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We often assume collars are safe and rely on them to carry our dog's identification tags, but dog collar strangulation is sadly a possibility, and there are more and more stories about this type of accident occurring.

 The collar may get caught in some branches or one dog may get stuck into another dog's collar when playing. 

More and more doggy day cares are changing their policies on the use of collars and there are fortunately some safer alternatives to regular collars to help prevent the chance for dog collar strangulation.

Risks of Dog Collars

A regular dog buckle collar may look like an innocent piece of equipment. It simply encircles your dog's neck and it carries important information such as your dog's identification tags, rabies tags and proof of dog license.

Your dog's collar also comes handy should you quickly get a hold of your dog or quickly attach a leash to it. However, the same collar one perceives as "safe" can pose great dangers and even cause death.

There are several reports of dogs being strangled to death by their collars during play. How does this happen? 

All it takes is a dog's lower jaw to get twisted into the other dog's collar or a tooth to get stuck in a buckle hole while the dogs are playing. Both dogs panic, and by the time the owners rush to help the dogs, it may be too late. It takes only a few seconds for strangulation to occur. Collar accidents can therefore even happen with close supervision. 

As mentioned, another risk is the dog's collar getting stuck in something. The collar may get snagged in the wires of a crate or kennel and if the door stay outdoors, the collar may snag on branches a fence or the deck and many other things out there. While collar accidents may sound like freak accidents, the fact that more and more people are reporting them means that they are more common than thought.

Did you know? An estimated 26,000 dogs a year suffer from injury or death due to collar strangulation accidents. Sadly, most of these accidents could have been avoided.

Taking Precautionary Steps 

Back in the days when working for an animal hospital, collars were the first thing we removed from a dog upon admission into the hospital. 

This meant all dogs coming in for medical procedures that required an in-hospital stay even for just a few hours, had their collars removed immediately.

What did we replace the collars with? We used these flimsy looking identification collars made of the same material as medical hospital identification bracelets with the pet's name and owner’s name written with a black marker.

We prepared these "collars" the day prior to the dog being admitted. The same collars were used for dogs just dropped off for grooming or dogs boarding while the owners were on business trips or on vacation. 

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In a dog day care setting, most business owners are starting to recognize that most collars are safety hazards in group play. These establishments are therefore removing dog collars and replacing them with collars that have been purposely designed for safety in group play.

"You can think of it as you would any safety measure such as backing up your computer or wearing a life vest, seat belt or bike helmet...Taking collars off dogs is a safety measure to prevent the worst-case – when the dog’s collar might get entangled on another dog or an object, and the dog chokes to death. At that point it’s too late to say, “if only . . .”~Gail Fisher

dog quick release collar

Alternative to Buckle Collars

So what is a safer option to prevent dog collar strangulation? A quick-release collar is purposely crafted in such a way as to prevent collar strangulation.

Quick-release dog collars as their name implies, have a buckle that releases quickly when pressure is applied allowing quick intervention should the need arise.

When a buckle collar gets snagged onto something or one dog gets trapped into the collar of another every second counts.

 It's unfortunate, but most people won't have access to a knife or strong scissors to cut free the dog free in time to save a dog from asphyxiation. The quick-release buckle therefore allows fast intervention. 

Another option is a safety breakaway collar. This collar looks similar to a buckle collar, but has a safety mechanism which allows the dog to break free of the collar when excessive force is applied. 

Other options include the Safe Dog ID Collar and the Tazlab Safe-T-Stretch Collar.

 A word of caution is needed for these too though: with this collars, should you end up one day with the need to grab your dog by the collar to either stop him from greeting an unfriendly dog or running into traffic, you risk ending up with the breakaway collar in your hand and a loose dog in danger!

And what about identity? Many people wonder about this. Many quick release collars have D rings so to allow owners to attach their dog's collar ID tags, but ID tags can also be dangerous, so some of them offer the opportunity to engrave contact information directly on the collar. 

Are they entirely safe though? Safe is a difficult word to use, so perhaps it's just better to just say "safer." Some doggy day cares prefer to play it safer rather than safe and cut their risks for liability by simply adopting a "no collar rule." And of course, loads of supervision to keep everybody safe is greatly important too!

"If you’re nervous about having your dog naked (and without ID), use a collar with a buckle that can be released even under tension. Another option is a safety breakaway collar."~Nancy Kerns

Photo Credits:

  • Flickr Creative Commons, Logan Ingalls Gus was in the hospital - HE'S HOME NOW! CCBY2.0
  • Wikipedia, Nylon quick-release buckle collar with identification and medical tags. The original uploader was Elf at English Wikipedia - CCBY3.0

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