Are citronella dog collars cruel? Get Your Pet Thinking

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 dog’s face when they do an unwanted behavior.

Are citronella dog collars cruel?

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).

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.

Your dog could be punished with a spray of citronella despite having done nothing. Another issue is the psychological implications of such punishment. For instance, 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 care of your dog. 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.

The treatment of nuisance behaviours such as excessive barking should begin by determining the root cause of the problem and then attempting to address the underlying cause humanely.

Talk to your veterinarian, they can provide advice and may refer you to a reputable animal behaviourist (who uses reward-based training methods) to assess the behaviour and provide advice on how best to humanely manage and address it.

There are some products on the market that are aimed at preventing dogs from barking such as sound collars (collars that emit a high-pitched sound when the dog barks), electronic collars (collars that deliver an electric shock to the dog when it barks) and citronella collars (collars that spray the dog’s face with citronella scent when it barks). RSPCA Australia is opposed to the use of these devices.

RSPCA Australia is opposed to the use of any electronically activated or other devices which deliver electric shocks, such as anti-barking collars and invisible boundaries. Such devices are inhumane as they inflict pain, involve punishment and can be used to abuse animals. RSPCA Australia is also opposed to the use of collars that deliver aversive stimuli such as sound or scent, including citronella collars and high-pitched sound-emitting devices.

Citronella dog collars and side effects

Anti-bark collars use a microphone to detect when your dog is barking. Once the collar senses a bark, it emits a spray of citronella oil toward your pets muzzle. In some cases, the odor of the citronella may work to stop a dog from barking.

Are citronella dog collars cruel?

Citronella anti-bark collars are marketed as a safe way to control your dogs barking. They contain only small amounts of citronella, so unless your pup chews the collar and ingests the oil, he is unlikely to experience symptoms of toxicity. However, if you opt to use this method, monitor your pet closely for skin irritation and rashes and be sure to clean the oils from your dogs fur at least once a week.

Discuss the safety of citronella oil with your veterinarian before you begin using the collar, especially if you have a pup with medical conditions, such as breathing difficulties.

Keep in mind that you should never use bark collars if you have more than one dog in the house or if there are other dogs in the vicinity. The collar may pick up another dogs bark, creating the possibility of a dog being sprayed with citronella even when she didnt make a sound, which can cause a lot of confusion for your pup.

Another issue is that the microphone generally doesnt pick up high-pitched barks, so it doesnt work on all dogs and may teach your dog to simply change the tone of her bark. Bark collars may stop barking by applying a negative stimulus, but they dont address the cause of the barking, which means the behavior may return when your dog isnt wearing the collar, or the citronella runs out.

Understanding why your dog barks can help you develop a plan to address the behavior using positive reinforcement. Some possible types of barks include territorial barking, alarm barking, attention-seeking barking, frustration barking, separation anxiety, or compulsive barking.

Are citronella dog collars cruel?

Start by setting up your dog for success. If he barks in a car, transport him in a crate. If he barks at the neighbor jogging, consider a plastic film on the window to limit your dogs view. Use positive rewards, like treats, and introduce commands, such as “quiet” or “go to your spot.” This allows you to stop the barking on command.

Teaching a dog to stop barking requires a lot of time and patience, especially if you have an adult dog with a long-standing habit of excessive barking. Dont hesitate to consult a professional dog trainer to assist you if needed.

Why citronella dog collars are a rip off…………………Peter Caine, Brooklyn dog training

When it comes to calming “nuisance-barking” dogs, a spritz of fragrance under the chin is more effective than electric shock, a test by the Animal Behavior Clinic at Cornells College of Veterinary Medicine has found.

Dog owners who tried both types of anti-barking collars preferred citronella spray over shock for their pets, according to a report in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (May-June 1996, Vol. 32).

“Either type of collar can be a supplement or an alternative to behavior modification. The dog owners who tested these collars for our study felt the citronella spray was more effective and more humane than electric shock,” said Soraya V. Juarbe-Díaz, D.V.M., a resident in the Cornell Animal Behavior Clinic who ran the study with volunteer dog owners.

Nuisance-barking dogs sound off for no particular reason. “Many dogs bark when they hear other dogs barking,” said Katherine A. Houpt, V.M.D., director of the Animal Behavior Clinic. “And there are certainly times when we want a dog to bark to alert us of something we should know about. But nuisance barkers may bark just because they are highly territorial or because barking is a learned, attention-seeking behavior.”

Nuisance, inappropriate or excessive barking make up between 13 and 35 percent of behavior-problem complaints by dog owners, Houpt noted. “Nuisance barking may be manageable with behavior modification, but some owners are unwilling or unable to provide consistent, appropriate corrections,” she said. “Or the barking may occur when the owners are not around, so they cant deliver corrections when the misbehavior occurs.”

So the animal-behavior experts recruited dog owners from the Ithaca area through newspaper articles and radio news stories about their research. They selected nine dogs that exhibited true nuisance barking and provided electric shock and citronella spray collars for two-week trials of each type.

The electric collars deliver an irritating shock of adjustable intensity when a vibration sensor in the collar detects barking. The citronella collar releases a spray of the plant-based fragrance when a microphone in the collar senses barking. The citronella collars were first marketed in the United States in 1995, although they have been available for years in most European countries, where shock collars are illegal for use on pets. Dogs in the collar test included a Shetland sheep dog, beagle, bull mastiff, two shepherd mixes, a cocker spaniel, West Highland white terrier, Labrador retriever and a Doberman pinscher.

For the eight dogs that wore both types of collars (one shepherd mix did not complete the study), all owners found the citronella collar to be effective in reducing or stopping nuisance barking and most preferred the fragrance spray. (The owner of the Doberman pinscher said both types worked, but preferred to use the electric shock collar.) Four out of eight owners said electric shocks had no effect on their dogs — they kept on barking.

“Given the dogs sense of smell, it could be that a strange odor may be less tolerated than a presumably painful stimulus,” the veterinarians speculated in the journal article. Once dogs learn that barking results in a fragrance spray, a placebo or “dummy” collar may be substituted in some cases and work just as well, they added.

The citronella collars were not without problems, Juarbe-Díaz noted. Unless the microphones sensitivity is properly adjusted, it picks up sounds of other dogs barking, “and thats not fair to your pet. Punishment for misbehavior must not occur at random; the dog needs to know why its being punished,” she said.

And one dog owner complained that citronella oil stained the upholstery when the couch-potato pooch barked. But no one complained of the oils smell, Juarbe-Díaz said.