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You and the Law:
How to deal with noisy or aggressive dogs

The Hanford Sentinel

Attorney Dennis Beaver, The Hanford Sentinel, 3/3/2012

Does this situation sound familiar? You are out for a walk. Suddenly, you hear a dog — at first barking loudly — then growling, snarling and, with each second, getting louder and way too close. Visions of an ambulance ride and hospital ER become more and more apparent. With seconds to act, what do you do? Walk away? Run away? Stay put? Spray Mace if you have a can handy? Or is there something else which might reduce the danger?

Here's another scenario. After moving to a pleasant neighborhood, the truth of an old saying comes to mind: "You can pick your friends, but not your neighbors or relatives." Your next-door neighbors — the ones with two Hummers and who resemble Smokey the Bear — seem to have an entire kennel full of dogs in their backyard, barking at all hours of the day and night.

There is good reason to believe that, even if asked nicely, these folks will do nothing. As you live alone, going to the authorities is not an attractive option. While anonymously putting their dogs on You Tube to create embarrassment has been suggested, a less public, stealth, high-tech solution using high-frequency sound — which will not harm the dogs — has also been mentioned.

Is there such a thing? Is it possible to stop dogs from barking through the use of sound alone, without harm, and can the same technology deter an aggressive dog about to attack?

The answer is a qualified yes, through the use of ultra-high frequency sound in what are commercially known as Ultra Sonic Dog Silencers/Deterrents. In March of 2010, we reviewed two of the most popular devices on the market and recently were asked to revisit this subject.

Highly effective in our tests

The two products we tested and found extremely effective were the Dog Silencer Pro from Good Life, Inc. of Medford, Ore. and the Pet Safe Outdoor Bark Control from Radio Systems Corp. of Knoxville, Tenn.

The Pet Safe resembles a cute little bird house, while the Dog Silencer Pro looks more like a small, portable radio.

Manufacturers provided us samples which were distributed to animal control officers in California's Central Valley. Both devices received high marks in significantly reducing "annoyance and nuisance barking, without affecting beneficial territorial or protective barking," Officer S. reported.

"We loaned them to homeowners who had filed barking dog complaints, and we also personally tested them in kennels to see how dozens of yapping dogs would react.

"I must tell you that we had so many thankful homeowners, amazed how the barking simply stopped in virtually all cases. In the kennel, when switched on, the dogs looked in our direction, and within a few seconds, they quieted down significantly. It was obvious the dogs did not like the sound, so to avoid it, they stopped barking," she stated.

"Having a supply of the devices to loan out to homeowners would be a very good idea for all law enforcement departments to consider, as they are an economical way of addressing these very real and time-intensive complaints," she believes.

Technology explained

Sean Moeschl of Good Life Inc. explained how this interesting technology helps to reduce annoyance barking:

"A dog can hear sounds in the ultrasonic range, which is at a much higher frequency than humans. An ultrasonic bark control device listens for the particular pattern of a dog's bark.

"When [the Dog Silencer Pro] hears it, it emits a sound in the ultrasonic frequency range, which is harmless to dogs, but which they really don't like, and their behavior at that moment is disrupted. Typically it stops barking and in return, the unpleasant sound ends."

Ricky Dukes from Pet Safe describes what happens next:

"You are actually training the dog — conditioning it — to refrain from a certain kind of behavior. So, when it repeats nuisance barking — and the bark control immediately sounds — a pattern begins.

"Soon, the animal is conditioned to associate this kind of barking with the unpleasant noise, and after a while, in order to avoid negative reinforcement, the dog remains fairly quiet.

"Each successive exposure to the device further reinforces that a certain kind of annoyance barking will provoke the ‘annoying' sound. And so, the dog typically refrains from this kind of barking," Dukes concluded.

Both companies have excellent websites which are certainly worth looking at. While the technology used in them is similar, each have slightly different features, but in our experience, given a dog with normal hearing, these devices are impressive and well worth the money.

It is no exaggeration that the same technology has been shown to prevent dog attacks, and next time we'll look at a small, hand-held device which does precisely that.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to him at 661- 323-7993 or emailed to him at lagombeaver@hotmail.com.

Reprinted with Permission from The Hanford Sentinel - www.hanfordsentinel.com