I have a confession to make: last year, when Eira was a puppy who ran off all the time if she wasn’t on her leash and who yowled and howled almost constantly, I borrowed my neighbor’s shock collar against my better judgment. I was sick and tired of trying to train Eira how to behave herself while also taking care of a toddler and dealing with ice and snow. Example: one day, as I was getting ready to leave for my son’s weekly gymnastics class, which was hugely necessary to help him burn off his winter energy, I was bringing Eira inside from her potty break. I let go of her collar just before she got to the open door, but instead of going inside, she bolted.
And she was, and is, fast. I could not run to catch her. My car was on with my toddler waiting inside, but I couldn’t just leave Eira running around the neighborhood while we were at gymnastics. I felt so angry at Eira for delaying our already late start to a much-needed and much-paid-for event. But all the yelling in the world did not bring her back. I had to lure her into the house with a trail of hot dogs!
We had been practicing the command “come” since she was very young, but she had an innate sense of adventure. She wanted to explore the deliciously snowy world. But sometimes, that brought danger to her — she sometimes crossed through our neighborhood and made it onto a busier street. So I thought a shock collar would help her learn to stay inside the yard. The plan was that we’d try our neighbor’s shock collar for a few days and see how it worked before ordering one for Eira.
Well. That night, I let Eira out without tying her up so she could roam the yard. I held the shock remote in my hand to shock her if she left the perimeter of the yard. It was set to the lowest setting because the last thing I wanted was for her to get hurt. I just wanted it to scare her into listening. So as soon as she struck out toward the road, I pressed the button. It shocked her. She barked and turned and ran frantically off into the darkness, howling and sad and completely confused.
I found myself once again luring her back into the house with a hot dog, apologizing for using the terrible collar. I took it off immediately and returned it to my neighbor that same night. She wasn’t hurt, but she’d been scared by the collar in a way I didn’t like. I had tested the collar on my finger before putting it on Eira, but not on my own neck. I realized that if I couldn’t bear to test it on my own neck, then I had no business putting it on my dog’s.
There have been terrible stories, too, of shock collars literally burning dogs’ flesh. So please, don’t make my mistake and use a shock collar for even one night.
Eventually Eira stopped running off quite so much, but even now at one year old, she howls and yowls and jumps when she gets excited to go outside or come inside from being on a potty break. My toddler is extra sensitive to sound and hates it when Eira is too loud, and I hate it when Eira jumps up and scratches me with her paws. It hurts! I have tried all the positive training out there but she still jumps and yowls.
So I decided to try something new, something that does not have the potential for serious injury: a citronella dog collar.
Eira looks askance at her new citronella dog collar.
A citronella dog collar releases a spray of citronella when your dog barks. It doesn’t do a whole lot against jumping on its own, but if your dog is like mine and generally barks when she jumps, it will help to reinforce that that’s not okay.
To make sure the citronella collar is ethical, my husband put it against his own throat and — to both of our amusement — barked loudly. It took a few tries and adjustments of the collar’s sensitivity before it sprayed him, but after a couple of tries, it did indeed spray him! It surprised us both, but it didn’t hurt him at all. And the smell, to us, was actually not unpleasant. Citronella basically smells like mosquito repellent, which it is used for sometimes. The spray’s smell doesn’t negatively affect the dog, but the sensation mixed with the unique and strong scent surprises them enough to stop barking.
Read on to find out which citronella dog collar we got for Eira — and if it worked to keep her from yowling and howling!
WWVVPET Spray Dog Training Collar
If you want to be able to manually decide when your dog gets sprayed, this is the perfect collar for you because it comes with a remote control unit. Because of this, it’s a little pricier than the collars we’ll look at next, but it might be worth it just for that remote. There are two modes with this spray collar: auto and manual. Manual is the setting you’d use with the remote control, whereas auto will detect your dog’s bark and spray her before you can even reach for the remote!
The other huge plus about this spray collar is that it’s waterproof. While many spray collars are water resistant, few are truly waterproof. So if you spend a lot of time in rain or snow, this might be a great choice just for that feature. One downside of this collar is that it doesn’t come with the citronella; you have to order that separately. This isn’t expensive, but it would be nice if the collar (which is on the more expensive side) came pre-filled with citronella as most of its competitors do.
The range for the remote is for up to 500 ft, which is pretty good. The collar fits dogs who weigh more than eight pounds, has a rechargeable battery, and provides options for both long and short sprays so if your dog doesn’t seem too perturbed by a short spray try a longer one. The LED light will tell you all sorts of things: when the battery is low, when the spray is low, what the spray sensitivity is, and so forth. Check the manual for how many blinks and lights indicate all those different things.
JK TECH Citronella Dog Collar
This more affordable yet still high quality citronella collar is the one I got for Eira. It has a super adjustable nylon strap to fit any dog, so that’s one reason I chose it. Here’s how my experience with this collar went.
First, I tried to use it right out of the box. I soon realized that it needed to be charged first. It took me a moment to find the charging port, so I’ll add a photo here so you can find it easily.
