We have a 12 yo male /neut Jack R T with no current notable health problems. He has a history of IBS but it's been recently well managed with diet and acid blockers.

He's a wonderful dog: cute, loyal, funny, gentle and trustworthy.

However, this dog constantly, loudly, whines. It's completely behavioral and to myself it's very debilitating. My wife and I have two babies on the way. We're in a small place, I need to get the loud high pitched whining noises to stop. At a point of desperation I'm willing to even try a bark collar (shock collar) and Im looking for some experience here with them:

Do bark collars work for older animals to modify behavior (specifically whining)?

Are they considered humane?

Thank you in advance!

Here's more history about our JRT, should it help your answer here:

My wife found him about eight years ago, he was neglected by owner in apt complex, she suspects there was abuse as well. The whining and whimpering has always gone on. My wife is able to be a lot more tolerant of it (I'm ashamed to say)than myself and others.

I moved in about two years ago and brought two cats with me. All the animals get along seemingly well and my wife maintains that there's been no major change in his behavior since I moved in.

Of note he seems to wine more often under the following various circumstances: in the evening, when she and I are together awake in the house, when food is present.

The pitch of the whine is enough to drive most insane. The real concern here is the wife and I are about to have twins (babies) in ~ 6 months. A legitimate concern comes out, I think l, as we live in a small place and if the babies to come will be able to sleep with the whining.

I've never given up on a pet and i'm not about to start.

We've only had two effective treatments: Benadryl worked for a few days. The only other thing that gets him to stop whining is my wife going to bed. He goes up there with her, gets into bed with her, and sleeps.

We have tried some tactics with no success: positive and negative reinforcement taking him out and giving him attention when he's not whining. When he does wine, as consistently as possible we will spray his feet with water from a squirt bottle. We have been doing this fairly consistently for a bout 6 months. He's an old guy though and I don't suspect change in behavior with him will be easy.

I have never used a bark (shock) collar before. They come off as a little much. He's an old guy I don't think it's fair to put him through that.But we're at a tough spot, as it needs to stop.

  • it isn't a question of if its humane, its if its effective. this is a completely anecdotal comment, which its why its a comment not an answer. But in my personal experience (I have a mutt and a golden retriever, both of which are big barkers) a bark collar never worked. the only thing that did work was lots of attention and keeping the dogs focus away from the trigger. But again, completely anecdotal so this may not work for your dogs. But typically they aren't effective. Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 15:39

4 Answers 4


I'm going to disagree with the other two answers. I do not think it's even remotely humane. Your dog has the reasoning capability of a toddler, and for all the reasons you wouldn't put a shock collar on a toddler, you shouldn't put one on a dog.

Your dog trusts you and thinks of you as part of it's family. If you hurt your dog, you betray that trust. It's not about the pain level, as much as the systematic abuse of your dog's trust.

More fundamentally though - negative reinforcement is very unreliable, for the very simple reason that you cannot control what you're dog is associating that negative reinforcement with. That doesn't matter if it's a shock collar or taking a stick to it.

If a dog is barking or whining, they're not doing so just randomly, any more than a baby cries just to piss you off. It's doing so in response to something. If you punish a dog for reacting to something, then it's just as likely to associate the punishment with the thing they're reacting to. Or you. Or some environmental factor. You've simply no control over what they think they've been punished for. Or worse yet - they may not realise at all, they'll perceive it as just random pain, and start to become very anxious and stressed (and maybe do the think you don't like even more as a result).

Consider if you will - a dog barks at the postman. You electrocute your dog to make it stop. Have you just taught it not to bark, or have you convinced it that it was right all along, and the postman is a threat? You can end up in a very rapid spiral of defensiveness and aggression very easily, to the point where you'll do such a lot of psychological damage to your dog that it can no longer be trusted, because it'll have learned with some very strong stimulus that there's a threat they don't properly understand.

So no, I don't think this is a good idea - it may work short term, but it's a massive betrayal of trust and will significantly and permanently damage your dog's mental health.

If your dog is doing something you want it to stop, the most effective approach is gentle positive reinforcement of incompatible behaviours. If your dog is prone to chasing, teach it to sit. It can't do both, and so it'll do the thing that is 'most positive'. You can train a dog into 'quiet' - it's not easy, because it's not doing something - first you need to train 'make a noise' (often 'speak') because then you can predict the stopping - and cuing/reinforcing.

The humane society has some suggestions for this sort of thing: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/how_to_stop_barking.html


"I came to the conclusion that dogs had the mental ability roughly equivalent to a human two-year-old. Further work led me to believe that the most intelligent dogs might have the mental abilities similar to a human two-and-a-half-year-old child"

Anyone who applies aversives when training a dog should have a very clear understanding of what they are doing and how/why it works. Aversives applied without knowledge and skill lead to all kinds of problems, from poor training outcomes to aggressive behaviors.

We are against the use of any negative training method or device and believe that their use is both irresponsible and ineffective.

"As a dog will have no idea what has caused the pain, it is far more likely to associate it with something in its immediate environment than to connect it with its own behaviour at the time."

Whilst a bit 'sciencey' concludes - Overall conclusions P31:

The combination of differences in individual dog‟s perception of stimuli, different stimulus strength and characteristics from collars of different brands, differences between momentary and continuous stimuli, differences between training advice in manuals, differences in owner understanding of training approaches and how owners use the devices in a range of different circumstances are likely to lead to a wide range of training experiences for pet dogs.


