5 Dog Collar Safety Tips

We put collars on our dogs to keep them safe. Collars hold valuable contact information should our dogs go astray, giving anyone who finds them an easy way to reach us. But collars can be dangerous. Every year, some 26,000 dogs are injured or killed in a collar-related accident.

Collars can get caught on fences and gates, furniture, dog crates, loose branches and roots, and even while playing with another dog. If someone isn’t there to free them immediately, they risk serious injury to their necks. And, in the worst cases, death by strangulation.

Does that mean you have to toss your traditional buckle collar out? Of course not. A buckle collar is perfectly safe while your dog is out and about and under supervision. That way if the collar does get caught, you can take action right away.

To ensure your dog is safe wearing a collar, we’ve compiled this list of dog collar safety tips.

1. Choose the Right Size

One of the top causes of neck injuries in dogs is wrongly-sized collars. Both collars that are too tight and too loose present a danger.

Collars that are too tight can lead to skin irritation, inflammation, and infection. This is common in puppies when owners forget to resize their collars as they grow. In the worst cases, the collar can cut deep into the dog’s neck.

Collars that are too loose present an entirely different danger. For instance, a dog wearing a too-loose collar might get a paw stuck in it while scratching. If the dog pulls hard enough to try and get free, the leg can break.  Dogs that get their teeth or tongue stuck in a too-loose collar often end up with mouth injuries.

When sizing your dog’s collar, make sure you can fit two fingers – and only two fingers – between your dog’s neck and the collar. Do a size check both when your dog is standing and sitting to ensure it doesn’t tighten up when he lies down.

2. Remove the Collar at Home

The vast majority of dog collar-related accidents happen while the dog is unsupervised. To ensure your dog is safe at home, take his collar off if you’re not going to be around and at night when you’re sleeping. 

On walks, at the dog park, or going someplace like the vet, you can continue to use a traditional buckle collar. (If your dog will be crated for any length of time, take the collar off entirely.)

This is particularly important in homes with more than one dog that enjoy playing together. Many tragic accidents happen when one dog’s teeth or ID tags get entangled with the other dog’s collar. Their natural reaction is to jerk, twist, and try to pull away, but this is what leads to strangulation.

3. Pay Attention at the Dog Park

Dog collar accidents most commonly occur when your dog is playing with another dog, like at the dog park. One dog’s tooth or tongue gets caught in the other’s collar during a sniff and greet. Or the dangling ID tag on one collar gets stuck in the other’s collar while wrestling. Because they can’t reason out how to fix their problem, they panic, twisting and pulling to try to break free. Unfortunately, one dog will be on the choking end of that struggle. It only takes about three minutes for a dog to choke to death by collar strangulation.

Keeping an eye on your dog at all times means you can intervene quickly should something happen. (Keep in mind you may need to cut the collar to get it off. Consider keeping something sharp with you like a pair of scissors or Swiss Army knife.)

4. Avoid Dangling Name Tags

We appreciate a bone-shaped ID tag as much as the next dog lover. But dangling ID tags are a common cause of collar-related accidents.

Tags can get stuck in other dogs’ collars, as well as stuck in crate wires, fences, and on tree branches and roots. The resulting struggle to break free can cause neck lacerations and, in the worst case, strangulation. If you must crate your dog, try a crate like the Bergan Collapsible Crate - it is free from wires that your pup can get caught on.

Personalized collars are a great option if you want your dog to go tag-less. 

5. Get Your Dog Microchipped

Though collars can be a fashion statement, their primary use is to carry ID tags in case the dog runs away or is lost. It’s why many owners are hesitant to leave their dogs without a collar, even at home. Dogs can be masters of escape. One quick slip past your legs when heading out to get the mail is all it takes. Getting your dog microchipped allows you to keep the collar off, but still know your dog can be ID’d if he gets away.