Does a Motion Sensor Dog Barking Alarm Really Work?

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Does a Motion Sensor Dog Barking Alarm Really Work?

Home security is a significant concern for everyone. You close your windows, lock your doors, and put down the Charley bar on the patio door, but is that enough? You want your property to be protected, and, more importantly, your family to be protected when you’re home. You want additional security that can deter people who are considering breaking into your home, or that will warn you if someone approaches unexpectedly.

A motion sensor dog barking alarm can be a great choice for both of these purposes. The sound will definitely alert you when someone approaches the house. They can also deter burglars from deciding to enter a home. But do they really work?

Dogs Are Effective Deterrents to Burglary

Sti Rex Dog Barking Entry Alert Entrance Alert
STI REX Dog Barking Entry Alert Entrance Alert

A number of studies of criminals have confirmed that dogs are an effective deterrent to burglary. From an informal standpoint, Jack MacLean in Secrets of a Superthief (1955) interviewed over 300 prison inmates, of whom 65% reported that a large, unfriendly dog would scare them away. However, when he reassessed their responses, he concluded that many who said they weren’t afraid of a dog were lying, and said that 95% of burglars would actually be deterred by a dog. In fact, a dog was second only to people in the house for scaring away burglars.

This evidence is confirmed in In Their Own Words: Criminals on Crime (1999), edited by P. Cromwell. In The Experience of Being Burgled (1994) by P. Nicholson, objective statistics confirm that houses with dogs are less likely to be burgled than those without dogs.

A 2012 report from The University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology also notes that dogs are an effective deterrent to burglaries.

Problems with Dog Ownership

Although dogs are effective at deterring burglaries, there are many reasons why people looking for additional security might not want to own a dog. These include:

  • Cost: Dogs are expensive to buy and maintain.
  • Time: Dogs take time to care for.
  • Mess: Dogs produce waste either on the property or during walks. They can track mud and dirt into the house, may roll in animal carcasses or have unfortunate encounters with skunks.
  • Property: Dogs can sometimes be damaging to a property. Large dogs, especially, can cause significant damage to a yard and to furniture.
  • Allergies: Many people are allergic to dogs.
  • Safety: Dogs can sometimes be a danger to their owners, children, and visitors to the home.
  • Lease: Renters may not be allowed to have a dog on the property.
  • Dislike: Some people may just dislike dogs.

With all of these reasons, many people may think that the protection afforded by a dog is just not worth the trouble. This makes a dog substitute like an electronic watchdog an appealing option.

Why Electronic Watchdogs Can Be Effective

Fake dog barking alarms may seem like a longshot for deterring criminals, but there are many things that work in the favor of these motion activated barking dog alarms.

First, it’s a mistake to assume that it’s the actual dog that deters criminals. Although many are actually afraid of dogs, they are often just as concerned about the noise dogs make. Criminals want to be able to enter your home quickly and quietly in order to be able to take what they want and escape. A dog–or a fake dog barking alarm–prevents that.

Many people are concerned that the repetitive pattern of a barking dog alarm would give away that it’s not a real dog, but this may not be as much of a concern as you think. Contrary to what you see on TV and in movies, the UNC study notes that less than a third of burglars actually gather intelligence about the homes they burglarize before making the attempt. Instead, burglars are making decisions about whether to proceed or abort the burglary when they reach the home. At the moment they are making the attempt, a burglar likely doesn’t have the time or clarity of mind to discern the difference between an actual or a fake barking dog.

A fake barking dog also does one of the most important things you want a real dog for: waking you up if someone comes to the door. It doesn’t matter if it’s a real dog or a fake one in this case.

Fake barking dog alarms are also effective against nonhuman intruders. The Bear League noted that a fake barking dog alarm is effective at preventing black bears from raiding residents’ trash cans. These intruders can’t tell the difference between a real dog and a fake one.

