Recently, one of the members of our Snow Dog community shared with me her story of what very nearly turned out to be a tragedy for her, which reinforces the importance of collar safety.
Her two dogs had been playing outside when one of the dogs had managed to get caught in the collar of her other dog. As the two dogs struggled to get loose, the collar began to tighten around the dog’s neck. The collar was beginning to act like a tourniquet around her dog’s neck.
Think that this is an isolated incident? Think again. It has happened not once, but twice in my household too. Kaya did it to Jhett and then later Jhett did it to Angel. Different dogs, same outcome. It was just lucky that I was there and the dogs were being directly supervised both times.
How Does This Even Happen?
In my home, both times my dogs had managed to get their lower canine teeth punched through the webbing of the other dog’s collar. As they both struggled to get free, the dog that had his teeth caught began to thrash around wildly. The dogs, in a panicked attempt to get free, eventually tried to execute twisting rolls to the side, much like an alligator does when doing a death roll underwater. It is the action of this sideways roll that twists the collar around the second dog’s neck, tightening it, cutting off airflow, blood flow, and potentially causing damage to the trachea.
What were my dogs doing both times when this incident happened? They were just playing silly domination games with each other. They were grabbing each other by the collar in an attempt to lead each other around and wrestle each other to the ground. This is something that every Husky owner has watched their dog do or watched as it was done to their dog.
Just innocent husky play, right? Who could have guessed that something as innocent as play fighting could lead to such potential tragedy? What would have happened if I had not been right there to step in to free my dogs? I shudder to think.
So, let’s change this incident from a near-tragic moment into a teachable moment. What can we, as responsible owners, do differently to better protect our dogs from this tragic fate befalling them? This is not about keeping our dogs from having fun. This is about helping to keep our dogs safe while they are having fun.
Important Lessons In Collar Safety
- Expect Play Fighting to Happen. I know that it was no coincidence that both Kaya and Jhett were at that cocky adolescent stage of development (between 12 and 15 months of age) where domination and social ranking issues are very likely to come into play. (Though, it should be remembered that this incident can happen at any time and any age for any dog.) So if your dog is at this age and stage of development, keep an extra careful eye on his interactions. Place limits on what you consider to be acceptable behaviour.
- In Multi-dog Households, dogs play and interact with each other all the time. Direct supervision during playtime is necessary. Also, set limits on how your dogs are allowed to play with each other. Just because it is natural for dogs to want to wrestle and play fight with each other does not mean that they MUST do this activity.
- In my household, there are no domination games allowed. There are lots of other ways for the dogs to interact and play with each other. I watch them play with each other using open-mouthed sparring, they play keep away, they play tug, they chase each other, they do community “hunting” and chewing activities etc. What they are NOT allowed to do is to grab each other by the collar, haul each other down to the ground, or pin each other to the ground. When I see the dogs’ play heading towards domination games, I simply redirect their activities to a different style of play. This is not about us not letting our dogs play and having fun. This is about keeping our dogs safe while they are playing.
- At the Park, discourage dogs from grabbing each other by the neck and collar. It is not necessary for dogs to play in this way. If someone else’s dog is rudely grabbing your dog by its collar, do step in on your dog’s behalf to redirect the style of play. There are a lot of clueless owners who think that just because they are at a dog park, it should mean that their dogs should be allowed to do whatever they want. Off-leash dogs are required (by law) to be in full control by the owner at all times.
- When you know that dogs will be playing (organized play date or dog park activity), whenever possible, remove your dogs’ collars. If there is no collar, then there is nothing for another dog to get snagged on. Remember, we want dogs to be able to have fun AND be safe while they are having fun.
- Choose a safer collar for your dog to wear. Coarsely woven webbed collars have a far better chance that a canine incisor will punch through it than a tightly woven webbed collar. A collar that has an extra layer of fabric covering the webbing will make it that much less likely that a tooth will pierce through the collar.
- Also, consider this, a collar with a quick-release snap mechanism is much easier to get off your dog in a hurry than a standard buckle mechanism. The downside to the quick-release mechanism …. it can unsnap accidentally so make sure that you use a collar that has a heavy-duty snap mechanism rather than a flimsy plastic snap mechanism.
- Do not use the cost of the collar to determine what type of collar your husky wears. Choose your husky’s collar based on the right fit, sturdiness, and a high-quality product that is right for this breed of dog.
How To Find The Correct Fitting Collar
A good fitting dog collar should sit up near the top of the neck. It should never be so loose that it droops or slides down the neck to sit at the top of the dog’s shoulder blades. The collar should be snugged up but there should be enough room to easily insert two fingers between the dog’s collar and the dog’s neck. Collars should never be so tight that it impairs breathing, causes choking, or coughing. For dogs that are still growing, frequently check the collar for a safe fit.
And in the case of huskies, remember to re-size your dog’s collar to accommodate for seasonal fur shedding or the addition of a winter undercoat. Huskies can easily go up or down a collar size when their coat changes. Also, use only high-quality collars with very sturdy hardware, Ruffwear makes good quality collars, as do Kong. Huskies are very powerful animals and they can very easily break plastic hardware or cheap snaps and fasteners. You do not want your Husky to suddenly be running loose in traffic because they broke their collar.
Take Your Dogs Collar Off When You Crate Them
When you crate or contain your dog and you are not there to directly supervise the dog, REMOVE YOUR DOG’S COLLAR, collar safety is never more important than while in their crate. There are countless cases where owners have come home to find that while their dog was attempting to escape from their crate, their collars had became caught in the carnage of broken wires and their dogs died a slow agonizing death while being strangled by their own collars. PLEASE, this kind of tragedy is totally preventable by removing your dog’s collar while it is being kennelled. An ounce of prevention can save your dog’s life.
As always, we welcome your questions, comments, and stories regarding this article. When we share our stories we may well be helping someone who is struggling with their Snow Dog.
Helping all Snow Dogs … one owner at a time.