glass too many of Zinfandel.

However, a much less violent solution was suggested by a friendly Animal Control officer.

“She told us about this bark control device. We were being driven out of our minds by the dogs, and so we bought it, turned it on, and within 2 seconds, all the dogs quit barking!” they told me.

In researching this story, I had to see it for myself, and watched and listened to what would happen when the device was turned off for a while. It seemed as if the dog pound was right next door.

Then I turned it on. Doggy choir practice was over. It was incredible.

The science behind bark control

In explaining how ultrasonic bark control devices work — other companies have similar devices on the market — I learned from Dukes that it’s more than electronics which come into play.

“Years of research in dog training reveal that if you can catch him — within 3 seconds — and mark that behavior, either with a reward or correction, then an association will be made. This is why timing with any behavior — negative or positive — is critical,” he said.

“Applying this behavior principle, our device has a microphone and speaker. It listens for the unique sound wave of a bark, and once it hears it, an ultrasonic sound is generated — at 21,000 Hertz — above frequencies humans can hear.

“The dog will stop barking immediately and start listening inquisitively, as this is probably a sound it has never heard before. It disrupts the dog’s routine. The sound doesn’t harm the dog, but it doesn’t like it either. Soon, it makes an association between barking and the rapidly occurring, disruptive sound.

“But what happens when you want the dog to bark, when there is someone on your property who should not be there, or in your house — when it is a dangerous situation?” I asked.

“These devices control nuisance barking. The good kind of barking — protective barking — is not affected. If there is a burglar or someone in your yard who should not be there, your dog will still sound the alarm,” Dukes said.

Barking is how dogs communicate and it is normal

While Dukes makes devices that quiet Fido, he loves dogs and believes that a lot of people do not understand that barking is an important method of communication and release for the animal.

“If you want to have a happier, and in general, quieter dog, research clearly shows that dogs who are taken out for a walk, who have a yard in which to play, who are petted and treated nicely are less frustrated and engage in much less nuisance barking. This makes pet ownership more enjoyable — for the animal, the owner and neighbors.”

Regular readers of “You and the Law” know that I rarely endorse products. This one I absolutely do.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.