Citronella dog collars are bark deterrents usually considered more humane and effective than shock collars. This type of collar sprays citronella oil under the chin of the dog, which irritates the animal because of its strong sense of smell. It is a type of negative reinforcement; the dog barks and then immediately gets sprayed with an irritating smell. Some studies show that citronella dog collars are more effective than other kinds of anti-bark collars, some of which harm the dog in the process. As the spray is operated by a battery, the collar will eventually need a replacement.
This kind of collar is designed to virtually eliminate nuisance barking. Nuisance barking occurs when a dog barks for unimportant reasons, like hearing other dogs bark or for attention from its owners. This can lead to the dog barking excessively every day, increasing in amounts as it gets attention from the behavior. Citronella dog collars aim to discourage the dog from barking by spraying a tiny amount of citronella oil under its chin whenever it begins to bark. The amount is not enough to harm the dog, just discourage it from continuing to bark.
Citronella dog collars are most popular in European countries and other places where shock collars are illegal to use because of animal abuse concerns. This kind of bark deterrent is growing in popularity as laws are implemented against less humane collars. In addition, some dog owners find citronella dog collars more effective than shock collars. Some dogs do not react to the slight tingling sensation a shock collar gives, whereas they will react to an unpleasant smell.
There are some disadvantages to using citronella dog collars. Some dog owners complain about the oil staining furniture, which is usually only a problem if their dog is allowed on furniture. The collar might not hold up well on outdoor dogs, because it is a battery-operated device made of plastic and metal. In addition, strong wind may be able to set off the device, confusing the dog. Lastly, the collars are not a foolproof method of training a dog not to bark; some dogs do not find the smell so unpleasant that it discourages them from barking.
To successfully stop a dog from barking at unimportant things, actual training is necessary. Citronella collars cannot be worn all the time, nor do they last forever, so owners should expect at least a few hours of downtime occasionally. During this time, the dog might go back to barking excessively. It is usually recommended to teach a dog commands like “quiet” with positive reinforcement to eliminate all excessive barking.