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By: Gary Wynn Kelly

When choosing a collar for your dog, it is important to remember that it has a utilitarian function as well as a possible esthetic one. In the Arctic Dog Rescue and Training Center (ADRTC), we have rescued many dogs picked up as strays, and never claimed by their owners, because the collar was inadequate in at least two respects:

1. It failed to hold tags that could identify the dog’s owners.
2. It failed to secure the dog, and contained no tags.

Remember, when choosing any collar, that it must have a secure way to hold tags that is separate from the ring used to attach a leash or line. If the dog escapes, you want the dog to have a collar and tags with it to facilitate a quick return to your home. Leather collars are often useful for attaching tags, but should not be depended on to secure the dog to anything–including a leash. Dogs too often slip out of a leather collar by a quick duck of the head, a twist, and a backing motion. Unless the collar is quite secure on the dog, it most often will manage to exit the collar and be gone. If a leather collar is used to attach tags, then use another collar when walking the dog in ADDITION to the leather collar.

Rolled leather collars fasten more securely, and work well on Samoyeds, American Eskimo dogs, and other dogs with longer coats. They are NOT useful for attaching a leash, and again, another collar should be used when walking the dog.

Nylon collars come in many varieties. One make is a rolled tubular collar of nylon, which has an O ring at each end. This makes it useful as a choke collar. We find that the ends do break on these collars, and the dog can escape when the collar breaks. If such a collar is used, check it OFTEN to be sure that no breakage is occurring at the ends where the nylon wraps around through the O rings.

Other nylon collars are made of flat nylon straps that are sometimes adjustable. These can be adjusted tightly enough to make it extremely unlikely that the dog can get the collar off without assistance. They have a ring for fastening a leash, but only some of them have an additional ring for fastening tags. We find that if the tags are fastened to the same ring as is used for the leash, they are often in the way of securing the leash properly, and may get tangled in the leash and break off. Often, people end up fastening the leash to the split ring used to hold tags which is not strong enough to hold the dog. The result is a broken split ring, and a dog running loose with a collar and no tags. We never recommend using an S hook for attaching tags! Tags fastened with an S hook are soon lost, not replaced, and if the dog escapes, it then has no identification.

At ADRTC, we provide every dog we place with an Alaskan collar. These are made from nylon and have large rings to attach to a leash or line. These large rings should only be used for the leash or line. We provide a quick link to attach a split ring and tags. This quick link/split ring combination seems to work very well at keeping tags on a dog over many years of work. It is important to check tags regularly to be sure the split ring has not broken, or the quick link has not loosened, but when tightened with pliers, it usually stays securely fastened.

The Alaskan collar adjusts to the dog, and is so secure that we have had groomers call us to ask how to get it off. It takes a matter of a few minutes to loosen the slider enough to allow slack in the collar that will then let the collar slide over the dog’s head easily. Remember, when the dog comes home from grooming, tighten the collar so that only two fingers can slide under it with the collar tight.

Pinch collars - We never recommend the use of a pinch collar. No dog from ADRTC has ever required the use of a pinch collar, and while we acknowledge that we work with dogs especially evaluated and chosen for good temperament, we just do not feel that the use of pinch collars is justified in most instances where they are used. If you think you require a pinch collar to control your dog, consider obtaining additional training for the dog, or investigating other types of collars.

Fur Saver Collars - Guide dog schools across America have used the fur saver collar for many years quite successfully. We find that it works extremely well for training a dog, and we use them in many instances. Some dogs do not require more than their Alaskan collars, but we get many who have had inadequate leash training, and then the fur saver collar becomes a shoulder saver.

If a fur saver collar is inadequate for handling your dog, there are other training collars. These should only be used by knowledgeable persons, or on the advice of a professional. They are often nylon collars that look no thicker than a shoe lace. They are very strong, and with little effort can choke a dog quite effectively. They are one step less severe than a pinch collar, and the only reason we recommend them over a pinch collar is that we have seen too many instances where the pinch collar actually cut the dog, risking infection, and sometimes traumatizing the dog to a collar.

Choke Chains - We do not recommend choke chains, other than the Fur Saver variety. Proper use of a fur saver collar can accomplish as much when training. A dog should NEVER be secured by a choke chain to a line, as it may tangle and choke. We hear of at least one case each year where a dog was secured by a choke collar in a fenced yard to keep it from jumping the fence. The dog jumped the fence with the line attached, and died. This is entirely preventable, and we urge anyone who has this arrangement to contact us for better ideas to keep the dog in the fence.

Specialized Collars - An E-collar is a plastic cone that has the pointed end cut from it. This cone slides over the dog’s head, and usually has a ribbon that fastens it in place–sometimes a piece of yarn. This collar is used for keeping your dog from getting its mouth to some part of its body and causing damage–as when it is recovering from surgery, or has a hot spot. These E-collars, short for Elizabethan collars, are often recommended by your vet as a means of making your dog comply with the vet’s wishes.

E-collars have some major limitations:
1. It may be difficult or impossible to crate your dog.
2. The dog cannot play with toys or other dogs, when it might otherwise be able to do so.
3. It is very hard to take your dog for a walk with such a collar as the dog is clumsy with it on, and keeps banging into you.

Years ago, at CCNDR, we designed the Carpet Collar to avoid these problems. It is simple to make.

Take a piece of carpet approximately 18 inches long, and 12-14 inches wide. It will have to be larger if your dog has a neck size more than 18 inches around, and smaller if your dog is smaller. The idea is that the length is the same as the distance around your dog’s neck, and the width is about twice the distance between your dog’s shoulders and the back of its ears.

Fold the carpet so that the backing is to the inside, and the resulting rectangle is now 18 inches by some 6-7 inches.

Fold the collar around your dog’s neck with the folded edge at the shoulders of the dog. This will form a band around your dog’s neck that goes entirely around the neck–about 18 inches–and extends from the shoulders to the base of the ears. Tape this in place with strong strapping tape, or string reinforced packing tape. The resulting collar will permit your dog to play with toys, other dogs, and be easily walked. It cannot now get at most of its body, because the neck is restricted by the stiff carpet roll around the neck. To remove the collar, just cut the tape.

We have found that the regular Alaskan collar or fur saver collar could be accessed just below the Carpet Collar. It was not as easy, but it was possible.

In instances where the dog needs to be more restricted and an E-collar has to be used, we recommend changing the lace/ribbon to an adjustable nylon collar with a quick disconnect. This permits a better adjustment of the collar, and far easier removal.

Copyright ©1999, 2007 by Gary Wynn Kelly for the Central Coast Northern Dog Rescue and currently for the Arctic Dog Rescue and Training Center. This document may be reproduced so long as it is not modified or altered, and credit is given to the author and ADRTC.org.