Collars Can Prove Deadly

Anyone that knows me knows how protective I am of Kirby.  I make the majority of his meals and treats, I make him wear his harness while traveling in the car, he must wear a leash at all times when away from home, he wears a life vest in the water unless I am right there with him, and even then, he is attached to a leash so I can pull him to me if he gets into trouble.


The following excerpts from an article I just read in my latest Whole Dog Journal issue literally shocked me. Reading about this horrible event gave me pause about the collar Kirby wears 24/7. 

It was two young Lab-mixes in the front yard of a house down the street. One had grabbed his friend’s collar and then mostly likely rolled over, twisting his lower jaw in the collar. His tongue, trapped under the thick nylon, was being lacerated by his own lower teeth; he was the one making all the noise.

His buddy was not screaming; he was fighting for his life, and being choked to death by his own collar. Both dogs were thrashing in pain and fear. The owner of one dog was trying to get close enough to them to free them, and I tried to help.

I grabbed one dog by the scruff; she grabbed the other. I frantically ran my hands through the mass of writhing fur, trying to find a buckle on the collar. I felt a quick-release buckle and released it – but it was the wrong one, not the collar that was threatening their lives.Then I saw the other buckle; it was in the mouth of the dog whose jaw was trapped. And it was a standard metal buckle – the kind that you have to tighten slightly to free the metal prong from a hole punched in the nylon fabric. It was already so tight, there would be no way to tighten it enough to release it, if I even could get my hand in the dog’s mouth.

Just then, the owner of the other dog ran out of the house with a pair of scissors. I was doubtful that they could cut through the thick nylon, but they did. And in the nick of time! Even as the young woman worked, feverishly, the dog who was choking released his bowels. He was seconds from death.

Something I had never even considered could happen to Kirby because of his collar, something I deem a necessary item for identification in the event he were lost. It has two tags, one a simple tag with his name and my phone number, the other a blanket ID tag which links to vital information anyone who finds him can use to get him home to me.  He's also micro-chipped should he lose his collar or someone removes it.

So now I have to rethink what I thought because the very collar that could get him home to me is the very collar that could choke the life out of him. From now on, when we have a foster with us, I will be removing both dog's collars whenever they are safely inside my home or fenced backyard. When Kirby wants to play wth other dogs in a safe environment, I may choose to not let him play or decide if I'm willing to remove his collar with the risk of him getting lost. I do know we better start working on that recall command I've gotten very lax about.

The article ends by making the following recomendations to keep your dog safe when he’s playing with other dogs.

1.Play Naked! Remove your dog’s collar or harness. A harness may not present the same choking hazard as a collar if another dog got tangled in it, but on the other hand, a harness has many more straps to get caught in.

2.Use a Collar With a Quick-Release Buckle. 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, such as Premier Pet Product’s KeepSafe Break-Away Collar (see or call 800-933-5595).

3. Don’t Allow Your Dog to Play With Dogs Who Are Wearing Gear. At times, this may mean your dog won’t be able to play at a dog park, because it’s nearly impossible to get everyone to comply with sensible rules at a dog park. If I had a young dog who really liked wrestling and mouthing other dogs, I just wouldn’t take him to a dog park that was crowded with collar- and harness-wearing dogs. Not after what I saw.

4. Spread The Word. I’m now telling every dog owner I know about the way, the truth, and the light. Many people have never considered this potential hazard and may be open to hearing about how they can prevent a tragedy happening to their dogs.

5. Keep Something Sharp Handy. This is quite a long shot – and yet, I now know a young woman who saved two dogs’ lives with sharp scissors. I now have a box cutter in my car, and another one on a shelf near my office door. I hope to never witness this again, but I feel a little better knowing that there would be more I could do to help.

Have you witnessed this happening? What would/will you do? Do you have any other suggestions?

Disclosure: The above excerpts appeared in Whole Dog Journal with full credit to Nancy Kerns. I am spreading the word so that owners can be aware and take proper precautions.