Putting 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?
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. 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. 🙂