Cats and Dogs
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What things attract dogs?


Howling is one of many forms of vocal communication used by dogs. Dogs howl to attract attention, to make contact with others and to announce their presence. Some dogs also howl in response to high-pitched sounds, such as emergency vehicle sirens or musical instruments. Read on to learn what to do if your dog howls excessively.

Problems to Rule Out First

Separation Anxiety Howling
If your neighbors call you and tell you that your dog is howling when you are at work, your dog’s excessive howling might be caused by separation anxiety. Separation anxiety howling only occurs when a dog is left alone or otherwise separated from his owner. This kind of howling is usually accompanied by at least one other symptom of separation anxiety, such as pacing, destruction, elimination, depression or other signs of distress. For more information about this problem, please see our article, Separation Anxiety.

Medical Causes
Dogs sometimes howl when they’re hurt or sick. If your dog starts howling or howls more than usual, take him to a veterinarian to rule out illness and injury before doing anything else.

What to Do About Excessive Howling

Howling in Responds to Sounds
If your dog howls in response to some kind of trigger, like another dog howling or a nearby siren, he’ll probably stop when the sound stops. This type of howling usually isn’t excessive—unless, of course, the triggers occur frequently. If they do, you can use desensitization and counterconditioning (DSCC) to help your dog learn to be quiet.

Systematic Desensitization and Counterconditioning
When the problem is rooted in how a dog feels about a particular thing, it sometimes isn’t enough to just teach him a different behavior—like to fetch a toy instead of howling, for example. Instead, it’s most effective to change his motivation and feelings, which are the underlying reasons for the behavior problem in the first place.

Systematic desensitization and counterconditioning are two common treatments for fears, anxiety, phobias and aggression—basically any behavior problem that involves arousal or emotions. It’s often most effective to use these two procedures together when trying to resolve animal behavior problems. If you think that a systematic desensitization and counterconditioning plan might help your dog, please see our article, Finding Professional Behavior Help, for information about locating a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) in your area. If you can’t find a behaviorist near you, you can choose to hire a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) instead. However, be sure to find out whether he or she has professional education and extensive experience using desensitization and counterconditioning. This kind of expertise isn’t required for CPDT certification, so it’s important to make sure that the CPDT you employ is qualified to help you.

If Your Dog Howls, Whines or Barks to Get Your Attention
Some dogs learn that howling can get them attention from people. If your dog howls for this reason, his howling will usually occur in your presence when he wants attention, food or desired objects. If your dog howls to get your attention or “ask” you for things he wants, like food or toys, you need to teach him two things to be successful in curbing his behavior. First of all, he needs to learn that howling doesn’t work (even if it did in the past). He also needs to learn that being quiet will work. If your dog realizes that howling always makes him invisible to you and being quiet earns him your attention as well as all the great stuff he wants in life, he’ll quickly learn to curb his vocal behavior.

Ignore your dog’s attention-seeking howling

  • To avoid accidentally rewarding your dog when he howls, totally ignore him as soon as he starts making noise. Don’t look at him, touch him or speak to him. Don’t try to scold him either. Dogs, like kids, often find any attention rewarding—even if it’s negative attention. So scolding your dog might make his howling behavior worse! Just pretend your dog is invisible. If you find it difficult to do this, try folding your arms across your chest and turning away from him completely.

Reward your dog for being quiet

  • It’s easy to forget to pay attention to your dog when he’s being quiet. Often, we only pay attention to our dogs when they’re doing something wrong! If you want your dog to learn to stop howling for attention, you’ll need to reward quiet behavior. Randomly give your dog treats and attention when he isn’t making noise. You should also make and stick to a new rule: Your dog doesn’t get anything he wants (food, toys, access to the outdoors, treats, petting, etc.) until he’s been quiet for at least five seconds. If your dog howls in an attempt to get your attention, ignore him until he’s quiet, as described above. Then, after five seconds of silence, you can pay attention to him again.

You can also try teaching your dog to be quiet when you ask him to. First, say “Speak!” and try to get your dog to bark or howl. (Knocking on a wall or door usually works well.) Praise your dog when he starts making noise—but DO NOT give him a treat or toy. Then say “Hush” or “Quiet.” The moment your dog stops barking or howling for a second or two, quickly say “Good!” and give him a tasty treat. Repeat this sequence over and over, slowly stretching out the time that your dog must be quiet before earning his goodie. At first, one second of silence can earn him a treat. After he’s successfully mastered that step, increase the time to three seconds. If he’s successful again, increase the time to five seconds, then ten seconds, then 20 seconds, and so on.

