The Dazer II Ultrasonic Dog Deterrent does what it says it’s designed to do: It emits a high-frequency, audible to dogs only sound at the push of a button.

I read about the Dazer in Sunday’s New York Times Style Magazine. In a piece titled, "Can You Hear Me Now?" I learned that silence can and should be bought.

Indeed, if the Dazer’s manufacturers, and this essay’s author, are to be believed, anyone can wrest the bark from a dog (yours or your neighbor’s) with a little "safe" ingenuity in the guise of this push-button device.

Problem is, while its high-frequency emission is reliable, it doesn’t always achieve the desired result: deterring dogs from yapping unnecessarily.

And it’s not just the (aptly named) Dazer. I could rattle off a list of a dozen such products, all of which have earned them seriously low-achieving marks after a few short weeks in play.  Because it’s almost always the same in the end: The product works great at the outset … only to lose its mojo quickly down the line once the inevitable desensitization sets in.

Why? Because the success of these devices relies on the simple element of surprise. Most dogs, in fact, are merely baffled into bark inactivity. They still have the basic desire to bark away their boredom, or howl out their anxiety, they just happen not to have a reason to do so now that they’ve been so oddly interrupted, and thankfully distracted … for now, anyway.

To be clear, we’re not talking about products that use a truly noxious stimulus like electric shock — and thank God for that — or that can promise a solution for the underlying condition. These are simple devices that offer relatively neutral stimuli (like sounds, sprays, or smells), and that serve merely to redirect an animal’s behavior rather than extinguish it or desensitize them to whatever led them to bark in the first place.

These are mere stopgap measures. And fun though they may be to play with, I have serious reservations about the philosophy that underlies the need for such products. Because while silence may be golden, dogs bark for a reason. Consequently, not only do I have a problem with any approach that oversimplifies our dogs’ basic drives, so too do I take issue with any that can manage to equate a dog’s bark with the omnipresent whine of a leaf blower, or an overhead jumbo jet’s engines.

I mean, dogs may be annoying when their behavior isn’t addressed, but let’s speak plainly now. Of all the major noise problems I know of, canine or otherwise, ultimately, they’re all man-made. So what do you say we humans leave the dogs alone on this one?


Dr. Patty Khuly

Art of the Day: "pink steering wheel, barking dog, rain drops, American flag" by Pierre Lascott.