Tag Collars - To Wear or Not to Wear


When I got Ash, I was under contract to have him wear a tag collar at all times. I didn't know better at the time, I just left his martingale on in the house and crate. He would chew it off and finally someone explained how it would be a strangulation risk because the loop on the collar stuck out and could catch on things. It was common sense, but for some reason I hadn't realized that.


However, at the same time, Ash was very much a flight risk. He would slip out the door and run and run - not away, but just to be free for awhile. So I switched to a flat collar that had no D-rings, no tags that dangled (we use a tag that slips onto the collar itself and doesn't stick out), just a snug collar. It was my compromise, because I was terrified of him getting out and not having ID to get back to me. Yes, he is microchipped and that chip is registered to me, but many people don't check microchips. I was also under contract to have him wear a collar in the house, which did factor into my decisions. And, I didn't have a show dog, so I really wasn't concerned about collar lines.


Ash wearing a breakaway tag collar

For awhile, I switched to breakaway tag collars, but the very last time that Ash slipped out (he never has since) I was following him in the snow and fell and badly sprained my ankle. Thankfully, hearing my crying stopped Ash and a kind person grabbed his collar and brought him over to me and then drove both of us home. But the whole the time the stranger was leading him by his breakaway collar, I pictured him pulling away and running away into the snow with no ID.


Fast forward to bringing home my Azawakh. No one of them is a flight risk, none of them are prone to slipping out the door and even if they did, they'll come right back. Even Tabiri very quickly became clingy and uninclined to wander or run away. However, my system with flat tag collar had worked, so I had them wear their tag collars around the house, including when crated. Even though I do show my dogs, collar lines were never a concern because of their short, smooth coat.


Yesterday, we ran some short errands and then picked up a boarding dog. I crated Ash like usual. We came home as usual, let the dogs out and I realized Ash was covered in blood. Of course, I hadn't bothered to turn my camera on when I left for such a short time so I'll never know exactly what happened. But most of the damage centers around his neck and ears. It's likely, he got his collar caught and then cut himself up on the crate freeing himself. I'm fortunate - my dog did manage to free himself. Not all do.


It's likely that Tabiri managed to catch his collar on a fence while out in his first owner's yard. Again, it is speculation, but it's likely he skinned himself freeing himself. My dogs aren't outside without supervision, but still, another immediate example of the danger collars can pose.


So let's back up for a second. What is a tag collar? Exactly, what it sounds like - a regular flat collar that carries identification tags such a name/contact info, license, rabies tag, microchip tag, and more. Many people also use this collar to attach their dog to and walk them. With my own dogs since there are no D-rings and their heads are smaller than their necks, I use a martingale collar to walk them instead.


The pros of a tag collar worn constantly/most times:

  • Tangible identification in case the dog gets out/lost

  • Something to attach a drag leash to in the house if you need one

The cons of a tag collar worn constantly:

  • Safety. If it snags on something the dog can strangle and die.

  • Easily caught/tangled if you have multiple dogs in the house that play rough

  • Collar lines from coat breakage (a problem for show dogs mostly)

I dealt with a flight risk for years. Which is why I've made the decision I have about tag collars. But now I'm forced into reconsidering. I have many friends who are vehemently against collars in the house, for safety. I knew the risks and have weighed them, but I'm finding it's time to reconsider. And if I'm being completely honest with myself, leaving their collars on in their crates was sheer laziness on my part.


Still, it's hard to face the gravity of this mistake and so I wanted to share it with others. Honestly, it's not "if" a collar will hang up on something, it's "when". I absolutely understand people who have dogs that are bolters and their need for a tangible form of identification. However, I find I have changed my position on this issue and people who do keep tag collars on should understand the risks completely. My dogs will still wear their collar when traveling, but they're going to be collar free more than they wear their collars.

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