Finding Help
Because howling issues can be challenging to work with, don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT). Many CPDTs offer group or private classes that can give you and your dog lots of help with attention-seeking howling. Please see our article, Finding Professional Behavior Help, to locate a CPDT in your area.

Spend Time with Your Dog
Some dogs howl because they’re lonely, especially if they’re left alone or kept outside for many hours at a time. Dogs, like humans, are very social animals and need regular interaction with their human families. If your dog howls often when by himself, you may need to spend more quality time together. Bring him inside more often, play games and take walks with him. Take him to a fun training class that focuses on rewarding good behavior. When you must leave your dog home alone for more than a few minutes, be sure to give him plenty of toys and attractive chew items to enjoy by himself.

The Best Methods to Keep Dogs Away From Your Yard

David Beaulieu

David Beaulieu is a landscaping expert and plant photographer, with 20 years of experience.

Updated on 09/21/22
Reviewed by

Amanda Rose Newton

Amanda Rose Newton holds degrees in Horticulture, Biochemistry, Entomology, and soon a PhD in STEM Education. She is a board-certified entomologist and volunteers for USAIDs Farmer to Farmer program. Currently, she is a professor of Horticulture, an Education Specialist, and pest specialist.

Fact checked by

Emily Estep

Emily Estep is a plant biologist and journalist who has worked for a variety of online news and media outlets, writing about and editing topics including environmental science and houseplants.

dog in a yard

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When dogs are allowed to roam off-leash (or on very long leashes) they can do damage to your landscape. The need for effective dog repellents is clear to those who have had to clean up a neighbor’s dog’s poop, for example. Fortunately, there are several ways to keep stray dogs off your lawn that won’t harm the dogs. You can use home remedies for dog repellent, as well as commercial products. They’re fairly inexpensive and easy to set up. But some, such as the scents that will keep dogs away, must be reapplied on a regular basis.

If you’re struggling with how to keep dogs away from your yard, here are some methods that can help.

ways to repel dogs from your yard

Why You Should Keep Dogs Off Your Lawn

Keeping dogs out of your yard goes beyond just wanting to avoid having to pick up unexpected dog poop. Dog urine can damage grass and other plants. Plus, some dogs might dig in your yard, as well as chew on or otherwise damage landscaping. If you’re not a pet-owner yourself, you may have some plants in your landscape that are toxic to dogs. And if you have an edible garden, damage from a dog or dog waste might cause you to lose your crops.

DIY Repellent Sprays

There are several smells that will keep dogs away from your yard, but some products—both DIY and commercial—can be problematic. For example, the smell of any type of pepper can act as a dog repellent. However, sprinkled pepper can burn a dog’s eyes, nose, and mouth if they inhale it. Plus, rain and irrigation will quickly wash it away (and wind will blow it away), requiring frequent application. A good DIY dog repellent spray is one that is safe for the dogs and low cost for you.


You can use vinegar to keep dogs away from your lawn by spraying it around the perimeter of the area you want to be canine-free. Dogs don’t like the strong smell of vinegar and thus will be deterred by it. As a bonus, a vinegar dog repellent also can help to neutralize urine odors, so passing dogs won’t be compelled to mark over where another dog had previously peed.

Using white vinegar is typically the most inexpensive option, but any vinegar will do. You can use it straight or dilute it down to as much as a 50-50 vinegar-water solution in a spray bottle. However, do note that sufficient amounts of vinegar can kill vegetation, including lawn grass. In fact, some people use vinegar as a natural weed killer. So to protect your plants, stick to using it along sidewalks or pathways. Reapply when you can no longer smell it.

Oranges and Other Citrus Fruits

Dogs also dislike the smell of citrus. So you can use citrus essential oils or even the peels as a dog repellent. However, note that the peels might attract rodents and other critters, and they can be unsightly when used on a public-facing portion of your yard. If you want to avoid this, lightly spritz citrus essential oil where you want to repel dogs instead. But don’t get too heavy-handed with it, as citrus can be somewhat toxic to dogs. The goal is for the scent to be present without providing enough for the dog to ingest.

spraying vinegar onto the yard's perimeter

Commercial Dog Repellents

Store-bought dog repellents can get pricey because they need to be reapplied often. These products also might contain harsh chemicals. So read the labels carefully to make sure they are safe to use around your home.

