As loving dog parents, we have to be very discriminate consumers when buying products for our precious pooches. Just because it's being sold in all pet stores doesn't mean it's safe! If your dog's barking has gotten so consistent and loud that it's keeping your entire neighborhood up at night, you might have considered using citronella oil in the form of an "anti-bark" collar. But is it really safe and effective? Read on to find out more.
Citronella is an aromatic oil that is derived from various types of lemongrass plants. It originated in Java and Sri Lanka. Dogs generally find the smell of the oil to be unpleasant. Apart from its use in anti-bark collars, the oil is also prevalent in other varieties of products, including skin moisturizers, insect sprays, wax candles, perfumes, soaps and makeup.
Citronella oil is often used in anti-bark collars, which are designed to curb persistent barking behaviors in dogs. The collars utilize microphones to detect vocalization. Once barking is sensed, the collar emits a burst of citronella oil into the pet's face. These collars have been available in the United States market since 1995, but have a longer history in many other nations, particularly throughout Europe.
In many cases, the odor of the sprayed oil can indeed prevent a dog from barking.
Arguments Against Anti-Bark Collars
The ASPCA does not advocate use of citronella-based anti-bark collars, or any anti-bark collars, for that matter. The organization indicates that not only do the collars often train dogs to bark solely when they're not sporting them, but they are also very easily triggered by vocalization of other dogs. This creates the possibility of a dog being sprayed with citronella even when he didn't make a peep, which can lead to major confusion. The Maryland SPCA also notes that some dogs eventually figure out when their collar's citronella supply is out, and once it is, start up again with the barking. Lastly, the Humane Society of the United States reports that the collars may also ignore barking of a higher pitch.
The ASPCA states that although excessively high levels of citronella may be dangerous to canines, the collars do not contain a lot of the stuff -- generally around 10 percent or so. Because of the comparatively minimal amount of oil in the collars, dogs should be fine. However, always consult your veterinarian about the safety of citronella oil beforehand, especially when it comes to doggies with breathing difficulties.
By Naomi Millburn
Maryland SPCA: The Barking Dog
The Humane Society of the United States: Dog Collars
Cornell University Chronicle: Citronella Collars
Escondido Humane Society: Barking Dogs
The Marin Humane Society: Citronella Bark Collars
Hawaiian Humane Society: All About Barking
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.