Is the Citronella Dog Collar A Safer Alternative to Electric Shock?

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Dog in FieldCitronella dog collars have been gaining in popularity ever since studies were released showing the negative psychological effects of electric shock collars on dogs. Furthermore, studies by the Animal Behavior Clinic at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine suggest that citronella dog collars are even more effective than electric shock collars.

How Does A Citronella Dog Collar Work?

A citronella dog collar is a type of spray dog collar. Spray dog collars work by spraying a substance (in this case citronella, but versions also exist that use water or lemon juice) in the dogs face when the collar senses (via a microphone) that your dog is barking. The idea is that the dog, discomforted by the citronella spray, will learn to stop barking to avoid being sprayed in the face. Pet owners consider the citronella dog collars to be more humane than the electric shock dog collars, and citronella collars have been proven to be more effective than shock collars (in some instances a dog given an electric collar would keep barking despite the shock, whereas with the citronella collar, the odor was so unpleasant that later a substitute could be used and the dog would still not bark, fearing the smell of the citronella spray).

Are Citronella Dog Collars Humane?

While there’s no doubt citronella dog collars are more humane than electric shock collars, we should still consider the psychological impact of the spray collar on your dog. There have even been instances reported where the spray collar’s microphone sensitivity was such that it would pick up other dogs barking. The problem here is obvious: Your dog could be punished with a spray of citronella despite having done nothing. Even more problematic, however, are the psychological implications of such punishment. After all, barking is a natural reaction for any dog, and can often be a way for dogs to protect their owners. It would be terribly ironic if, for example, your dog was about to save you from a burglar, but because of repeated citronella sprays to her face, she would do nothing to alarm you of the intruder. That example aside, we feel it is simply wrong to impede or constrain such a natural function. We feel that as the dog’s owner it is your responsibility to train and take are of your dog. (For training alternatives to any sort of anti-bark collar, head over to our “Dog Training Advice” article.) After all, barking is part of what you signed up for. Now you have a living being, a life, on your hands that deserves just as much care and nurturing as if it were your own child.

Best Citronella Barking Collar

PetSafe Gentle Spray Bark CollarIf training just doesn’t seem to be doing the trick, you might want to consider adding some paw-sitive reinforcement and this citronella collar might be the thing you’ve bee s-praying for. All jokes aside, we love the Petsafe Premier GentleSpray collar as an addition to your already-in-place training regime because it’s a cinch to operate, it’s harmless to your pet and family, and it holds up to 25 sprays. Each box comes with a nylon collar and spray device, a three-oz. can of stain-free, citronella spray, a six-volt alkaline battery, and an operating guide. It also works on dog six pounds and up, and six months and older, so you don’t have to wait for your dog to develop a nasty barking habit to add in this training option.

The information contained in this article and website is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional safety advice; it is provided for educational purposes only.

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Alex's first dog was a dalmatian named Domino, who at the time belonged to his girlfriend (now wife) Michelle. Alex first met Domino in Redondo Beach, California and they quickly became best pals. In North Carolina, a black lab mix, Storm, was added to the family. Domino lived to be 14 years old, and Storm 9, and Alex looks back fondly at all the love and happiness these pups added to his life over the years. Alex now lives happily in Winston-Salem, NC with his wife Michelle and their two dogs Bella (yellow lab mix) and Lily (Brown Carolina dog), and he doesn't take for granted for a second how much meaning canines add to his life, and how many lessons he learns from their love, happiness, and eagerness to live life to the fullest.

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38 Comments on "Is the Citronella Dog Collar A Safer Alternative to Electric Shock?"

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Robert
Robert

Ok. I’ve read a lot of opinions here about the use of a citronella collar. We have a Jack Russell-Dachshund mix that we rescued going on 9 years ago or so. We spend a lot of time with him. When we are not interacting with him, he chooses to sit outside on the patio. He likes to be outside. However, he also likes to occasionally bark at a variety of things. Not at length. Just short bursts.

