Over the years, I have heard of many collar and harness accidents—some with tragic results. This story, thank goodness, has a happy ending. But it could’ve ended much differently. My client has two border collies who were approaching their first birthday. They both had beautifully woven martingale type collars that they wore all of the time. My client was less than 20 feet away when she heard the awful screaming of a terrified dog. She found one dog with his whole chin and bottom jaw caught in the other dog’s collar twisting and turning to try to get free. While he was struggling, the other pup was having her airway cut off. There is no way they could have untangled themselves without help. Her partner ran for scissors while she held the dogs as still as possible. She could barely get a finger under the collar to get the scissors in to cut it off. But fortunately she could.
This happy ending was possible because two people where there, they sprang into action quickly, and had luck on their side. I’ve known of other dogs who were not as fortunate. With this story in mind, I would like to offer the following safety guidelines for dogs who play together, whether at home, at the beach, or at the dog park.
- Never allow dogs to play in any type of corrective equipment including martingale collars, choke chains, or prong collars. Dog’s jaws and teeth can get caught easily.
- Do not allow dogs to play in harnesses either. Along with jaws and teeth, dog paws and legs can get caught in harnesses during play.
- Do not allow dogs to play even in well-fitting flat collars if you do not have two people actively supervising. If the dogs enjoy playing mouth-wrestling games, take the collars off during play (this of course assumes you are in a safe place) or use break-away collars.
- Do not leave dogs unsupervised in collars or harnesses with dangling tags as those tags can get caught in the space between deck boards, fences, heating vents, crate wires, and other small crevices. If a dog panics, the collar can twist cutting off the airway.
- If you would like to leave your dogs loose together in collars, be sure to use break-away collars. These are collars that have a safety clip that will pop open when there is pressure. Here is one brand that has good ratings: https://breakawaycollar.com/
- Collar tags (ID tags that clip onto the dog’s collar rather than dangle down) are also safer. Bommerang Collar Tags is the brand that I have on my dog’s collar.
- Having your dogs chipped will also help if they get out or if collars come off.
I hope this helps you keep your dog safe! Happy playing.