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Is Your Dog’s Collar Dangerous?


A version of this article appeared at

Walking with your canine companion is one of the best things you can do for the physical and emotional well-being of your furry friend. It can also strengthen the bond that you share. But, if you’re using the wrong kind of collar, you could be physically or emotionally hurting your companion canine without even knowing it.

Check out the collars below to make sure that your dog isn’t being harmed:

Choke Collars


These collars can be extremely dangerous to dogs. Their use has been associated with the following:

  • whiplash
  • fainting
  • spinal cord injuries
  • paralysis
  • crushing of the trachea
  • partial or complete asphyxiation
  • crushing or fracture of the bones in the larynx
  • dislocation of the vertebrae in the neck
  • bruising of the esophagus
  • damage to the skin and tissue of the neck
  • prolapsed eyeballs
  • brain damage

They can also have psychological consequences. Imagine if something were CHOKING you! You, too, would probably become frightened or aggressive.

Prong Collars


The painful metal protrusions on prong collars pinch the skin around dogs’ necks when they pull and can scratch or puncture the skin. Over time, this can cause dogs to develop scar tissue (which has no feeling) and build up a tolerance to the pinching. Because of this, they continue to pull, making walks even more difficult. As with choke collars, dogs may interpret the tightening of a prong collar around their neck as a stranglehold and become fearful or even aggressive.

Shock Collars

Dogs who wear shock collars can suffer from physical pain and injury (ranging from burns to a heart condition called cardiac fibrillation) as well as psychological stress, including severe anxiety and displaced aggression.

Individual animals vary in their temperament and pain threshold—a shock that seems mild to one dog may be severe to another. The anxiety and confusion caused by repeated and unexpected shocks can lead to changes in a dog’s heart and respiratory rates and may even cause gastrointestinal disorders. Shock collars can also malfunction, either administering nonstop shocks or delivering no shocks at all.

The Simple Buckle Collar

Using a collar to hold a dog’s ID and license tags is a great idea. Dragging your furry buddy along by the neck is a bad idea. Being leashed by the neck, even with a simple buckle collar, can be painful to dogs who pull or lunge, especially if their guardian jerks on the leash. It can put pressure on the trachea, the spinal cord, the vertebral discs, the esophagus, etc., and should be avoided.

The Best Way to Walk Your Dog

When it comes to safety and comfort, using a harness is ALWAYS the best way to walk a dog. Not only does this alleviate any pressure on the neck, it also makes it easier to pull dogs out of harm’s way if they get into trouble.

There are many kinds of harnesses to choose from. If your dog pulls, try the Sense-ation harness. It has a front leash attachment, which aids in redirecting a lunging dog back to you. It’s comfortable, and it really helps curb strong pulling without doing any harm. The Thunderleash is also a good choice. If excessive pulling isn’t an issue, then a standard nylon-web H-style harness might be just the ticket. For tiny dogs, there is a soft, comfy little harness called the Puppia.


Tip: Another approach to calming dogs who pull is to have them wear a backpack during their walk. Suddenly, they have a job to do, and they take their work seriously! Just make sure the backpack is balanced on both sides and appropriate to the dog’s size and strength. Many different styles are available online or at your local pet supply store.

For information on using a positive approach to teaching your dog not to pull, check out the book My Dog Pulls—What Do I Do? by Turid Rugaas, or try the DVD.
Share this with a friend so all dogs will be comfortable on their next walk:

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  • Vaeth says:

    Everyone has a horror story about one kind of leash or another. I use the ‘strong thick set-length leash’ when training my dogs, but when taking them on walks, I use a retractable leash. I have done this since the leashes were invented and have never had a problem. I have, however, had an 80-pound German Shepherd being walked on a ‘set-length leash’ take off after a rabbit, pulling the leash out of my hands and dislocating my finger in the process. If you use a retractable leash, be sure it is in excellent condition, not frayed or worn. Check it regularly. Also be sure it is the correct size and strength for your breed of dog. A leash sized for a Yorkie won’t hold a Shepherd!

  • tess says:

    I agree with Lauren – retractable leashes are dangerous. I have seen several dogs escape when their retractable leash broke and I know of one woman who lost an eye when the metal attachment snapped back and hit her in the face.

  • Shelly Standler says:

    I have actually invented a dog harness that prevents the most common types of neck, spine and tracheal injuries from occuring. I have already filed for a patent on this new dog harness. Doggini is made here in the USA and is competitively priced and comes in many fashionable styles. Visit today and let me know what you think.

  • Lauren says:

    Actually I’m surprised PETA obviously doesn’t know this but a dog owner should never rely on a retractable leash. They have a MUCH greater propensity to break (ie either stop retracting or the cord can be pulled out of the handle all together.) As a vet, I have had a number of patients over the years have the heart-breaking experience of the retractable leash failing at an inopportune time near moving cars and busy streets. I will always and only recommend a strong thick set-length leash.