My parents and I were blessed with two healthy, happy apricot Labradoodle puppies in the last year. Dixie and Liberty were full sisters, 7 months apart, and loved each other with a fervor that I haven’t seen in any of my other animals. The “sissies” went hiking, shopping at the local feed store, and to costume parties together. Despite very different personalities, they looked virtually identical and won over the hearts of strangers as they bounced along next to each other on their coupler lead. They loved to play, run, wrestle, chase the ball, and dig in buckets of water together. They were inseparable.
On a chilly night in November, the girls were having a regular play date in my fenced city yard. They were home alone and having the time of their lives. Dixie jumped toward her little 6-month old sister with an open mouth and the worst happened; her lower canine teeth hooked through Liberty’s nylon collar and the dogs were stuck. A heart-wrenching struggle ensued. I pulled into my driveway and rushed to help them. I was able to get them untwisted, but it was too late. Liberty suffocated as I was untangling the two sweet doodles.
We were lucky that only one dog perished and Dixie escaped the tragedy with minor injuries. Liberty was over 40 pounds and the tight nylon noose could have easily broken Dixie’s jaw as they struggled. What a senseless and easily avoidable accident this was that took a joyful little soul out of our lives forever.
This terrible event raises an excellent topic of discussion: Should our dogs be wearing collars unsupervised?
Accidents similar to the above are unbelievably common. In relating this story to my friends and family, I have found that many of them have been touched by this type of tragedy. There are entire websites dedicated to getting the word out about this exact thing. Nevertheless, after eight dog training classes with four different trainers, no one in my family was alerted to the imminent danger of regular buckle collars.
It is convenient to have our canine friends wear a collar at all times. Collars allow dogs to carry identification, contact information, city/county license, and proof of rabies vaccination; as well as making them easier to catch and hold on to. But is that worth the risk?
After my recent experience, I feel that the risk of death associated with wearing a regular buckle collar all the time greatly outweighs the benefit of convenience. In the future, my dogs will either be “naked” with no collar or in a breakaway type collar while unsupervised. There are pros and cons to both of these alternatives, which will have to be accessed by each individual owner.
Leaving your dog without a collar during off leash and unsupervised activities eliminates the choking hazard. However, you run the risk of him becoming lost without identification. This risk can be mitigated by having your dog microchipped. Almost all shelters have microchip scanners and are diligent about checking every dog that comes in. Microchips are inexpensive to insert and are inert within a dog’s body. Make sure to keep a current dog license with your local municipality to avoid a fine if your dog gets lost.
Breakaway collars allow your dog to wear his identification while remaining fairly safe from the possibility of choking. These special collars consist of a normal buckle for everyday use, a breakaway buckle for emergencies, and two metal D-rings. Depending on the brand and size of collar, the breakaway buckle is designed to release with a certain amount of pressure. To bypass this feature while on-leash, the lead is snapped around two D-rings on either side of the breakaway buckle. Keep in mind that if you use the collar alone to restrain your dog, the breakaway buckle will release when the pressure gets too strong.
Please take my story to heart and avoid the use of regular collars on your unsupervised dogs. It takes a split second for a tragic entrapment to happen and you will be left with a lifetime of sorrow at the loss of your loyal companion. Learn a lesson from my experience- it can happen to your dog.