Preventing Dog Collar Accidents

Here’s what you can do to prevent a collar-related mishap and keep your pet safe.

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Collars can present a real danger to your dog’s safety. Photo: Tony Alter

Most people think they are protecting their dog from getting lost when they put a collar on their dog.

They fasten the collar with flashy identification and rabies tags to ensure that if someone were to find their dog unattended, he or she would know who to call and that the dog is vaccinated.

Sadly, what most people don’t realize is that while they are trying to protect their pet and keep them safe, they are actually putting the dog in danger of a fatal collar accident.

Every year, thousands of dogs lose their lives in an entirely preventable collar accident. Not surprisingly, the most common collar accident is strangulation, and while you may think this occurs infrequently, the awful stories of fatal accidents are mounting.

According to a survey from the North American Veterinary Conference in 2003, 91% of veterinarians reported having seen or heard of one to five dogs injured or strangled by their collar within the last year. They also believed that only one in four dog owners knew the risks associated with putting a collar on their dog.

Places Dogs May Get Caught

The most commonly reported strangulation-related collar accidents are listed below, in order of frequency:

  1. Fence: This occurs when dogs are peering over, jumping over or digging/crawling under the fence and the collar gets caught.
  2. Play: When dogs play with one another, they typically will mouth at each other’s necks. The dog’s lower jaw and teeth can easily get stuck on another dog’s collar. While they try to free themselves, one dog may suffocate, while the other is left with a broken jaw.
  3. Crate: Statistically, this is just as common as play strangulation; it occurs when the identification tags get stuck in the bars of the crate.
  4. Branch: While a dog may love romping through the woods, branches can easily snag the collar and strangle the dog, or puncture his neck area.
  5. Heating/Cooling air vents: Like crate strangulation, the hanging identification tags can get stuck in air vents, and while the dog struggles, he ends up doing more harm than good.

A Tragedy Spawns Safer Collar Design

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In 1995, Chinook, a samoyed mix, was on a hike with his family. He lagged behind for a couple minutes while taking interest in a novel scent. After he didn’t catch up, his family went to search for him, but when they found him, it was too late: Chinook had gotten tangled in a branch and, while trying to free himself, had flipped over and twisted the collar, causing fatal airway constriction.

The more he fought, the tighter the collar cinched around his neck. Airway constriction is almost always the cause of death when fatal collar accidents occur.

Driven by grief, Chinook’s owner, Tenney Mudge, created a collar that makes collar strangulation impossible. In 1996, she patented the Petsafe KeepSafe Break-Away collar, which was quickly picked up by Premier Pet Products, Inc. Unlike a conventional flat collar, the Break-Away collar (pictured here) is designed to release under most circumstances where pressure is put on the collar or when twisting occurs.

If you were to walk your dog using this collar, just clip your leash to both “D” rings. Clipping your leash to both rings deactivates the break-away safety clip. To avoid strangulation by your dog’s identification tags, just attach your tags to one “D” ring and not both.

Watch this video to see how the KeepSafe Break-Away collar works:

YouTube player

More Ideas to Prevent Collar Accidents

Here are other ways to keep your dog safe from collar-related perils:

  • One alternative to the KeepSafe Break-Away collar is one made by Tazlab that stretches when it is not hooked to a leash. Much like the Break-Away collar, when you attach your leash to both “D” rings, the stretch function is deactivated. The collar can easily slip over the dog’s head when nothing is attached to the rings.
  • Use a harness instead of a collar (my favorite is the Premier Easy Walk).
  • Take your dog’s collar off when he is in the house or backyard.
  • Avoid dangling identification tags, and invest in a tag that slips onto the collar and lies flat, or get a collar that has safety information embroidered onto the collar.
  • Don’t chain your dog outside, but if you have to, use a harness and make sure there are no obstacles in which your dog could get tangled.
  • Don’t ever tie your dog out on a raised surface such as a deck or in the back of a pick-up truck.

When taking the proper precautions, you can tremendously decrease the chances of your dog becoming a victim of a collar tragedy.