Whether your dog is aggressive, anxious or just being difficult, here’s how to put a collar on.
I recommend starting at the beginning, just like you would when getting a puppy used to a collar for the first time. For example, sit on the floor near your dog, put the collar on the floor, let him sniff around it, and give him a delicious treat if he’s calm while doing it.
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Why It’s Important for Your Dog to Be Comfortable Wearing a Collar
• The collar holds tags that not only contain contact information, but also proof of license and shots, should that be required where you live.
• You need to attach the leash to something when going for walks and training sessions, and not every dog wears a harness.
• In many places it is a legal requirement for a dog to wear a collar when out in public.
Why Your Dog Freaks Out When You Put a Collar On
Here are some possible explanations for the aggression or anxiety your dog is exhibiting.
• If you’ve recently adopted your dog, it’s unlikely you’ll know much about his past or what abuse or trauma he may have suffered. It doesn’t even have to be collar related, general mistreatment could make him fear someone getting too close, and he displays aggressive behavior as a way to protect himself.
• Did you, a dog walker or pet sitter accidentally catch his skin when putting on the collar, and now he’s wary?
• As dogs grow collars need to be adjusted, or they will be too tight. Perhaps his collar was never adjusted in a previous home, and now he’s scared of all collars.
• He may have worn a prong or shock collar, and he knows the punishment he felt because of it. Now any type of collar is scary to him.
• It’s not uncommon for an old dog to suffer from vision loss, so getting that close can be scary. The solution in this case could be keeping the collar on at all times, if that’s a viable option.
Why Your Dog Bites When You Take His Collar Off
• You struggled and struggled, you may have even held him down to get that collar on, now he tries to bite when taking it off. If that’s what happened, it’s no wonder he’s showing aggressive behavior. He’s petrified. For the time being leave it on, or if for some reason you must take it off, have someone give him treats, one after the other, until the collar is off. I know it seems like you’re rewarding this behavior, but if he’s eating it will be harder to bite you!
• Past bad experiences while having a collar put on, or even physical abuse can easily and understandably lead to this reaction.
• Just like a visually impaired dog can be afraid when having a collar put on, the same reaction can happen when it’s being taken off.
How Long Does It Take for a Dog to Get Used to the Collar?
It’s impossible to answer that question, because it depends on the level of your dog’s anxiety/aggression and trauma he’s endured. It also depends on how consistent you are with the training, and how slowly you go. It may take a few days or a few weeks, but however long it takes is okay.
What Should I Look for When Buying a Dog Collar?
• The collar needs to fit securely, but not too tight. The general rule is you need to be able to fit two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck.
• Before you start looking, you need to know the size of your dog’s neck. The measurement on a collar is typically the length of the collar, not neck size. Most are adjustable, so that will help you pick the correct size. Wrap a flexible tape measure around the neck, letting it rest gently and slightly loose, or use a string. Measure twice just to be sure.
• There are so many different types of collars to choose from, but the basic nylon style with a plastic or metal buckle are the most widely used. Although this isn’t an article about equipment for walking, if your dog pulls or is nervous on a walk, consider getting a harness for safety. Depending on the situation you could attach one leash to the collar, and a second one to the harness.
How to Put a Collar on an Aggressive Dog
We’re going to use techniques called desensitization and counter-conditioning.
This involves very gradually exposing your dog to what scares him, so slowly that he doesn’t even respond when he sees it.
Pairing the thing that scares him, in this case the collar, with something your dog loves, like a favorite treat he doesn’t get very often. The goal is to change his response from fear to calm.
Step by Step Guide to Getting Your Dog Used to the Collar
I recommend you do this training after your dog has had a walk, so he’s gotten rid of a lot of his energy and is in a calm and relaxed state. If you do it before his meals, he’ll be hungry and more food motivated.
Since I don’t know your dog’s anxiety level, for the sake of this training I’m going to assume it’s severe. You can adjust these steps accordingly.
Don’t rush through the steps, take as long as you need for each one.
Practice 2 or 3 times each day.
Sit on the floor with the collar and his delicious treats handy. If he freaks out at the sight of a collar, sit far enough away from him so he’s relaxed, but close enough for him to see it. When he comes to investigate and remains calm, give him a treat. He doesn’t have to get close, as long as he’s calm you can toss the treat over to him. He’ll probably get curious over time and want to investigate.
Sitting on the floor again, hopefully closer to the dog than before, pick up the collar, put it down, if he didn’t react give him a treat. You can also play with it like a toy and so how he reacts to that.
Hold the collar out for him to look at or sniff, treat, take it away.
Lightly touch his neck (or lower down if he’s nervous) with the collar, treat, remove it.
Light drape the open collar over his neck for a split second, treat, then remove it quickly.
Leave the collar for a second, treat, then remove it.
Leave the collar longer, treat, then remove it.
Put the collar around his neck, and act like you’re about to close it but don’t, treat then remove.
Close the collar, open it, treat then remove it right away.
Close the collar, leave it for a second, treat, then open and remove it.
I think you get the point.
You’re working your way up to the point where you can leave the collar on for longer and longer periods. Never advance to the next step unless your dog is calm, and definitely never give him a treat unless he’s calm. If at any point he reacts, go back to the step where he was fine and go slower.
During this training you may find ways to modify the process, based on your dog and his behavior. This is simply a guide, feel free to adapt it to your unique situation.
Remember, there’s no rush. If you go slowly, it increases the chances this training will be effective.
If your dog is anxious in general, this article has some helpful treatment suggestions. Read this ⇒ “How to Calm Dog Anxiety Naturally (22 Easy Ways)“
Have you had a dog that hated his collar? Do you know why he was so anxious? What steps have you taken that helped? Remember, sharing helps others, so please leave your tips below.
I’m a dog trainer specialising in working with senior dogs. Whether you have health & wellness concerns, or you’ve just rescued an older dog and need training tips, I can help! Sessions are conducted via Zoom and I offer a FREE 15 minute no obligation chat. To book, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website.