A question of safety

The other day I was with a client with two 4 month old golden retriever puppies that needed some training attention. I was asking my routine questions of the owners when the puppies broke out in a play session. Suddenly one puppy was screaming while on top of the other. We rushed over and saw the top puppy had gotten his bottom jaw caught in the other dogs collar. Fortunatly we seperated them without incident and no one had any serious injuries. Had we not been there however it could have had a much different outcome.

We in the dog world have all heard the stories warning of this common danger yet few of us have actually witnessed it. I can assure you however, once you do it will change the way you look at those collars.

Collars are supposed to help us control our dogs, and give us a way to identify our dogs should they get loose or lost. For some dogs they are little more than fashion accessories. We do not typically think of them as dangerous unless they are attached to a chain that can become tangled, or with a leash to an inappropriate person.

Collars left on dogs while crated can also be a hazzard. Tags can get caught in the bars of a wire crate or door and if the dog panics and can't get loose they can suffocate themselves to death trying to escape. This happened to a client's puppy when I worked for a veterinarian years ago. From then on all our literature about crate training included a reminder to remove collars first for safety.

So the obvious answer to the collar and multiple dog issue seems straightforward right? Well what if you are out on an offleash walk with friends and their dogs? Could you end up seperated from your dog? What if you are paranoid about your house burning down while you are at work and don't want your dogs to be without their tags? (OK maybe that is just me.)

Here are a few possible solutions.

Breakaway collars for dogs. If to much pressure gets put on the collar it snaps open freeing the trapped dog. I would recommend a breakaway for while you are unable to supervise or for play sessions only. Don't forget to put the regular collar back on or you might have a loose dog during your next walk. I would also recommend them along with the next item as a back up plan should the collar go missing on a loose dog.

Microchipping. Something I always reccommend anyhow but especially with purebreds. Try to prove in a court of law your golden doesn't look like any other golden retriever should they end up in someone elses home. Photos just wont cut it. Microchips give you a permanent way to identify your dog as well as a way for you to be found by shelters that scan their strays. (which thankfully many more are doing these days)

Tattooing. You can tattoo a number on your dog for permanent id. The downside to tattoos is that they can either not be seen if the area tattooed is to furry, or the area can be cut off by unscrupulous people should they have ill intentions. (i.e. their ears, and yes people do steal pets unfortunatly) They can even be changed by those same unscrupulous people by adding to the current tattoo.

So the lesson I want to share is that sometimes a dog wearing a collar is at risk. It is up to us to access how high the risk is and the pros and cons of the collar vs no collar. How does your dogs home weigh in on the risk scale?

(If anyone has other ideas for a solution I would love to hear them. Please share.)