Chihuahua sniffing grass.

This article discusses dogs who have died or been severely injured from loose collar fit. If hearing about the deaths of pups cause you distress, please skip this article. Don’t forget to tighten up your dog’s collar though.

A few weeks ago I was working hard to find places to guest post for All Things Chihuahua. I want to share my blog with the world, and guest posting is one of those few rare opportunities where I can do so. While searching, I noticed that nearly every single blogger stipulated posts can’t be about ordinary things, “like collar fit.”

To be frank, I haven’t seen a post on collar fit anywhere, and I was surprised this would be rejected so strongly. I used to work as a dog groomer before I started my own business, and I have seen or heard about multiple dogs dying from poor collar fit. This is a critically important aspect of dog care. I decided that one day soon, I would write about it. Today is that day.

How Dogs Die From Poor Collar Fit

All of the deaths I have seen or heard about involved collars that were too loose. When a collar is too loose, a dog can slip out of the collar by ducking its head and backing out. A dog that is frightened at the groomers or vet will likely slip the collar in this way. These dogs can then run out the door if it is open and get hit by a car. Even inside a secured building they can still get hurt by clashing with someone else’s leashed pet.

Loose collars are also dangerous because they can get caught on stuff when playing with other pets or even just wandering around the home or yard. The bulk of dogs who died were playing with another pet that had a loose collar and ended up sliding their jaw under the loose-fitting collar.

In some cases, the result was strangulation of one dog, in others the dog who slid their jaw under the collar ended up with a broken jaw.

Other deaths included getting their collar hung up inside the kennel, or outside in the backyard on a loose branch. Strangulation was by far the most common way to die from loose collar fit.

Avoiding Death

Most people will own dogs their whole lives and never see one die from collar fit. A loose collar doesn’t automatically mean a dog will die, just that it is at risk. I only happen to know about the sheer number of dogs who do die from poor collar fit because people would call in to our groom shop to explain why their pet would no longer be coming in for grooming.

Luckily, there are a few ways you can virtually eliminate any chance your pet will die in this way. Here’s how:

  • Go nakey in the house
    Dogs often wear collars at all times so that their ID is there in case they get lost. It’s easy for someone who finds your dog to call a number on the tag and get your pet back to you right away.

    Since we can’t anticipate when the dog will slip out the door, we usually opt to have the dogs wear their collar 24/7 to avoid this.

    Instead, I would suggest getting the dog microchipped. Most people and every shelter know to check for a microchip on a lost dog. Microchips can’t be slipped off, forgotten, or secretly removed to make the dog look like a stray by an eager kid.

Going naked in the house reduces the risk of your pet getting hung up on something in the house or yard.

  • Fit the collar properly
    As we mentioned in the title, collar fit is important. Most people put the collar on too loose. If you can slide it over your dog’s head without unbuckling it, and it is not a martingale, it is too loose. Loose collars open up your pet to escape. When ever your pet is wearing a collar, it should be properly fitted.

How to Properly Fit a Collar

Flat collars should fit snuggly around your dog’s neck. It should not look like a necklace it is so loose. It should not be able to slide over your dog’s head. If it can be put on sliding over the dog’s head, it can be slid off.

It also shouldn’t be so tight it is crushing your dog’s neck. Many people recommend checking fit to see if you can slide two fingers under the dog’s collar. This works well for Labs and other larger dogs, but for chihuahuas that might still be too loose.

Instead, measure your dog’s neck with a tape measure. Add one inch to the measurement, and this is about where your collar’s fit should be. In the picture above, my dog’s neck is about 10″. I adjusted my collar to be just over 11″ to fit him.

Collar fit is incredibly important. Although it may be looked down on as a trivial part of dog care, it could mean the difference between life and death for your pet.

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