Citronella As a Dog Digging Deterrent

Written by anna chang-yen
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Citronella As a Dog Digging Deterrent
The same oil that repels insects in a candle can keep dogs from digging. (Citronella Candle image by Daniel Gillies from

Citronella oil comes from grasses and has been shown in lab tests to be harmless, though unpleasant, to animals, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Since 1995, citronella collars have been used in the United States as a way to train dogs not to bark. Citronella can also be used to keep a dog from digging in flowers gardens or elsewhere.


Citronella oil has been used to repel ticks, fleas, mosquitoes and other insects and animals for over 50 years, according to the EPA. In 1995, citronella collars hit the market as an alternative to electric shock collars used for dog training.


The EPA lists citronella oil as a biopesticide effective at repelling dogs and cats and safe for ornamental plants. Most dogs detest the taste and smell of citrus and are likely to decrease a behaviour--or at least think twice before proceeding--when faced with the threat of a burst of citrus. A 1996 Cornell University study found that citronella spray collars, which deliver a spray of citronella after detecting a dog's barking, were nearly 90 per cent effective at decreasing barking, and pet owners considered the method to be more humane than an electric shock collar.


Spraying citronella oil from a spray bottle onto targted areas can help prevent dogs from digging in those spots. A citronella collar, typically used to prevent barking, can also be used to eliminate other undesirable behaviours, such as digging. A collar with a remote provides a quick spray of citronella at the touch of a button. The training works when the spray is delivered as quickly as possible after the dog begins to dig, and accompanied with a command, such as "stop" or "leave it."


Citronella is available in many forms, including candles, wipe-on cloths and spray products. For the purposes of deterring dogs from digging, the best option is a bottle of oil liquid, which can be bought at discount stores, garden stores and home stores in the garden section, typically intended to be burnt to repel insects. Some pet stores and online pet product retailers make products specifically intended for use with animals. If you plan to use a citronella collar, the collar will come with a supply of citronella oil and replacements can be ordered through the manufacturer.


Some dogs actually enjoy citrus, and the rare dog will even eat oranges. So, some pets may be completely immune to the otherwise persuasive powers of citronella.

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