You have to peel back a protective black rubber tab to reveal the charging port. A charging cord is included. You have to provide your own block.
It only took a couple hours to charge the thing, and then it was go-time. First, as I mentioned earlier, my husband tested it out on his own throat to make sure it didn’t hurt at all. And then we put it on Miss Eira.
In this picture it’s upside down, but I corrected that right after I took the photo! Eira was wiggling to go outside so I didn’t catch another picture of her with it before we tested it. Taking a picture of a dog excited to go outside is like taking a photo of jello.
Eira was definitely curious about the strange, slightly heavy block on her neck. She tried to sniff at it but couldn’t really. Eventually she didn’t notice it much. So, I put her outside and went for a quick trip to town with my toddler. It’s usually when we get back from such a trip that Eira gets really excited — she knows I’m about to take her for a short walk or play with her in the backyard. This is problematic because my toddler usually gets upset to hear her howling. I’ll take a moment here to mention that Eira isn’t much of a barker. She doesn’t yap on for hours on end, which is awesome! She’s more of a howly-yowler. She will literally howl like a wolf if she wants to play, or whine-yowl loudly. Since the citronella dog collar has a microphone inside to detect a loud noise, I figured it would work for a howl as well as a bark.
I was right. As soon as we pulled in, Eira yowled — and then she stopped and looked around for the sound she’d just heard. The spray had gone off, and it worked to keep her from yowling! She started to make a sound again when I got out of the car, but I’d set the collar to high sensitivity and it sprayed again, making that noise that stopped her short.
My toddler and I were able to walk into the house in peace. He happily got down and started to play with his toys, and I went back outside to take Eira to the backyard to play. I made sure to praise her for not howling at us or jumping — it’s always best to combine a citronella dog collar with positive reinforcement so that eventually you don’t have to use the spray collar as much.
Unlike the first citronella dog collar, this one comes pre-filled with about 30 sprays. So after Eira came back inside, I took the collar off and turned it off because she doesn’t really make noise while inside. You can buy refill sprays from Amazon once your 30 sprays run out, and it’s simple enough to refill. The collar comes with detailed instructions that explain how the LED interface works, how to refill and charge the collar, and so on.
It’s definitely worth every penny, this collar. I would recommend it to anyone who’s having issues with the neighbors because your dogs are barking up a storm. It’s a much gentler alternative to shock collars and seems more effective than a vibration (we tried the vibration setting of that shock collar on Eira and it did nothing).
Zeonetak Rechargeable Spray Collar
While the collar I bought is water-resistant, this one is priced similarly but is marketed as waterproof, although you don’t want to let your dog jump in a lake with it on. And remember, citronella dog collars aren’t really for 24/7 use. Use them during those times that you know your dog needs help learning not to bark or howl, but other than that, let her be citronella-spray free. It’ll be cheaper for you in the long run, too, because random screeches from your kids won’t cause the spray to go off, wasting a spray and confusing your dog.
Like the collar we got Eira, this one has a comfortable webbing collar that’s highly adjustable. Other than the waterproof feature, it’s pretty much the same as our spray collar.
What Do I Use to Refill My Spray Collar?
The silver circle area is where the spray comes out — and also where you refill your spray collar once it runs out.
While PetSafe makes a spray collar, it’s pricey and not as highly recommended as these three spray collars. But PetSafe does make the best citronella refill on the market, and it’s compatible with these three citronella dog collars. There are 300-400 sprays per can, so you can refill your collar many times over with just one can of PetSafe citronella spray.
You can find it below:
In short, citronella dog collars are a wonderful resource for those who don’t want to risk seriously hurting their dogs with shock collars and who find vibration collars generally useless. Citronella dog collars smell nice to you and slightly interesting/tickly/off-putting to your dog, release a surprising spray, and don’t hurt at all. Praise your dog when she stops making noise after getting sprayed, and you might find you eventually don’t need the spray collar anymore.
Have you tried a citronella spray collar with your dog before? What do you think? Let us know in the comments!
Laura Ojeda Melchor grew up with two beloved German shepherd dogs—Clancy and her daughter, Bella. From the time her family brought Clancy home, Laura took on the duty of pooper-scooper and potty trainer. As a teenager Laura helped her mother care for Clancy during her pregnancy. She still remembers fondly the exciting, frigid winter night when the seven special puppies were born. Laura kept the youngest puppy—Bella—and potty trained her, too. She taught Bella important commands, took her for long walks, and spent hours throwing tennis balls for her.
In November, Laura brought home a sweet new puppy, Eira Violet. Eira is half Alaskan malamute and half German shepherd, and Laura loves her deeply. She chose not to use a crate to potty train Eira and was pleasantly surprised at the results. She now has a sweet, energetic dog who always uses the potty outside, plays well with Laura’s toddler, and enjoys long family walks in beautiful Alaska. If you were to meet Eira, she’d bound up to you with a wagging tail and get you running around the yard with her in no time.