Not every dog loves wearing a collar. Some puppies, or even adult dogs, simply aren't used to it. Some dogs may seem irritated by it while others will try pawing at it or trying to rub it off. Your pups may also feel intimidated by the act of putting the collar on them. There are many reasons why you might need to work on getting your dog used to a collar and making it a positive experience for you and your dog.
Unfortunately, dogs need to wear collars (or alternatively a harness) a lot of the time. Collars keep your pet safe, work as Dog ID Tag holder, and ensures other people can contact you if your dog ever gets lost.
So what do you do if your dog absolutely does not like putting on or wearing a collar?
Putting on Collars
The act of putting on your dog's collar can be intimidating for our dogs. We lean over their head and body, and put our arms and hands around them to close the collar. If you have a martingale style or slip collar, it even needs to be pulled over your dog's head, which can make it scary or uncomfortable for them. All the things above aren't normal for our dogs and we can't assume that they are naturally okay with it.
So how do we make a positive, happy connection when it comes to wearing a collar?
Don't force your dog into putting the collar on
The most important part is: Don't force your dog to wear the collar. This means not chasing them if they try to run off, or still going ahead and putting the collar on if they seem to freeze whilst still being uncomfortable with the situation. If you aren't sure if you are reading your dog correctly, here is handy video by Force Free Happy Homes to get to know the basics: Dog Body Language 101
Dogs pick up on human emotions quite easily so try to remain relaxed, calm, and casual when it comes to putting on a collar.
What you need?
A reward marker word or a clicker (more on this below), treats, your dog's collar.
Establishing a reward marker - What is a reward marker?
A positive reward marker is a word or a sound (like your clicker) that marks the exact moment in time that your dog shows the correct behaviour. You can use any word but it should be short - like 'yes' or 'good'. Alternatively you can use a clicker if you feel comfortable using one. In the first step we well say the marker word and give our dog a treat. Your dog doesn't need to do anything in this step, you simply say 'yes' or click and give your dog a treat. This is to to build an association between your marker word/clicker and the reward. Repeat this about 10 times before following the steps below.
Where to go from here
1. Choose a calm environment that your dog is used to and place you dog's collar on the ground or hold it in your hand. If your dog looks at or sniffs the collar, mark with 'yes' and then reward their behaviour. Your reward can be anything your dog like: Treats, a toy, praise etc. Treats are best for this set up though. Pay for any interaction with the collar. Repeat this several times!
2. The next step will be to mark and reward your dogs interaction with the collar the same as before but now you will see if your dog can show interest a little longer.
3. Hold the collar in front of your dog (closed as a loop) and see if your dog moves his head towards the collar. You can mark any interaction and reward with a treat but pay heavily if your dog stick their nose or head through the collar! Repeat this several times until you feel that your dog moves his head in further and further.
4. Make sure your dog is comfortable with your hands being close to your neck and your body close to their face. Start moving your hand towards your dog's neck, say your marker word and reward with a treat. Decrease the distance between your dog and your hand until your are able to touch them.
t5. Slowly work up toward placing the collar around your dog's neck and you being able to close the collar. Leave the collar on for a few seconds and take it off, mark with your marker word or clicker when the collar is still on and give a treat. You can then start to increase duration. Go from seconds to minutes and longer their until your dog is happily wearing the collar.
Make sure your dog is happy and comfortable with each step. If you feel like they're not quite there yet, always go back to the previous step and repeat. Some dogs might be able to go through all steps in a day but most dogs will need a few days, or even weeks, to be able to happily accept a collar. Don't be discouraged if it takes a little longer and go at your dog's pace.
When it's time to walk
How to teach your dog to walk on a loose leash is covered in a separate article, you can find it here.
Finding the right Collar
Another big part of training your pup to like their collar is to use the right type of collar depending their size. There are several different types of collars to choose from. The most comfortable ones for your dog will be made from soft materials like Native Collars' Paracord Collars and BioThane Collars. They are also lightweight which will be less irritating for your dog.
Choosing a collar that comes with a buckle (instead of a slip collar/martingale) will be easier for collar training. However, if you have a dog with a slim or long neck you will need a limited slip collar, so this should be your first choice for collar training as it will be the style they will wear all their life.
When it comes to sizing, you don't want the collar to sit too tight, otherwise it will restrict their ability to move and/or breathe. You also don't want their collar to be too loose as it might come off too easily. Follow this sizing guide below to find the right size for your dog.
Need some collar inspo to find the right one for you and your dog?
Need the right ID Tag with your Collar? Our Dog Tags are hand stamped with love in Australia. You can find our designs here. If you need a custom print, please reach out to us on Instagram or through NativeCollars@gmail.com and we are happy to work together with you on your pawfect Dog ID Tag.
Looking for a matching lead? Check out our lead range made from Paracord and BioThane.