Barking Advice and Citronella Collars

A dog that barks excessively is a concern for both owners and neighbours. Excessive barking may be caused by one of many problems and therefore solving a barking problem is best done in conjunction with your vet. This information page is intended as a general guide to barking only, and should not be taken as specific veterinary advice.

Why do dogs bark?
Barking is one of the ways dogs communicate with each other. There are many different barks, which can mean anything from play to danger.

However, dogs may sometimes bark when they are:

  • provoked (either deliberately or unintentionally), by people or other dogs,
  • under exercised,
  • bored,
  • distressed or lonely,
  • unwell,
  • hungry, thirsty, or on the wrong diet,
  • kept in a yard that is unsuitable for their particular breed,
  • tied up with insufficient room to move,
  • kept in a space which is too small, or
  • generally neglected.

NB: If you suspect a dog is being mistreated, contact RSPCA on 6287 8100 or visit

How can I stop my dog from barking?
A well exercised, stimulated and looked-after dog will generally not bark unreasonably. The following hints may help:

  • Dogs need a place of their own to feel safe. Ideally, this should be a ventilated and waterproof kennel, or access to an indoor area via a dog-door. Dogs should be provided with shelter that protects them from wind, rain and sunshine.
  • Dogs need regular exercise according to their size and breed.
  • Dogs need mental stimulation to prevent boredom. This may be provided by toys or through playtime with the humans in their house.
  • Remove any direct line of sight between your dog and other animals or children, as looking at either of these may provoke barking.
  • Dogs need space to move freely in their backyard. A dog should not be tied up for long periods. If a dog has to be chained to prevent escape from your yard, they should be on a running chain.

If you have already tried all of the above then we would recommend coming for a behavioural consultation. Dr Matt will examine your small friend for any medical or psychological causes of barking.

Isn’t there an operation my dog can have to stop them barking?
Debarking is an operation that involves cutting the dog’s vocal cords to reduce the noise of their bark. When a dog is debarked its ability to communicate with other animals and human beings is reduced. Most debarked dogs will still have a subdued “husky” bark, audible up to 20 metres. Debarking is illegal or prohibited in many Australian states, and Small Friends Veterinary Hospital is strongly opposed to this surgery.

Can I use a citronella collar?
Citronella collars are sound activated and release a small spray of citronella below your dog’s chin when he or she barks. The citronella spray is non-toxic and will not harm your small friend but it does provide a strong disincentive to bark.

Citronella collars should always be supplied, fitted and used under supervision of a vet to ensure that they fit properly, are used effectively, and are appropriate for your dog. At Small Friends Veterinary Hospital we supply our clients with citronella collars which can be refilled with citronella and the batteries replaced. The cost of the collar includes a complimentary consultation with Dr Matt to discuss how to use and fit the collar.

Please call Small Friends Veterinary Hospital on 6262 2233 for more information.

Can I use other types of collars to stop barking?
Anti-barking collars that use an electric shock to stop barking may cause long-term physical or psychological harm to your dog and are considered cruel. The Australian Veterinary Association and Small Friends Veterinary Hospital opposes the use of such collars.

I’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work. What should I do?
Don’t give up. Barking is your small friend’s way of telling you there is something wrong. Listen to your small friend and make an appointment to see Dr Matt. Barking needs to be approached just like any other medical problem – in conjunction with your vet. The important thing is to seek help early. The sooner you realise there is a problem and get help the better and quicker the recovery.