We just moved to Germany. He’s been here about a week. It is a much different environment than what he is used to. We moved from a 2-acre lot where he had plenty of space to explore to a much smaller yard here in Germany. He barked before. He still barks. Not all the time. He does bark when he sees someone walking by. However, the expectations here are different.

We are considering the citronella collar. We are also considering some professional training. Just not sure if it’s too late for that.

Susan Kelly
Susan Kelly

It’s a cruel and inept solution to a problem that requires patience, unless, of course, the dog owner is prepared to wear one. Dogs bark, as humans speak, for a variety of reasons. Separation anxiety is a sad and stressful situation for both the dog and owner, often necessitating a friend, family member or neighbour checking in on the dog during the owner’s absence. Squirting lemon juice in the pet’s eyes serves only to exacerbate the animal’s stress. It’s cruelty masquerading as a solution.
There are countless papers and books detailing solutions to problems like excessive barking but few advocating spraying citric acid in the face or eyes of any breed.
We wouldn’t do it to a crying child. There is no justification for doing it to an upset creature of any kind.

me omy
me omy

We got the PetSafe collar to help train our terrier not to ‘nuisance bark’ where he’d just stand there and bark at anything and everything. It only took about three or four sprays for him to make the connection. Now, he rarely goes off on a barking snit and when he does, all I have to do is hold the collar up and show it to him. In short, it worked for us.

HOME ALONE
HOME ALONE

I have read a lot of these posts and none of you fools answer the question how do you get your dog to stop barking all day when your not home. You keep going on and on about what you do when your dog barks and how old your dog is and what you do when it barks when you are there. . Please just get to the question and give an answer.

peterjackiemackay@hotmail.com
peterjackiemackay@hotmail.com

In regards to the Citronella Spray. Our doggy – Maltese is almost 16 and continually howls while we are at work, we do a lot with him on weekends, and my husband is home by 3pm every day. He is still fit and doing well for his age as we look after him, but if I am gone for 20 mins to drop my daughter off to school, I can hear him down the street started already. My question is I want to know he is partially blind in 1 eye and completely blind in the other – the spray won’t hurt his eyes, as I am not fussed on it spraying in the face.

Jackie Riggs
Jackie Riggs

It’s all fine and good to say that barking is what you signed up for when you got a dog & that you should train them. That’s not a very fair comment for people who take on rescues that come with all kinds of habits including excessive barking.

Norma Parkway
Norma Parkway

I agree we have had dogs for 30 years and for the first time the latest rescue dog is proving a challenge. Guests are barked at even when they get inside the house and the poor tradesmen have to wear earmuffs! I am going to purchase a collar to put on her as a friend said it worked on her yapping chihuahua.

crosswind
crosswind

Dogs bark, but to bark all day at every sound is useless, very disturbing to neighbors at home sleeping at night or during the day, sick at home, working from home, caring for a sick family member. Be a pet parent and teach them it’s not okay to bark at everything. It’s useless & lazy parenting. If something really happened, how would you know if it were barking for a good reason or being stupid & untrained. Very annoyed with lazy neighbors. We live near eight! Barking dogs in small suburbs. We moved to a brand new home & guess who moved in. Four homes each with 2 dogs. Doggy doors = lazy owners.

Korie
Korie

I am buying the Citronella Dog Collar because my dog barks 24/7. She never stops and we think this will work. But, could I make my own water/lemon juice for it so it would spray? How would that work?

Kimberly Alt
Kimberly Alt

You could mix the water/lemon juice into a spray bottle and use the bottle when your dog is barking. So if your dog is barking, grab the spray bottle and use it to discomfort your dog to get him/her to stop barking.

Camille Perreault
Camille Perreault

The only problem with that, is that your dog identifies the spraying to you, which is apparently not super great, hence the positive “neutral” spray from the collar.

Kevin Wells
Kevin Wells

Exactly right. Doing this may mean that your dog doesn’t bark when you are around but may correct it when you are physically there.

dwight schrute
dwight schrute

Our dog trainer has used the citronella collar on my dog when we are in class when Elly was barking (she was distracted and a distraction to other dogs and this did change her behavior) and it works well in that circumstance.