How to Choose a Dog Barking Alarm

Although dog barking alarms definitely have the potential to be effective, whether they actually are effective or not depends on the features of the alarm. Here are some key things to look for:

  • Sensitivity: The dog barking alarm should be able to sense movement through walls, doors, and windows.
  • Range: You want a dog barking alarm that can detect intruders and visitors from far enough away.
  • Ease: You want a dog barking alarm that can be installed quickly and easily.
  • Adjustable: You want to be able to set the alarm up to detect intruders at the right distance, eliminating false alarms that will reduce the effectiveness.
  • Volume Control: You want the alarm to be loud enough to be heard, but not disruptive.
  • Adaptable: Plugging in to a wall outlet is an easy way to power most dog barking alarms, but sometimes you might need the flexibility of a battery-powered unit.
  • Wide Angle: Barking dog alarms don’t detect over the full 360 degree circle (though reflected radar waves may make it seem so). After all, you don’t want it going off when you’re walking around your home. But a wide angle can help you get good coverage of the approach to your home.
  • Realism: The best alarms simulate the way a real dog responds to an intruder, with an isolated bark if the intruder is far away, increasing in frequency and volume as the intruder approaches.
  • Selection of Tones: It is nice to be able to select from a number of different sounds the alarm can make. This includes the ability to change from a barking dog to an alert tone during the day for convenience. This can be especially beneficial to businesses that don’t want a barking dog to scare their clients during the day.
  • Siren: Once an intruder has been at a certain distance from the dog barking alarm for a certain amount of time, it’s clear the alarm isn’t working as a deterrent. At this point, you might want the alarm to switch to a siren that is a more clear-cut warning that someone is entering the house.
  • Durable: You want a barking dog alarm that is sturdy and won’t be damaged by people bumping up against it. You also want one that will continue functioning for a long period of time.
  • Warranty: A warranty from the manufacturer or retailer protects you against many potential problems and can serve as a guarantee of quality.
  • Cost: It’s unlikely that a dog barking alarm will be anywhere near as expensive as an actual dog, but if cost is a factor, make sure you consider operational as well as purchase price.

Considering these factors, the Rex Plus Electronic Watchdog is a good choice.

Rex Plus Electronic Watchdog

Product Details: The Rex Plus barking alarm allows you to have the sound of a barking dog without the need for an actual dog. The sound can be an effective burglar deterrent. Rex Plus uses radar to detect motion even through thick, dense walls and multiple pained windows. Can stay on duty around the clock or be set with a simple informative alarm or pleasant background noise during the day. This makes the Rex Plus an ideal security device for residential and commercial applications. Adjustable detection sensitivity and a wide detection angle allow you to use this product virtually anywhere you want to watch for intruders. The detection ability of this barking dog alarm was tested and verified by Consumer Reports.

Product Features:
  • Radar Sensor: detects movement through walls, doors, and windows
  • Adjustable Sensing: Turn sensitivity up or down to reduce false alarms and detect intruders at the right distance.
  • 150 Degree Detection Arc: 50% larger than competing barking dog alarms. Reflected waves increase detection area.
  • Long Range Detection: Up to 30 feet.
  • Flexible Power: Plugs into any standard electrical outlet.
  • Realistic Response: Barking gets louder and more frequent as motion approaches
  • Adjustable Sound: Two different dog sounds, a combination of dogs, two sirens, three chimes, and a background noise setting.
  • Adjustable Volume: Set it to be heard through your door, but not so loud it deafens you or your visitors.
  • Ease of Operation: Ready to use out of the box with easy controls and voice prompt for setup.
  • Limited 90 Day Warranty

*Unfortunately, the product may not work in homes with metal siding, metal roofs, metal doors, and stucco siding as metal interferes with the radar detection.

What Reviewers Say:

Overall, the response to Rex Plus has been very positive. More than two-thirds (68%) of reviewers gave the product 4- or 5-stars. Common aspects of the product that were praised include the realistic sound of the barking, especially through doors, the ease of setup, and the effectiveness of detection. Some reviewers have had neighbors ask about their dog. Few reviewers had difficulty setting up or adjusting the product. One reviewer notes that they had a similar detector for 14 years before buying a replacement. At least one reviewer notes that although the sound didn’t deter a burglar, it awoke him and he was able to deter the burglar.

When reviewers had complaints, they generally fell into three categories: unrealistic barking sound, inability to detect motion in some places, and oversensitivity. The realism of barking sounds is obviously a judgment call, and may not matter (see Why Electronic Watchdogs Can Be Effective above). Inability to detect motion and oversensitivity both come from the same source: reflective walls that bounce back the radar waves.

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