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One of the common complaints I hear from pet owners is about nuisance barking. Fido barks at every jogger, dog, bicycle or passerby that dares to venture past his domain. His protest is loud and clear if a squirrel crosses the yard or if the neighbor kids are playing in the adjacent lot. Even a family member returning home creates a ruckus that hasn’t been matched since we found out Milli Vanilli were lip syncing.
This is certainly an unnerving problem to deal with and there are many considerations in finding a solution. For the sake of this blog though I’ll focus on a common theme that is presented when searching the internet for information on training dogs to stop unwanted barking.
The popular war cry is that citronella spray collars are a more humane alternative than electronic or static shock collars. At first glance that might make sense to an electricity phobic society, however I can’t help but speculate on these reports . Does the information presented consider the dog’s point of view, taking into account their physical sensitivities or is it emotionally driven by human perception?
How about we examine the thought process for a minute and look at a few of the key words used in the articles.
First of all the word, Humane, which Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines as; having what are considered the best qualities of human beings; kind, tender, merciful, sympathetic, etc.
Citronella is described as; a volatile, sharp smelling oil used in perfume, soap, insect repellents, etc.
Static when used in reference to electronics is; designating, of or producing stationary electrical charges as those resulting from friction.
So the use of a volatile oil is implied in this compiled *evidence* as being more tender and merciful to the dog than a static friction charge.
Let’s bear in mind that this volatile oil is sprayed on the nose which is an extremely keen and sensitive part of a dog’s anatomy.
In a 2004 article printed in Whole Dog Journal, DVM Dr. Randy Kidd wrote:
“But we do know that dogs have much more surface area within their nasal cavities, and this area is well supplied with sensory cells – estimates of the total number of these cells vary and depend on the breed, but they have been cited as somewhere between 125 million and several times that. (This compares with estimates of human numbers that are in the 5- to 10-million-cell range.)
In addition, the dog has devoted a tremendous amount of his brain tissue to olfactory cells. (Some estimates allocate one-third of the dog’s brain to the chore of scenting.) All this adds up to a canine scenter that has thousands to millions of times the ability of his human counterpart.”
In gathering information for this blog I also spoke with a representative of Dogtra Company regarding their no bark collars. I was told that the YS 300 collar emits three .05 second static pulses as the correction. (Note, the collar has 6 levels of stimulation so it can be adjusted to the dog’s sensitivity also)
So when a barking dog is corrected by the static collar his *punishment* lasts about 1 1/2 seconds.
When a dog is corrected by the citronella collar the volatile oil is sprayed on his fur, which will stick and the smell will linger for a few minutes.
This protocol simply doesn’t fit with sound training principles which encourage us to understand that a dog’s learning association period is 2 – 3 seconds. The citronella collar wearing dog is continuing to be punished long AFTER he quits the problem behavior.
Now, I’m not saying that the citronella collar won’t work…….but ask yourself this: Is the ideology that punishing a dog for several minutes more kind, tender and merciful than the 1 1/2 second correction?
For now, I will restrict my citronella use to the deserving ones…..mosquitoes.