I wouldn’t want to keep the collar on her continuously. When we are out and she is misbehaving (barking or aggressive behavior), I carry a can of compressed air, which mostly stops the behavior. Over time (she’s a rescue that we have for 3 months), we are using the compressed air much less.

Jenn
Jenn

Compressed air makes people high when inhaled. I don’t think it’s a good idea to spray it at a dog.

Gary
Gary

Really good information, but let’s not be judgmental with those that may choose one option over the other. My case – I have a senior, 16 year old Dachshund that due to a change in living conditions has to be crated sometimes during the day and always at night. Therefore training is not realistic for her. It is an apartment complex and that says it all. There’s certainly anxiety and maybe some dementia, when I’m gone and any time she is in the crate. It’s sad but I choose to not do the surgery and must go with the collar as my first choice. Your post do not really discuss senior dogs so maybe in the future you might think of that. Safe travels…

JBens
JBens

What a sad life living in a cage.

Savannah
Savannah

Actually, a vast majority of dogs that have anxiety issues are relieved to be in the crate. Dogs are den animals. And I’m sure his dog comes out when his owner comes home. What it’s still better that giving your dog away or taking it the pound.

Natalie
Natalie

My dog is a 2 year old chihuahua mix who we rescued from a local facility. She was a stray who had a puppy at the age of 6 months and had a hole in her ear (likely from another dog’s bite). She is the most loving little thing who wants nothing more than to be cuddled and adored. Inside our house, she is extremely well behaved and knows up to 12 commands. Unfortunately, she is extremely reactive to other dogs and is inconsolable if a dog comes within 10 feet of us on a walk. After 7 months of training and no progress, including private training and a class called “dog reactive”, we decided to try a citronella collar. It has been amazing. Now, we are able to use the techniques that we learned in class and in training to direct her away from other dogs, since the spray interrupts her and she is then very attentive to us and our commands. We put the collar on her on walks only, and only turn it on about half the time. She is slowly learning to make different choices (walking away, turning her head, asking for us to pick her up) even when she is not getting sprayed. This product has seriously changed her life and strengthened our bond.

Racheal
Racheal

Thank you!! I am having a hard time with a Shih tzu that I adopted from someone who couldn’t keep him because they were moving into an apartment and I now know why. My neighbors are all retired so my dog barks constant for hours when anyone is in their yard next to ours. I tried the barkwise with no success. But, he is a love. So I will try this so I do not have to get rid of him.

Crystal
Crystal

Thank you, Natalie. My neighbors are completely fed up with my dog, who was also a rescue. I tried the training as well, but it didn’t work and reacts the same way your dog does. I don’t mind her barking once or twice because of the safety aspect,
but she goes absolutely crazy around anyone she’s not used to! My last resort is the citronella spray collar, and this is exactly the advice I was looking for.

Michelle Schenker
Admin
Michelle Schenker

Wow, thank you Natalie for sharing this story. It is a true testament to how training tools, when used correctly and responsibly, can be highly effective. We are so happy for you and appreciate your comment. Hope to see you around Canine Journal more in the future!

Butch Rogers
Butch Rogers

I like Citronella sprays because it’s just more of any annoyance to the dog than a shock or volt from the collar.

Anonymous-2
Anonymous-2

I found this site because my dog’s daycare decided to use Citronella on him without consulting me first. I would have liked to have had time to research it. Also, it would have been nice to warn me before sending home a pampered inside dog who reeked of insect repellant. By the way, it’s a really nasty smell that lasts and lasts. Not sure if the DC relationship is going to have the same staying power. 🙁

Kevin Wells
Kevin Wells

We have NEVER noticed any type of lingering smell on our Rottie after wearing the collar. The smell itself even when going off is strong but smells just like lemons. Perhaps it was a defective collar they were using? Has anyone else experienced anything like this?

ChipsAhoyMcCoy
ChipsAhoyMcCoy

Dogs bark. It’s what they do.

april reese
april reese

Sometimes they recklessly bark. I just “pssst” and “that look” at the dogs and they stop.

