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Is Dog Repellent Safe

Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Published on
Wednesday 11 May 2022
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
are dog repellent safe
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Despite being man’s best friend, there are times when we just can’t have dogs on our property. Whether you have a dog-reactive dog, an immunocompromised dog, or small animals that could be harmed by roaming dogs, being able to keep other dogs far away is attractive to many dog owners. This leads us to the question, “is dog repellent safe?”

The safety of dog repellents for lawns and for widespread use is a point of concern for many pet parents. While we do not want unwelcome dogs on our properties, we also do not want to cause them harm. This is where natural alternatives come in, such as citrus and vinegar sprays. To find out more about the safety of dog repellents, read on with us today!

What are Dog Repellents?

One of the most rapidly growing parts of the pest control industry is the range of animal repellents on the market. There is no doubt that the prospect of a product that can be used to repel pests and wild animals away from the home is attractive to many people. However, there are many questions surrounding their effectiveness, what situations call for them, and whether they’re humane for animals. The key feature of an effective animal repellent is that it makes life in a specific location, such as under your shed, so unbearable that it must leave to find a more attractive place to live. Some repellents are simply made using strong and unpleasant smells, while others copy the scent of a predator known to that species.

Dogs are man’s best friends and make the best pets. However, some dogs can be a problem – you may find stray or loose dogs on your property, which can put your other animals or dogs at risk of harm. If you think that a stray dog is hanging around your property, firstly you should check for identification and return them to their owner. If the dog has no identification, you should contact the dog warden of your local authority.

There are many products made to repel dogs, including deterring gel, granules, sprays, ultrasonic devices, and jet sprays. Many of these products are made with scents that most dogs detest, causing them to stay away from that area. Others may taste foul, or even be toxic to dogs. But are these products humane and safe for dogs? And are they effective? Most importantly, what natural options do we have to keep dogs at bay?

Are They Safe For Dogs?

When looking at commercial dog repellents, it’s very important to read the instructions and the label carefully. No two dog repellents are the same, so it cannot be conclusively determined whether all dog repellents are “safe” or “humane” for our furry friends.

For a long time, it has been believed that high sound frequencies beyond the range of human hearing might deter animals. Unsurprisingly, this belief has given rise to a wide range of ultrasonic devices. However, there is no research to confirm its effects, especially when it comes to dogs. A dog repellent using ultrasonic technology can be difficult to manage, as its human user cannot know if it is working, or if it has been activated, without being able to hear it. As with other species, dogs appear to quickly adjust to the presence of ultrasonic devices and stop being affected by them after a few days. This suggests that ultrasonic devices are “safe” for dogs, as they do not cause lasting harm – however, they are not always effective, either.

Some granules, sprays, and gels can be problematic for dogs when made with harmful ingredients. For example, some dogs may be deterred by the foul smell, but sprinkling it on the ground can cause burns to the dog’s skin and mouth. Rain can also wash the repellent away quickly, requiring more frequent application that puts dogs at risk. When choosing a commercial dog repellent, stick to products that do not contain toxins, and instead use deterring smells like citrus and vinegar. Many dog repellents use citronella, which is toxic to dogs in larger amounts.

is dog repellent safe
When choosing a commercial dog repellent, stick to products that do not contain toxins

Natural Dog Repellent Alternatives

The best natural dog repellents are not harmful to dogs and keep them away through smell alone. Although dogs may be a nuisance on your property, it’s important that they are not harmed where harm can be prevented. So, consider using citrus sprays or vinegar to repel dogs. Other options like ammonia and citronella are unsafe for dogs and can cause serious harm.

Citrus: Safe

Most dogs are averse to citrus, so the strong smell of oranges, lemons, and other citrus fruits may be a safe and natural way to keep dogs at bay. To repel dogs, you can try filling a spray bottle with citrus juice and applying it to the areas where dogs should not go. Generally speaking, oranges, nectarines, and tangerines are safe for dogs to eat, but only in small amounts. These fruits are high in sugar and are also highly acidic, two characteristics that do not make them appropriate for a dog’s diet. It is not safe for dogs to eat lemons, limes, or mandarines. So, overall, it is safe to use citrus as a dog repellent, but do not use whole fruits that are unsafe for your dog.

Vinegar: Safe

Vinegar has an acrid smell that is not particularly appealing to dogs. While vinegar is not toxic to dogs, they are not beneficial to them, either – the high acidity can quickly cause stomach upsets and diarrhea when ingested. To repel dogs, you can use vinegar straight from the bottle as a spray or soaked into a rag. However, you should avoid placing it close to or directly onto your plants as vinegar may damage them. If you must put vinegar near your plants, try soaking it into pieces of fabric or cotton balls. When spraying vinegar inside your home, it’s best to use clear vinegar such as white vinegar to avoid staining furniture. Consider spraying vinegar around the perimeter of your property to create an invisible barrier.

Ammonia: Unsafe

Ammonia is a highly alkaline product that many people use in the home as a cleaning agent. While its smell is highly offputting to dogs, it is not safe to use as a repellent. Ammonia is highly toxic to dogs, causing severe damage to the skin, eyes, nose, and stomach. As such, ammonia is not a humane option for dogs and should be avoided in favor of other repellents.

Citronella: Unsafe

Citronella oil is an essential oil that comes from the stems of lemongrass plants. Its strong smell makes it an effective insect and animal repellent. In small amounts or from a burning candle, citronella is not harmful to dogs. However, eating lemongrass plants and using large amounts of citronella oil is not safe for dogs. Citronella is in fact toxic to dogs. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, and hypothermia when the plant is eaten. So, consider other options before turning to citronella to repel dogs from your home.

Natural citrus spray as dog repellent
The strong smell of oranges, lemons, and other citrus fruits may be a safe and natural way to keep dogs at bay.

Is Dog Repellent Safe: FAQ

The safety of dog repellents is a much-debated topic and naturally, you have more questions. To find out more about the safety of dog repellents, try checking our Frequently Asked Questions for more details.

What scent will keep dogs away?

The scents of citrus and vinegar are not pleasant for dogs. As such, it can be useful to apply citrus or vinegar sprays to furniture to discourage chewing behavior. You can also apply these scents outside, but you may need to re-apply them after rainfall.

What smell do dogs hate to pee on?

A combination of vinegar and citrus is enough to deter many dogs from marking wherever you apply the spray. Just be sure to avoid spraying the mixture on plants, as vinegar can damage them.

Can you pepper spray a dog in self-defense?

Although nobody wants to cause a dog discomfort, there are times when your safety must come first. This is where dog self-defense sprays come in. While traditional pepper sprays can be lethal to dogs, dog pepper sprays should have no lasting effects, and typically after 10 to 20 minutes, the dog should make a full recovery. This is enough time to get to safety. Be sure to thoroughly read the label of the product you intend to buy.

Is ammonia a good dog repellent?

Because ammonia is toxic and aversive to dogs, it is not a good dog repellent. While it can and will repel dogs, it is not a humane method, as ammonia fumes can burn the mouth, nose, and stomach of a dog. Be sure to seek out humane alternatives before opting to use ammonia.

Are coffee grounds good as a dog repellent?

Caffeine is toxic to dogs, even when it comes from coffee grounds. If a dog eats coffee grounds, they can quickly fall ill and even succumb to death. For this reason, it is not advisable to use coffee grounds as a dog repellent.

The bottom line is: always read the label, and avoid products that are toxic to dogs. Where possible, use products that make use of citrus or vinegar rather than harmful chemicals. Always do your own research on the label’s claims before use.

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