There was no difference in owner reported perceived success or ease of training between e-collars and other training methods


These findings suggest that the experience of a stimulus is sufficiently aversive in at least a proportion of dogs for them to experience negative emotions when trained in the situation which may predict collar use.

So - no more effective, and distressing to your dog.

I would also recommend reading:

"In Defence of Dogs" - this also contains citations, however I have quoted directly:

It seems very likely that these dogs were associating the shocks with their handlers, as well as with the mistakes the dogs had made that triggered the shocks. When the shock is not timed properly, the dog’s fear and anxiety may become even worse than this.

Ref: Matthijs Schilder and Joanne van der Borg, ‘Training dogs with help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects’, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 85 (2004), pp. 319– 34.

Bradshaw, John (2011-07-11). In Defence of Dogs: Why Dogs Need Our Understanding (Kindle Locations 5060-5062). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

a growing body of evidence indicates that in inexpert hands physical punishment is not only likely to harm the dog but is ineffective as well. Two separate surveys of dog owners have revealed that dogs trained with punishment tend to be less obedient and more fearful than those trained with reward.

(Ref: Elly Hiby, Nicola Rooney and John Bradshaw, ‘Dog training methods: their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare’, Animal Welfare, 13 (2004), pp. 63– 9.)

Bradshaw, John (2011-07-11). In Defence of Dogs: Why Dogs Need Our Understanding (Kindle Locations 2090-2092). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

And perhaps slightly frivolously, but because I think it's rather fun (and a little more light hearted reading than the rest of the above:

"What Shamu taught me about a happy marriage" - on 'least reinforcing stimulus'.

  • 1
    Good response here and thank you for the link
    – rhill45
    Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 0:16

I am going to tackle the more subjective question first:

Is It Humane?

There is going to be a great differing of an opinion here. My personal opinion is that a bonded dog is better off staying with the people they are bonded too even if it means some sacrifice that is not abusive. Here, so long as the conditioning is short term, the dog will quickly learn that there are consequences to continual barking that can be avoided by not continually barking. So long as you follow the instructions, only set the collar on a setting high enough to be effective, and remove the collar once your dog has adjusted the behavior, it is not an inhumane option. Especially if the barking is to the point where the option is surrender or euthanasia versus the collar.

Is it Effective?

The bark collars I have experience with do not suppress all barking. That would actually be a dangerous thing as your dogs bark is one of the mechanisms it has to alert others to its state of mind. A dog conditioned never to bark is liable to lash out and injure someone without warning because it has been conditioned not to give that warning. Instead most collars activate after the second or third consecutive bark. This allows the dog to give a few alert barks but suppresses the urge to just continually bark for what seems like hours on end. Instead what you end up with is a staccato bark, a bark followed by a pause, followed by a bark, repeat. However I have noticed that the staccato bark does not last any where near as long as when a dog is allowed to continually bark. Though our rescue and fostering efforts we have had the need to correct several animals that have had continual barking problems.

One thing to note if the collar is not effective you should not leave it on the dog anyway. Some dogs are predisposed to bark and this method may not be effective for conditioning them to suppress that. One of our rescue friends had that problem with a beagle mix they rescued. Leaving the collar on them when it is not effective is cruel and inhumane as you are just inflicting punishment with no hope of correction.

Will it be effective for you?

I really doubt it. Bark collars are for correcting continual barking. It does not activate to whining, begging, panting, or growling. So even if you had a bark whine bark whine bark problem it is probably not going to cause the collar to active, thus it is not going to be effective in conditioning your dog to stop the high pitched whining.


I would strongly advise you do NOT use shock collars on your dog.

There are just way too many better options out there for behavioral adjustment than by using shock collars.

By delivering a certain electric frequency to your dog, this can be painful for them. And when they feel pain, this can cause both physical and psychological pain and trauma, and may make your dog very aggressive, especially if they are able to tell where the source of the pain is coming from.

What this means is that if your dog can tell that you are the source of the electric shock, they’ll become aggressive towards you, and that's the last thing you want.

Try out some of the tips mentioned here about how to PROPERLY adjust your dog's behavioral problems when it comes to excessive barking:



Many people find shock collars to be cruel. I have several dogs, and have only used one in one circumstance for one dog, and it worked so well, I only used it several times. I don't like the idea, but I don't think it's inhumane.

I have no doubt that old dogs can learn new tricks. One of my dogs is 9 years old, and learns a new trick in a few tries to a few days, depending on complexity. So I'd say that age shouldn't necessarily be a consideration.

The shock collar I used had settings on it (like 1-10) and I always used a setting on myself first to see how uncomfortable it was. The lower settings were not painful, but more surprising (lowest) and tingling to mildly uncomfortable. The higher settings hurt, and were not used.

Do you have a command for no whining? If you don't, I wouldn't use a collar. They need to understand what they're doing wrong, even with the shock collar, the command has to be disobeyed before the shock is delivered. (I'm not addressing a shock/bark situation).

You say you squirt his feet. Why his feet? Why not his face? If you're using negative consequences for whining, they have to be negative enough to actually make him stop for a second. If the bottle is washed and clean and the water is replaced daily, it certainly won't hurt him to get a mist to the face.

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