Citronella HYDROSOL (true water distillate) should only be used for flea control. It won’t stop the dogs from barking. It’s the “act of spraying” that stops them from barking. So you can just refill it with water.

Clair E.
Clair E.

What's happened to traditional training? Why can owners be responsible for what habits they reinforce, commit some time to their dog to find out what the trigger is in the first instance?? Humans are guilty of creating problems and want an instant fix to their problems.
Ask yourself:
1) Do you hug your dog?
2) Do you face your dog at the time when you do so to read what behavior your dog is displaying, lip licking, head turning, yawning, panting, just some small subtle changes, shifts of emotions that your dog is trying to communicate with you. YES, very subtle I'm sure you're thinking, but huge to a dog! These signals get missed and ignored, not always intentionally on our behalf but through ignorance of not truly understanding what our dogs are trying to say. Please look at Lilli Chin's doggie drawings in the Google image search and she allows free downloads so it's a great one to have on your fridge for gentle reminders. I suggest this with all my clients.
3) Do you study your dog's posture? In all environments? Even in the comfort of their own bed? Own home? During their walks?
4) Are they comfortable wearing a normal collar and lead?
5) Do you observe, study your dog whilst interacting with other dogs or when there are dogs approaching?
6) How would you say your dog feels after his/her walk? Still charged up? Relaxed and settles down on their own? Needy and must be near you?
7) Would you say that your dog follows you around your home? Even if you get up to leave from one room to the next? Even if your dog is relaxed in their normal place? Do you think if yes to any of these this is normal? Would you get up and follow anyone around the house if they moved?
8) Does your dog bother you when you are relaxed and wants to play ball? Pesters you to interact with him?
9) Can you list the Top 5 (only 5) favorite activities your dog enjoys with you where you both interact with each other or the family?
10) Can you list the 5 favorite toys/ball, etc. your dog has?
11) Can you state which is the best spot your dog desires affection (i.e. on the chest my dog loves being scratched…and always asks for more). Can you say that you respect your dog's personal space and give a 2-5 sec rule of choice to see if your dog actually wants more?
12) Can you read/state which member of the family your dog, taking all the body signaling into consideration they interact with better?
13) Can you say that you truly understand how your dog communicates with you and your family, and the outside world?
14) Does he bark as a form of excitement? Does your display lack of impulse control? (Check out Suzanne Clothier ,a great trainer and author with great easy books.)
15) Does he bark at passersby?
16) Does he bark when he needs to tell you something?
17) Does he bark when people arrive? The postman? Delivery guy?
18) Bark when he/she is playing or wants the ball/toy? Do you throw it or reward this behavior?
19) Does your dog bark to get attention from you?
20) Do you think your dog is barking for no reason?
If you are fed up with reading any of these questions and struggle with just one of them then imho you don't know your dog and your dog doesn't deserve to be punished for barking. A dog should never be punished for expressing their emotions and their way to communicate. To take away the voice of a dog can be extremely detrimental to their outlook and can be rather depressing. It may also cause other undesirable anti social behaviors. Pent up frustration is at the top of the list. Anti-bark collars (sound and citronella) also confuse. Some use it only occasionally as they want to give the message their dog is not always corrected for their behavior. HOW do people expect their dog to understand this? Seriously, oooh I'm allowed to bark now…the area in which the behavior was corrected (fear response) then crawls back…the collar then goes back on!! Shocking, shocking shocking.
IF you find yourself questioning these questions and my response to the usage of causing any confusion, discomfort, emotion stress, short term and long term mental harm, the risk of further undesirable social behaviors…to name but just a few, in a positive way and how you can throw the collar away and choose the correct way of teaching how you can communicate with your dog in a humane and safe way then I commend you, for others that question it in a negative way I have just a few words…YOU DON'T DESERVE A DOG.
Invest time, invest love, patience and understanding but most of all study dog!!
I work with up to 25 different dogs in a grouped, supervised environment, through only use of the two quadrants of operant conditioning (there are four for the people whom may be thinking what is she talking about) on a daily basis. I study and keep up to date with all things new with the cognitive side of stuff, social interaction with dogs and how they communicate. These are of all different breeds, sizes and these are peoples' dogs. For the past 13 years of my life I have had the opportunity to grow with the times and studies to make dogs' lives better by understanding their needs and take away any woes and stresses they may occur through the pressures of keeping up with our busy lifestyles. Setting dogs up for success, providing them with the skills to engage and the choice to disengage is respected.
All dogs need is for us to listen and hear what they are trying to say. Thank you for reading and listening to what is just a scratch on a scratch of the iceberg of a dog's world.

