Pet Tips

Dog Collar Safety

May 12, 2022

Dog Collar SafetyPutting a collar on your dog is something so common place that you probably don’t even think much about doing it. Collars and leashes can save lives!  They keep 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.

A sad story…

Kelly M. never used to think twice about putting a collar on her 5 lb chihuahua, Damsel. All that changed in early 2008, when an unfortunate accident involving her collar cost 6 year old Damsel her life. Kelly 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 Damsel hanging 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. She hung herself to death in our kitchen. I was devastated. 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.

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.

What can you do to help protect your furry friend from collar injuries?

Dog Collar SafetySome 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.  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. 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.

Did you know that you can also purchase breakaway collars for dogs?  Breakaway collars, more commonly seen for cats, are specially designed to come off when pressure is applied.  The dog collar  I linked too features two D rings on each side of the buckle.  You can basically bypass the breakaway buckle with a leash clip, for those who walk their dog by their collar.

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.

Both of my dogs, Kitsune the papillon and Fenrir the Alaskan Klee Kai, wear collars as a form of ID, despite the fact that I do walk them exclusively with harnesses.  But, as you can image, talking to Kelly about what happened to her sweet little chihuahua all those years ago left a lasting impression on me.  I make sure to never leave my dogs home alone, or otherwise unsupervised, with collars on.  At night, and when my partner and I both leave the house, the collars come off.

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 risks that leaving your dog in a collar can. If you absolutely need to leave a collar on your dog, opt for a safety collar.  Some of them have safety buckles that will unclip under pressure (like the one I linked too above), while others feature portions of elastic that will stretch under pressure. Both these types of collars will allow your dog to escape in the event that it gets caught on something.

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

This post originally went up on 6/13/2016.  It has been edited for readability and to add relevant information. 🙂

Dog Collar Safety

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  • Reply Cathy Armato May 13, 2022 at 5:44 pm

    Oh my God, that is so heartbreaking and horrifying. How awful for her family. I have always used harnesses to walk my dogs, but they also keep their collars on and were microchipped. I really like the idea of a breakaway collar, that’s a great safety tip.

  • Reply Ruth Epstein May 13, 2022 at 11:12 pm

    It kills me each time a dog is killed because of their collar, it frightens the hell out of me. Layla only walks with a harness, does not wear a collar unless I am going out then I put it on her for emergencies but otherwise she is collarless, I will not take the chance. I love the idea of the breaking collar as it is so much safer for our fur kids.

  • Reply jana rade May 14, 2022 at 7:30 pm

    What a terrible story. Sadly, not the only one. We dumped collars ever since my dog’s neck issues. Then, we switched to shoulder harnesses and never looked back.

  • Reply Beth May 15, 2022 at 11:25 am

    How tragic! My dogs only wear harnesses for their walks or visits to the vet. They occasionally wear collars for their photoshoots. But our (indoor) cat has a breakaway collar with a bell just in case she ever slips out.

  • Reply Terri May 15, 2022 at 12:27 pm

    What a horrific story! I’ve always worried about Henry’s collar and have opted for his harness in most cases, except it does have his ID on his collar. He’s also chipped. But the ID is immediate access to me. I’ve always noticed when I take him to the groomer or daycare, they immediately take off his collar and harness. I assumed that was for safety. Now, I know it is for safety. I’m so glad you shared this story and gave better options for dog parents than the traditional collars, especially when leaving their fur kids home alone.

  • Reply Kamira Gayle May 15, 2022 at 4:12 pm

    Oh, that was so heartbreaking to read what happened to Kelly’s dog. So sad. I remember with my youngest cat Dusty, buying her a breakaway collar, just in case she got caught or had to break free. I never had her microchipped since she wore a pink breakaway collar and was comfortable in it. You made a great point about also being around to supervise your pet because you never know what they may get into. Thanks for bringing awareness to this issue.

  • Reply Robin May 15, 2022 at 6:07 pm

    Kelly’s story is sooooo heart breaking! I would be beside myself with grief over that. My kitties do not wear collars and when I have to take them out, I put them on harnesses. Cats definitely need breakaway collars if they do wear one. They are prone to all kinds of gymnastics in the home. Thank you for the reminder that collar safety needs to be front of mind with any pet.

  • Reply Dorothy "FiveSibesMom" May 15, 2022 at 7:50 pm

    My heart goes out to Kelly M. I share her heartbreak in a similar situation with my GSD/Akita Chelsey. Always same routine and no issue. Until one day it was. One day, my daughter and I were out at one of her friend’s birthday parties. When the call came that Chelsey, too, had hung herself on our fence as she attempted to climb it (most likely to chase a passing critter). Thankfully, our neighbor heard her cries, called for the local police to come and knock down our fence. They unhooked my girl and since my neighbor was a vet tech at my own vet office nearby, she called it in and they opened up to help her. She literally saved my dog’s life. Since then, a) I never left my dogs out when I was not home, and b) I left Huskies run collarless. With having five of them and all the rough dog play they did, I did not want a repeat of Chelsey’s situation, or have one of the paws caught in another’s collar. When I did collar them up, I used breakaway collars and harnesses for walking. I was forever thankful that Chelsey came out of such a potentially tragic situation, and my heart goes out to Kelly M. Pinning this for awareness to others.

  • Reply Marjorie at Dash Kitten May 15, 2022 at 10:47 pm

    What a terrible story. It’s strange but I would never think to take a collar off a dog, they need to display their licences here in NZ so most people would not remove them. Cat collars have a quick release safety catch so if you tug they will come off I am surprised that dog collars do not have something similar.

  • Reply Nikki May 16, 2022 at 1:50 am

    That story is just so sad… This is definitely something to be mindful of. I couldn’t even imagine coming home to something like that, it breaks my heart just thinking about it.

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