Friday, May 24, 2013

Dealing with dog’s increased barking

Citronella is a fragrant natural oil used as an insect repellent and in perfume and soap manufacture. This oil is obtained from South Asian grass, Cymbopogon nardus. But to use it to stop dogs from barking is news to me.

I saw this on the Boston Herald and I thought dog owners might be interested:-

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Dear Dr. John,

My 6-year-old Vizsla has always been a bit of a barking dog, but recently her barking at people seems to have increased. She is perfectly healthy and is seen regularly by our veterinarian. She has lots of energy and we take her wherever we go.

We are renting a cottage for two weeks this summer near the beach, and we are concerned about her barking at the rental property.

As such, and because of the recent increased barking, I did some research and purchased a citronella anti-bark collar. The first time I put it on she quieted down probably because she has previously worn an invisible-fence collar. When she barked it did not work and we realized we did not turn it on. We corrected our mistake, and the next time she barked she got a blast of citronella and freaked out. Then she sulked around until we took the collar off.

Are there other options for us besides what we are using, and will she get used to the blast from the collar when she barks? Thanks.— M.S. (Sunday, May 19, 2013)

Dear M.S.,

I do not have a good explanation for dogs sometimes barking more as they get older other than they sometimes get a little more ornery with age. In some breeds there can be genetic predispositions to increased aggression as they age. but that would be entirely different.

As for your other options, you are simply left with allowing her to continue barking and letting consequences be what they may, getting a shock collar, which I would not advocate, or working on training with a behaviorist and keeping your dog engaged in a way that she is preoccupied and thereby not inclined to bark.

However, the citronella collar that you are using is doing its job. The dog is supposed to be startled when barking and find the spray offensive. The spray that is emitted is triggered by electronic sensing of vibrations in the dog’s neck. You don’t want your dog to get used to the blast from the collar or it will not work, but one or two corrective episodes by the collar will probably effectively curb the barking behavior. If you are concerned about her quieting down or sulking, then use the collar only when needed and let her go without the rest of the time. The choice is up to you.

Dr. John De Jong

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