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Citronella Collars

The Citronella collar first found widespread use as an anti-barking device in Europe. However, since 1995 it has been in common use in the U.S. as well, and has also found acceptance in Australia, where the most common alternative, the shock collar, is prohibited by law.

Citronella is a fragrant grass native to southern Asia. After being processed, the plant yields an oil that is used in the manufacture of both perfumes and insect repellent.

At some point, someone discovered that most dogs have a natural aversion to the scent of citronella oil, and will avoid it if they can.

That led to the development of the citronella anti-barking collar. After being attached to the dog's neck, the collar automatically releases a squirt of citronella fragrance under the animal's nose every time he barks.

Not surprisingly, dousing a dog with citronella after every vocalization serves to reduce the animal's rate of barking. It may even completely stop the dog from barking - for a while.

The problem with the citronella collar is that the dog will eventually habituate to the smell. That's because dogs get used to the odor after a while, and the more accustomed the animal becomes to the scent, the less it will bother him.

That means that the more your dog wears the citronella collar, the less well it will work, and the less effective it will be.

If you fit your dog with a citronella collar and leave it on him more or less full time, you are likely to find that it will dramatically reduce his rate of barking for the first couple weeks, but that after that, it won't have much of an effect.

The best way around the habituation phenomenon is to alternate the use of the citronella collar with an electronic collar, so that the dog wears the citronella device no more often than once or twice a week.

Needless to say, the citronella collar is unlikely to serve as the sole answer to your barking problem, but it might prove to be one valuable component in your arsenal of training tricks and anti-barking devices.

There are a couple other things you should keep in mind if you are considering a citronella device. First, the collar might be a bit much for a small fry to haul around, so your dog should weigh at least ten pounds.

Also, if you are dealing with a dog that is genetically predisposed to frequent barking, who also has strong motivation to bark and nothing much else to do with his time, then you are likely to find that it will take something a bit stronger than citronella to get the problem turned around.

The Dog Science Network also sponsors a course in dog training, featuring a free workshop in canine
, as well as an advanced course in obedience training, street safety, and watchdog work.

This page is part of Section One:
the Your Dog section of