Leah reed
Leah reed

Dear Clair,
To answer your questions, I do know my dogs. Way more then most people know their dogs. My husband has asked me how I so easily know what they are asking for. He doesn’t have this ability. He loves them to pieces but I can see times when one of our dogs is trying to say to him “I don’t like the way you’re petting me right now.” But since he doesn’t have the ability to “speak” dog, he misses the signal. Does that mean that he doesn’t deserve a dog? Of course it doesn’t. He was blessed with other things that I couldn’t begin to understand. I was blessed with an instinct and a love for dogs so strong that I chose dogs as a profession and could not imagine not being around dogs most of the time! The fact of the matter is that most people do not have this ability. Some try to learn it with different degrees of success. Most people miss the small subtle signals because they just don’t possess the talent. They are busy with jobs, homes, children, laundry, cooking meals, having friends over, paying bills, living life, etc. Add to that the lack of instinct (which is not their fault) and you end up in a situations that needs to be addressed and solved quickly for everyone’s sake, including their dog. The people here trying to find an alternative to shocking their dog. They are clearly trying to be humane. The fact is that they love their dog but some have neighbors complaining, some have home owner associations breathing down their necks and animal control is showing up at their door. Some may be trying to avoid getting hauled into court and losing their dog completely. You may be ok with this since you believe that they don’t deserve a dog anyway!! Well let’s look at that way of thinking, according to the ASPCA in the U.S. there are an estimated 70 to 80 million already homeless dogs (this # does not include cats) and according to humane society’s APPA survey 2015 / 2016 there are 77.8 million dogs in households in the U.S. Lets say only 10% of the owners deserve their dogs. What is your answer for what to do with the rest? Shelters are overrun already. Oh wait, there won’t be anyone adopting anymore because so many people don’t deserve dogs so there won’t be anymore shelters because they must rely on people adopting the dogs. Whoops, I think the plan has a flaw! The point is the blanket statements like you don’t deserve a dog doesn’t do anyone any good. It just makes you sound like a judgmental know it all. You are expecting way too much from most people. I do agree that there are better ways of dealing with barking, but for most people it just isn’t a viable option to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars for trainers. Even those that do spend the cash, find that once the trainer leaves, the behavior continues because the well meaning people just do not have the instinctual ability that it takes. The vast majority of owners do not have the luxury of the time in which it would take to train a dog to not bark continuously when owners are not present. Since you are obviously a trainer, you should realize that this is a very difficult problem to deal with even for some who are quite dog savvy. The people here will still love their dogs and their dogs will still love them. In most cases the dog will still jump around and be so happy when the people get home and the people will feed and water and provide shelter and grab hours from their busy schedules to walk their dogs, visit dog parks, take them for bye bye rides in the car!! They will scratch behind their ears and give belly rubs and throw balls and play tug. They will provide medical care and meet all the dog’s physical needs and do the best job they know how to do with the psychological stuff. The world is not perfect for dogs or people. Everyone is just trying to do the best they can with what they know. In the future I hope that you will save your judgements for those who don’t bother to provide basic care and for those who abandon, beat, starve, hoard, exploit, over breed, overwork and the myriad of other atrocities that deserve to be judged by all of us. I applaud you for being a true dog person and am happy for your dogs that they are blessed with a person who is so in tune to them. I do however think that you may want to work a bit on the people skills. I gotta go my dog is barking 🙂

