Correct collar sizing

A friend of a friend found a collarless, buff cocker girl alongside the road this afternoon. It was fortunate that he’d come upon her when he did, because she was scavenging among some garbage, and was gagging on a piece of plastic wrap that was stuck halfway down her throat.  Mygod. Just in time.

She’s a very pretty and happy girl, and looks to be freshly groomed, so she’s cared-for and hopefully someone loves and misses her a lot. Hopefully they’re trying feverishly to find her. My friend says they’re going to their vet to have Buff Girl scanned for a microchip, but noted that the dog was not wearing a collar.

Sadly, it’s not difficult for a dog to slip its collar, especially when startled or frightened. It’s even easier for the dog to escape when the collar doesn’t fit the dog properly, which is true in many, many cases.

For example, in order for a collar to fit securely, it should be snug enough to ride midway up on the neck. If the collar is so loose that it falls down and rests on the dog’s shoulders, it’s too loose. You should only be able to fit two fingers snugly between the collar and the dog’s neck, otherwise the dog will be able to duck his head and scoot backwards and squirt out of the collar.

It should NOT be tight enough to make your dog cough or choke or cause trouble breathing.

The collar itself should be appropriate for your dog’s size and strength: Puppies can wear narrower, lighter-weight collars, but as they grow, their collars should be upgraded as they become larger and stronger. If you have a smaller toy breed dog, you can get away with a fine, rhinestone studded collar that’s almost a piece of jewelry, as long as you know that your dog won’t be able to break it by pulling on it. Here’s a helpful link from Lupine explaining how to properly fit your dog’s collar. (As an added bonus, Lupine’s collars are just beautiful and my kids enjoy having many different patterns to choose from! :::grinning::: )

But if you’ve got a lab mix you need to find something more substantial until you can get to obedience class and learn to walk on a loose lead (both of you!). Hint, hint. You really should train your dog to walk on a loose lead, because it’s healthier for the dog and more enjoyable for you!

Also make sure that the collar and tags you choose for your dog are sturdy and safe, without lots of accessories that can catch on your pet’s fur or scratch their skin or snag their toenails during a good long scratching session. And of course use caution if you crate your dog, removing his collar to prevent accidental strangulation anytime he’s confined in a crate.

With regard to identification tags: There’s some discussion on whether to engrave your dog’s name on his tag. If someone finds your dog and learns his name by reading the tag, they can begin bonding with your dog by using his name, and that may delay your fuzzy’s return.

Your dog’s name being on the tag isn’t important, anyway–YOU know who your dog is, and he doesn’t care if his tag is monogrammed. What IS important on a dog tag is a clue to contacting YOU if your dog is found by a stranger. All our dogs’ tags say “Please call Mom & Dad” followed by our home telephone number and my cell phone number.

To summarize, your dog’s collar should be sturdy enough to contain your pet during a moment of distraction, and it should be wide enough to avoid cutting into your dog’s neck and lessen compression of the trachea. It should also be snug enough to stave off “slippage”, but not too tight or restrictive.

If you have a dog who’s prone to panic and jerking backward on the leash, you might want to try using a martingale collar. This website nicely describes how a martingale works, but these collars like all others still need to be sized appropriately and checked regularly for necessary adjustments.

So even if this buff girlie’s petparent got her a lovely collar with an unique identification tag, it became useless when she scraped it off or slipped out of it or broke it. Hopefully she has a microchip and can be returned to her home.

Check your dog’s collars this moment–are they loose because you’ve recently started your summer fitness routine again, and your running buddy is losing weight right along with you? Or are you just back from a trip to the groomer’s, where a haircut really CAN make a client ‘lose five pounds’? Or do you just have a faulty collar that loosens up on its own? Adjust them immediately!

I’m at fault here, too. Just a few weeks ago, Riley and Belle had upper respiratory irritation most likely due to allergies, and while I was giving them Benedryl and doxycyclin (just in case it was an upper respiratory infection) I let them “go naked”, and hung their collars on the banister.

After chatting with my friend, I put their collars back on, and readjusted Belle’s collar so that it fit her properly. I don’t want to think about them shooting out the front door with no ID.

In the worst case scenario, you’ll want to make sure that your dog has ALL the possible means to help get him back home to you–keep collars and ID tags on your dogs at all times, make sure the collars are properly-sized and in good repair, and microchip your dogs in case the collar fails (or is removed).

Just in case, keep current photos of your dog, both face shots and whole-body/profile pictures on hand, as well as current vet records. And although no one likes to think about losing one’s best friend, it’s a good idea to study up on what to do before you find yourself searching feverishly for a lost pet, God willing that you never find yourself in such a predicament.

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