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Hello,

We have a great rescue dog, her name is Tillie and she started out very, very shy and afraid of everything. We have conditioned her to most situations, she walks well on a leash, jogs next to my bike, plays well with other dogs, however no matter how much we have her around people, she is fearful of anyone who is new. When she was younger she would just stay away from people at the dog park. Now as she gets older, she has developed a habit of running towards people and barking very loudly as if they were intruders. Most people just shrug it off but she does scare and intimidate some people. We have the citronella spray collar and started using it 2 days ago after having it on her neck for a few months, not on, so she would be used to it before we turned it on. It seems to work wonders. She stops barking immediately and runs towards us when it sprays, which is exactly what we want her to do when she starts becoming fearful of a person in the park rather than barking aggressively. I'm worried that since she already has extreme anxiety compared to your average dog that this may somehow damage her even more in the long run. She seems to be able to handle the spray without looking too scared, but when she is in the house, now, she just seems very meek and sad. Any advice would be great.
 

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If she's already anxious, an aversive collar can make it worse. What it is doing is suppressing the behavior so instead of barking or growling, next time she will do a full on bite. There is a sticky in the behavior section called reactivity & barrier frustration. It should give you some ideas on how to rehab the behavior safely.

http://www.dogforum.com/dog-behavior/reactivity-leash-aggression-barrier-frustration-12538
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you, that was a good read. Because she runs towards us when the spray occurs, I still have a small amount of hope that this may turn into her response when faced with fear of a stranger. Is that completely out of the question or shall we proceed with caution? I'm also wondering about medication. Our vet, who is actually very homeopathic and would not normally recommend such a measure has actually brought that up with us as an option. I have no experience with the medication option and definitely don't want to do something that is unhealthy for my dog. However, we consider other peoples safety the number one goal.
 

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Teach her BAT training.

I too, would be concerned about the long term fallout of the citronella solution on an anxious dog. What you might be teaching her is that the appearance of a scary stranger = a bad thing happens to her... exactly the opposite of what you want her to learn.
In the long run, the dam might break one day in her head, and you could have a dog bite on your hands, maybe not in the context of when the dog is running towards a scary stranger, but more likely to happen in your home, when a scary stranger comes over and she has learned that scary strangers = more bad stuff happens to her so she sure as heck better defend herself... In her home, she may respond differently than out in the open.
 

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Keep in mind that charging towards a "trigger" and barking is her way of saying "you terrify my... get away!" Its called distancing signals.

I think if you want a complete understanding of all this, you would really enjoy Grisha's book. Its a very easy and quick read.
You can also look her up on youtube. She has some videos out somewhere...
 

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Excellent points already, just thought that I would add that a lot of folks choose a citronella collar because they think of it as the 'kinder option' to another kind of corrective collar.
Bear in mind that a dog's sense of smell is hundreds of times more powerful than ours. It's probably the nasal equivalent of staring directly into the sun for your eyes or standing beside a cycling jet engine for your ears. Both can cause permanent damage.
I have know a number of dogs who developed respiratory problems after prolongued exposure to citronella spray collars.
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Here is another thing my dogs have taught me... GOOD training results in a CALMER dog at the end of a training or exposure session. So if you are trying to get your dog more comfortable with strangers, then the situation needs to be managed so that she is more relaxed at the end of the training than at the start of the training. If the "training" involves frightening the dog, there are going to be problems later down the road, almost guaranteed. And I speak from some experience with a reactive dog, with whom I made some real mistakes (under the guidance of a "pro") and have had to start all over again. Now that I"m doing it right, I see the difference, and the long term advantage of paying so much attention to the dogs EMOTIONAL state as the motivator of behaviors... and working on creating a more positive association for the dog, rather than "correcting" problem behaviors.

One thing, is to not put the dog in the situation where she can charge up to strangers until you get her more comfortable. So management while you work in controlled settings, working with her UNDER threshold, is all part of a good plan.

OK, hope something there helps. I'm going to bed now. ;)
 

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Hi,
In my ignorance I used a cito collar too with our rescue dog to stop her barking; she was already terribly skittish, fearful and anxious. I used it for ONE day and threw it out because it absolutely confused and terrified her even more! She looked as if she had NO safe place in the world with the collar on! It was awful. She only stopped barking bec. her fear overcame her, not because she LEARNED not to bark or that her anxiety was decreased. GET RID OF IT, it is aversive. See stickeys and videos on how to calm and train an anxious dog.
 

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What the spray did here is to teach the dog to not approach the strangers at all. She was afraid of them so that after some time, she chose to go to them and bark at them instead, to scare them and make them go away. But then when she did it, the other individual "defended" himself/herself by the citronella (in her point of view). So what she ended up is to not to dare going near them due to the fear of citronella, but she still "hates" them from afar.

As others already mentioned, this can be dangerous. This makes her even more uncomfortable, and someday she might either attack anyways (feeling threatened enough that citronella is not an issue anymore), or someday someone is too near her that she can't flee so she will fight instead.

What this dog needs is proper positive socialization, which means gradual exposure with positive experiences. Unless she can learn that strangers are not that bad at all (nothing scary happens when approaching them, and they don't hurt her at all), she won't change her view about them.

It's better to not let strangers approach or interact with her, and let her be the one to initiate anything. But before she ever feels safe enough to go sniff a stranger without reacting with aggression signs (growling and so on), you can do gradual approaches to strangers while let she look at them from afar and get used to their presence. This by always making sure that the gradual approach is not too fast to trigger reactions.
 
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