Brett
Brett

Well said Leah. 🙂 I have a 11 month old puppy and she only seems to bark between 1am and 5am in the morning… most mornings (when I’m still in bed asleep). She never seems to bark during the day so it’s kind of hard to train her not to bark when she isn’t. I spend a lot of time with her and she is well looked after. Unfortunately, the neighbors are starting to suffer with her barking every morning. It doesn’t bother me too much but I try to show a lot of respect for people living around me. I’m not a big fan of putting bulky type of devices around her neck, but I think this is the only way that she may learn to bark less, especially when there is nothing there to bark at. Otherwise I hope she will just grow out of it. She never really barks at people or other dogs. If you have any suggestions I would love to hear them.

Thanks,
Brett

Tony S.
Tony S.

I just came onto your post and found it quite interesting. I am also associated with head collars and love to enjoy the stuff on the same as its rarely found on internet. Thanks again for writing such a good post.

Anonymous
Anonymous

The article does mention a major limitation to having a dog collar that sprays scent when it senses barking; namely, that another dog barking or a similar sound could activate the collar and unfairly punish the dog.  Plus, barking is a natural function of your dog, and it would be unfair to just stifle that.  I also thought about the fact that the dog would not bark to alert you of a burglary if trained too much to do otherwise.  And what if it were barking in playfulness, or to get your attention?  It is just mean and unfair, not to mention bad dog ownership, to simply put a collar on your dog to prevent him from barking and think that all of your problems will be solved. 
The bottom line is that citronella collars are irresponsible.  Train your dog properly, just as you would send a child to school, and give him or her a lot of love and attention so he will not feel the need to try and catch your eye all the time.  Be kind to your dog and instead of treating him like a nuisance, treat him like a friend.  Owning a friendly dog is gaining a life-long friend who will always be your buddy.

Kevin Wells
Kevin Wells

It says that another dog “could” set it off. I have never experienced that myself.

Anonymous
Anonymous

First reaction to this article’s title: Ooh, I can train my dog with a collar while keeping the mosquitoes away, too!  And instantly I was intrigued with the idea of a citronella dog collar.  I agree with the message wholeheartedly: Do not put a citronella collar on your dog, or anything similar.
Yes, it seems to be a more humane alternative to electric shock collars to me; so strongly do I believe this that I am actually at a loss as to why there would ever be any argument in favor of electric shock at all.  If pets are people too, then there should be no reason to force the wearing electric shock collars in order to make your dog behave.  The article ended with talking about treating your dog as you would treat a child.  You would never put an electric shock collar on your child, would you?
That said, citronella collars are a cheap and ineffectual substitute for good dog training as well.  The way I see it, if you are going to be a responsible pet owner, you need to take the time, care and expense to properly train your dog.  This can be on your own, with the help of a training manual, or with a full-blown training school, but it needs to be done.  Training your dog is not only for the good of your household, it is for society at large, as I have seen many untrained dogs wreaking havoc on the house or yard of the owner, misbehaving at the dog park, or simply barking non-stop in the yard. 
Collars that respond to barking are not entirely taking care of problems that would be solved by proper training, either.  These could include not heeling, not coming when called, chasing other dogs, chewing furniture, digging up flowers, and so forth.  Thinking that putting a collar on your dog that releases a repelling scent will solve all of the behavior problems that your dog is having is just plain untrue.

Anonymous
Anonymous

You are correct! Many old models had only microphone to detect barking and as you pointed out, it could pick up noise created by other dogs. Luckily, many new models come with dual bark detection device which makes sure that collar gets activated only by our dog barking.

Great Article.

Lejla

Anonymous
Anonymous

I don’t if everyone know this, but a bark collar is not meant to be left on your dog. You should use it for a few hours and then remove it. They are not meant to abuse the dog, only train them to not bark so much.

Dave

Anonymous
Anonymous

Very useful information. I would try the same with my pet dog. It is interesting to learn the fact that it is more humane. Thanks.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I’m very thankful to the author for this post !!! Thanks for this info . . . . .

Anonymous
Anonymous

Cute Citronella Dog. But still fancy golden retrievers.

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