Dog Collar Safety

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For most dog owners putting a collar on your dog is something so common place that you often times don't even think much about doing it. Collars and leashes can save lives, keeping pets away from dangers such as traffic and other animals, and they can be central to helping lost pets find their way home again. But what a lot of dog owners don't always realize, or realize too late, is that collars can also be dangerous.

Kelly Mangrove, of Green Brook NJ, never used to think twice about putting a collar on her 6 lb chihuahua Damsel. All that changed in early 2008, when an unfortunate accident involving her collar cost 6 year old Damsel her life. Mrs. Mangrove explains...

"I had left food out to defrost on the table when I went to work that day. I kissed Damsel good bye and left her home alone. It's the same routine that we had followed for the past 4 years. When I got home that night, I found my sweet Damsel hanging dead about two feet from the ground off of one of our decorative metal kitchen chairs. Her collar had gotten caught on part of the chair, and she couldn't get out of her collar. She hung herself to death in our kitchen. I was devastated when I found her. We think that she was trying to jump up onto the chair, probably to try to get the food off the table, when her collar got caught. I thought I was doing the right thing by leaving her collar on. I wanted her to have ID on in case she ever got out. But instead, my mistake cost my best friend's life."

Unfortunately Damsel is not the only dog who's lost her life this way. South Paws Rescue documents a similar case where a Papillon puppy was killed when her collar got caught on a cabinet handle. A quick search of the internet and you could turn up hundreds of stories of dogs large and small who where killed or injured because of their collars. Some of the stories are about dog's getting their collars caught on things, like Damsel did. Some of them involve dogs playing and getting their collars caught around the mouths of other dogs. No matter the situation, the stories are not usually happy ones. Even in the best of cases, where someone is around to free the dog, the dogs involved are left frightened, stressed, and sometimes injured. That's not even getting into the mental anguish that an incident like this can place on the dog's owners.

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So what can you do to help protect your furry friend from collar injuries? Some owners, especially small dog owners, prefer to use a harness on their dogs. Harnesses usually go around a dog's chest and midsection, leaving their necks free. They can be great for walking, because you don't have to worry about putting any pressure on your dog's sensitive neck.

It's a misconception that all dogs who wear a harness will pull on the leash. Like with many other things, the key is training. Dogs can be trained to walk on a loose leash while wearing a harness to make walking more pleasurable for dogs and owners alike. Most harnesses will have a spot where owners can clip their dog's ID tags, much like a collar would. If a dog's harness gets caught, since most harnesses do not go around dog's necks, the chance of strangulation is reduced. However, dogs may still injure themselves due to caught harnesses.

It's important, no matter what your dog is wearing, to supervise your pet. Do not leave dogs unattended while they are wearing collars, harnesses, or clothing of any sort. During times when you cannot provide supervision, it's usually best to let your dog remain al natural. This could mean when you leave your dog home alone, when you are sleeping, or even when you are home but just too busy to keep an eye on your pooch.

If you are worried about leaving your dog without any form of ID, you can consider getting your pet micro chipped. Micro chipping is a permanent form of ID that doesn't pose the type of injury/death risks that leaving your dog in a collar can. If you absolutely need to leave a collar on your dog, consider buying your pet a safety collar. Safety collars are usually designed to come off your dog's neck when pressure is applied. Some of them have safety buckles that will unclip under pressure, while others feature portions of elastic that will stretch under pressure. Both these types of collars will allow your dog to escape from his/her collar in the event that it gets caught on something.  For this reason, safety collars are best used to hold ID tags only.

Collar safety is something that is often times overlooked by pet owners. But choosing the correct collar, or remembering to always supervise your pet while it's wearing a collar, can mean the difference between life and death. Safety collars come in many shapes and sizes, so you can choose a safer option for your pet without hampering your pooch's style.