We all enjoy treating our dogs to a new collar, dog collars have become more of an accessory than a functional item to attach a lead. You can find them in every design, material, and colour imaginable, you can even treat your pooch to a collar encrusted in diamonds or created by Louis Vuitton. Regardless of whether your dog's collar is high street or high fashion, it is worth considering the legal requirements and safety aspects of collars.
As a dog owner, you have a legal obligation to ensure your dog wears a collar and tag listing your name and address when in a public place (1). It is also recommended you list your telephone number, but this is not a legal requirement. Wearing a collar is not a substitute for having your dog microchipped. Microchipping has been a compulsory legal requirement since April 2016 (2). These laws are aimed at reducing the time taken to reunite dogs with their owners, should they get lost, which has obvious benefits for both owners and dogs but also reduces costs to the local council for sheltering and feeding stray dogs.
Wearing a collar should be a positive experience for your dog, unfortunately, this has not always been the case. Electronic collars, that deliver an electric shock or noxious substance have been banned in Wales since 2010 (3) and bans have been now been agreed in England and Scotland. Aversive training methods with choke chains or prong collars, that involve causing pain or discomfort when the dog pulls on the lead, have been proven to compromise welfare and are best avoided. There are now a wide variety of tried and tested, more effective, positive reinforcement training methods to choose from.
A flat collar is the most common and practical collar for everyday identification and handling. When these collars are fitted correctly, you should be able to comfortably slide two fingers between the collar and skin. If the collar is too tight it is likely to cause damage to the skin of the neck, so the collar fit should be checked regularly, particularly in growing puppies. It is better for the skin that these collars are removed when at home. The disadvantage of these collars are that they can be slipped when used with a lead. A frightened or aggressive dog may wriggle out of a flat collar when excited, this can be very stressful for owners.
Harnesses were designed for working dogs, such as Huskies, to pull heavy weights. If you have a dog that pulls on the lead, a traditional harness will only encourage them to continue them to pull against you. 'No pull' harnesses are available, which attach the lead to the front of the chest, so when the dog pulls his whole body is redirected back to you. Redirection is also the major benefit of using a head halter, by controlling the direction of the head it is easier to shift your dog's focus back to you if they try to pull. Harnesses and head halters both have the benefit of not placing any pressure through the spine or neck.
There has never been so much choice when selecting a new collar for your pet, not only the endlessly beautiful possibilities, but useful extra features too, such as GPS, activity monitors and potentially life-saving reflective stripes and lights. At Protect My Pet we want to help you make the right choices to keep your pet happy and healthy.
Written by Lindsay Rose MA VetMB CertAVP CertVBM MRCVS
The Control of Dogs Order 1992
The Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015, The Microchipping of Dogs (Scotland) Regulations 2016, The Microchipping of Dogs (Wales) Regulations 2015
The Animal Welfare (Electronic Collars) Regulations 2010