I am not one of those dog owners who have their dogs wrapped in cotton and are constantly trying to protect them from all possible harm. I get off the leash with my dogs in rattlesnake habitats. I sometimes feed them raw eggs. I allow them to swim without wearing life jackets and so on.
Some of my willingness to expose them to potential health hazards could come from my generation. As the youngest of four children who grew up in the 1960s, I grew up without a seat belt – in fact, most of the time I sat on my back between the two front seats! My generation was exposed to far more potentially life-threatening risks than it was right now legal today.
But there are a couple of specific risks that I will definitely be taking Not take with my dogs and they have to do with their collars.
STANDARD TANG BUCKLE
The first danger I won’t expose my dogs to is a collar with a normal metal buckle – you know! The type that has a frame and tenon that fits through a hole in the collar and is secured by the back of the buckle frame. Why did I speak out against such a ubiquitous dog device?
The answer is, because in a terrible emergency, if a dog’s collar gets stuck on something and it chokes, the only way to loosen that buckle – to pull that metal pin or tenon out of its hole – is to tighten it a little pull a bit tighter. And believe me when I say that I know from personal experience that when a dog begins to choke, it does not cooperatively stand still and fully understands that you must make its discomfort worse for a moment to save his life.
The dog that almost choked in my hands wasn’t my dog - it belonged to a neighbor. But I ran to help when I heard the screaming of dogs and women and was faced with a writhing tangle of panting, screaming, urinating and panicked canines. Two dogs had been playing when one grabbed the other by the collar and then turned around; The collar twisted, pressing his tongue into his own lower teeth – and contracting until he choked his playmate.
Myself and the dog owners, both young women, were desperately trying to figure out how to turn the dogs on, but they were big, strong dogs in a panic and we couldn’t do it. I dug my hands into the dog’s fur and looked for buckles to release. One dog wore a quick release collar – but it wasn’t the collar that was tight. I finally found the buckle for this collar, and it was partially inside the dog’s mouth, which was twisted, incredibly tight – too tight to be tightened to loosen the buckle’s peg.
As I was working to find the buckles, one of the other women ran into the house and got some scissors. She managed to chop through the thick nylon collar, releasing the dogs a moment after choking consciousness and releasing his intestines. About two seconds after the collar was cut, he took a breath, rumbled and then again, slowly coming to as we sobbed and patted him and the other dog and hugged each other.
I can learn a second lesson from my nightmare story: When dog lovers play bite face games, they shouldn’t wear collars at all. Playful dogs that stay home alone should also not wear collars.
DAY IT IS YOU
Here’s the other thing I don’t like to see hanging on a dog’s neck: metal or other rigid ID tags – because it’s easy for tags to get caught on things, hold a dog in a scary position, and panic offset.
The last time I used tags was a foster dog that I packed in my kitchen. I heard a riot and found them beaten up; Her labels had somehow slipped through the vents on the side of the box (maybe when she turned around?) And got stuck.
More often, dogs get stuck lying on a floor near a floor-mounted vent and either warming up or cooling down depending on the time of year. Their tags slip through the opening when they are on the floor, and when they try to stand up the tags spin and get stuck. Hysteria occurs in general. In the best case scenario, someone is home saving them. Worst case? Do not ask. Dreadful.
Personally, I feel good when my dogs are without a collar most of the time. For example, if they escaped my house in an earthquake or something, I know they would willingly go to my neighbors or even strangers to rescue them. They are provided with microchips and the chips are registered with me with the current contact information.
But if evicting your dog is more important to you, perhaps because your dog poses a major risk of flight if it breaks loose, there are some safer solutions.
As an alternative to using ID tags, I buy collars with plastic buckles on the side (easy to loosen in an emergency) and my phone number sewn into the fabric. But these are also taken off when I’m not home or when I am grooming a dog that may be playing with my younger dog (my older dog is not playing).
Silicone labels like those from Silidog.com are a safe alternative. You are strong but flexible; Even a spindly, tiny dog would be able to pull itself free if its silicone pendant were caught.
I know that a company (PetSafe) sells a collar that closes with a Velcro that can tear if a dog gets caught on the collar. It is known as the KeepSafe Break-Away Safety Collar and is available from PetSafe or Amazon.com.
Please consider using at least one of these alternatives if you are currently using a standard buckle collar and / or metal tags on your dog.
Nancy Kerns is the WDJ editor.