Dog collars are one of the most important accessories a pet parent can buy. They are critical for making sure your dog can be identified if they run away or escape, and you can't not have a dog collar if you want to clip a leash on your pup and take them for a walk (unless your dog came with a built-in leash attachment or d-ring their neck... in which case, you’re probably set).
But did you know dog collars can also be extremely dangerous if not used properly?
Dog collar safety is one of the most overlooked areas of pet ownership because the risks associated with the improper type or usage of dog collars are rarely discussed. In this article, we'll outline the importance of dog collar safety so you can keep your dog safe and comfortable.
Let the Dogs be Naked!
... and by "naked," we mean "collar-free." Letting your dogs be naked at home is actually the safest option. Most dog care professionals have witnessed injuries involving dog collars. Without proper supervision, dogs can get their collars caught on many different items or surfaces around the house, leading to severe injuries and sometimes even death. Dog collar strangulation is a terrifying and shockingly common tragedy that's 100% preventable, so taking off your dog's collar before you leave them home alone is critical.
Not only is it the safest option, but being collar-free at home also allows your dog a few hours of comfort without a collar around their neck. Wearing a collar constantly, especially in different weather, including rain and snow, can actually cause skin irritation by not letting the fur underneath dry completely. Sounds like a win-win to us — our dogs being naked means they're safe and comfortable.
Different Types of Dog Collars and Safety Concerns
Even the most commonly used types of collars come with some potential dangers if misused. There are so many kinds of dog collars to choose from, and it can be overwhelming to know which one is the best fit for you. Many dog owners choose to utilize different types of collars or harnesses depending on the type of activity they're doing with their dog, so perhaps a combination of these accessories is the right choice for your dog, too!
Flat collars are one of the most common collars, but even these collars have safety considerations. Flat collars can occasionally lead to neck injuries, primarily in dogs with respiratory issues or short muzzles due to putting pressure on the neck.
Because the material is typically flat and thick, it also can lead to skin irritation and hair loss if it rubs in the same spot for too long. But the most considerable risk for flat collars is the risk of escaping. If you don't have a properly fitted flat collar, the risk of your dog slipping out and running away is very high.
Martingale collars are the most commonly used in dog rescue, and for good reason. Due to their structure, it makes slipping out way less likely and, therefore, much safer in many ways. However, because they're so hard to slip out of, they can be extra dangerous if a dog gets their collar stuck on something while they're unsupervised. A martingale collar tightens the more it's pulled, so in extreme cases, dogs can accidentally choke themselves, leading to injury and sometimes even death. As we mentioned before, it's always best to take your dog's collar off before leaving them unsupervised.
Harnesses are generally considered very safe and effective tools for walking dogs. However, there are still some safety factors to consider. If you don't have a properly fitted harness, it can lead to chafing and skin irritation. Some harnesses, especially those marketed as "no-pull harnesses," also restrict a dog's shoulder movement, making walks and playtime uncomfortable and less enjoyable. Some dog trainers argue that dogs walk better with a harness, and some argue the opposite, so it's your call to see what works best for your dog.
Breakaway and Safety Collars
A breakaway collar is a type of collar that's designed with a specific safety feature that will unclip under pressure. These collars are sometimes called quick-release dog collars and typically include a unique clasp or a quick-release buckle that will open if a dog gets caught on something and starts to panic, preventing injury and strangulation. It's estimated that there are upwards of 26,000 collar-related accidents every year, so looking into a collar specifically designed to avoid injury is a good idea.
Rolled leather collars are a classic look that will never go out of style. These are probably what most people think of when they picture a standard collar for dogs. They're also great for long-haired dogs because they prevent matting under the collar, which can be an issue with other collar options. The downside of leather collars is that they can wear over time and crack if not properly cared for. Additionally, if the collar has a metal buckle similar to that found on a belt, it can pose a choking hazard if your pooch gets stuck on something.
Correctly Fitting Your Dog's Collar
A properly fitting collar is a vital step to ensure your dog is safe from escaping, strangulation, and health-related accidents. If your dog's collar is too tight, they might have trouble breathing; if it is too loose, they might accidentally slip out. For this reason, you'll need to measure your dog's neck.
Measuring your dog's neck size is simple — all you'll need is your dog and a soft measuring tape. Get your dog comfortable and gently wrap the measuring tape around their neck. If you're ordering a collar online, most companies will have a size guide so you can make sure you get the perfect size for your pup. Many collars are adjustable, so there's typically some wiggle room for sizing. The typical rule of thumb is to make sure you can fit two fingers between your dog and their collar to make sure the fit is just right.
The Best Dog Collar Material
The best material for your dog’s collar is going to depend on your pup’s skin and coat and their lifestyle. As mentioned, if your dog has long hair, a leather collar could be the best option to prevent fur matting.
If your dog goes swimming often (whether or not they’re supposed to), neoprene or biothane may be a good choice. A dog collar with neoprene padding has the benefit of being flexible and durable like other materials, in addition to the advantage of being water-resistant and quick-drying.
If you like to go on runs with your pup, a collar made of reflective material or with reflective stitching can add another layer of safety to make sure you and your dog are visible for those early-morning or late-night jogs.
Ultimately, the best collar for your dog is going to be unique, just like your one-of-a-kind pup. As long as you keep in mind the safety considerations we outlined above, you probably can’t go wrong.
Identification and Microchipping
Having your information on a dog tag is incredibly important. Not only does it help strangers locate you if they happen to find your missing dog, but it also helps you prove that you're the owner. We recommend having a tag with your pet’s name, your name, your phone number, and even your address if you can fit it. In an emergency, you want someone to be able to contact you in a few different ways.
Of course, there are also times when your dog might slip out of their collar and be loose without ID tags, and that's where microchipping comes in. Microchipping for dogs is a process in which a tiny electronic chip is implanted under the skin of a dog. The microchip contains a unique identification number that can be scanned by a particular device. This identification number is linked to the owner's contact information in a secure database. It will help identify your dog if they ever run away.
Training and Supervision
As with any new tool you use with your dog, patience, training, and supervision are critical. Whether you choose to use a martingale collar or a harness, making sure your dog is safe and comfortable is always the most important. If you cannot supervise your dog, ensuring they have no collar on is the safest option. As always, you know your dog best, so make the best decision for them.