Dog Repellent Sprays

There are numerous dog repellent sprays on the market. Many are meant to protect humans from dog attacks, but others are suited for yards and contain scents that dogs don’t like. These dog repellents come in both granule and spray forms.

Critter Ridder

Critter Ridder is an organic dog repellent put out by the maker of Havahart traps (humane traps used to relocate live animals). Available in both granules and sprays, Critter Ridder works as a dog repellent because it gives off a smell of black pepper, which canines find offensive. Havahart also offers Cat & Dog Granular Animal Repellent. One major selling point of this product is that it is supposed to be long-lasting (up to 60 days).

Liquid Fence

Liquid Fence works on a different principle from many other dog repellents. It depends on the fact that dogs seek out areas with familiar smells to do their business. Liquid Fence masks those smells. So instead of repulsing dogs with offensive odors, this product removes the welcoming odors and helps to keep dogs from peeing and pooping in your yard. Be sure to get the Liquid Fence specially formulated for dogs.

Plant-Based Fertilizer

Certain types of fertilizers can actually attract dogs, especially ones that contain bone meal, fish, and blood. The smells of these products can bring in curious canines who might be interested in eating the fertilizer.

To avoid unintentionally drawing dogs to your lawn, try switching to a plant-based fertilizer. Its smells shouldn’t be as appealing to canines.

Dog Repellent Plants

A natural plant barrier can be effective to keep dogs away from your yard. Specifically, prickly or thorny plants can do well to deter dogs—especially in hedge form or otherwise planted close together. Some dogs also don’t like to walk on ground cover plants, especially vining ground covers that would be cumbersome to walk through.

Dog Repellent Gadgets

Most gadgets that repel dogs will also repel other types of wildlife, including cats, deer, rabbits, and raccoons. They are typically safe and quiet, and they use little electricity to do the job. Beware, though, that motion-activated gadgets can set off any time they sense motion, even human movement. So you might not want to use them in high-traffic areas for people.

Scarecrow Sprinklers

Unlike dog repellents that come in powder, granule, or spray (liquid) form, no reapplication is required with gadgets like motion-activated scarecrow sprinklers. These can be found under many brand names, such as Orbit, Havahart, and Hoont. Just hook the scarecrow sprinkler up to your garden hose, and let its motion-activated sprinkler mechanism do the work to scare dogs away.

Another advantage with this product is that there is no need to take separate control measures against each of the various types of pests that might infiltrate your yard. Scarecrow sprinklers will repel stray cats and garden pests just as surely as they will keep dogs away from your yard.

Yard Gard

Yard Gard is a safe, silent, and electronic dog repellent. Like scarecrow sprinklers, it is effective against other pests, as well. But unlike a scarecrow sprinkler, you have a choice of two modes. You can continually blast would-be pests 24/7 or allow its motion-activated mechanism to alert it when pests approach.

This dog repellent works by emitting sonic and ultrasonic sound waves that canines find offensive (but humans can’t hear). Mount it on an outdoor storage shed, tree, or fence near where stray dogs tend to roam. The units typically have a plug or run on batteries.

dog repelling gadget

Fences as Dog Repellents

While putting up a fence is usually a considerable expense, it can offer multiple benefits. Not only do fences provide privacy and curb appeal, but they also can keep stray dogs out of your yard and away from your landscaping.

Here are a few relatively affordable options for fencing that can keep stray dogs off your lawn:

  • For a rustic yard, erect a chain-link fence accented with painted horizontal wood boards.
  • For less public areas of your yard, consider mesh or hardware cloth containment fencing, which is also often used to keep deer out of yards.
  • For your front yard, you might only need a short picket fence that is just restrictive enough to keep curious canines off your property. You also can put short landscape fencing directly around plants you want to protect.

fencing as a dog repellent

Working With Neighbors

If you’re trying to keep your neighbor’s dog out of your yard, the best scenario would be for them to understand your concerns and work with you. They might not realize that their dog roaming on your yard is a problem, so your first step is to bring it up in a non-accusatory manner. You can say that you have plants or use lawn chemicals that are toxic to dogs as encouragement for your neighbor to keep their dog on their own property. Or if you have children, your own pets, or allergies, you can bring those up as reasons for the dog to remain on its own property.

If your neighbor still isn’t cooperating, it’s time to check your local ordinances to determine the rules for loose pets and not picking up after pets. Take photos and/or videos of the dog when it’s breaking any of these ordinances, and report it to your local authorities. Issuing the dog’s owner a ticket is a common punishment for breaking such ordinances.

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