Tag - how to make my dog comfortable in his collar

Q&A: How to make my dog comfortable in his collar?

Hello, I have a 4 month old Scottie (male) that is totally shutting down when I put his collar on him. We have had a collar on him since he was 2 months old and he had a very fluffy double coat – no problems. Several days ago he had his first puppy groom. Now whenever I put his collar on he scratches with his back leg a little and then just lays down and won’t move for anything…food, treats, to go outside…nothing. I’ll take the collar off and he’s back to normal. I’m thinking because his coat was so thick it didn’t “bother him” or he was unaware of it. Now that he has been groomed the collar sits on his trimmed fur. Help! Any suggestions? I know Scotties are stubborn, but he was doing so well before the groom and now seems to be terrified to even move. Thanks!
Wendy

Greetings, and thank you for reaching out,

It makes sense for your beloved Scottie to start resenting the collar now that he’s been groomed, considering that his thicker coat may have sort of “buffered” the sensations related to wearing a collar.; however, this is worthy of further investigation. Let’s give him the benefit of doubt. Please carefully check the neck area for any accidental nicks or irritations that could cause sensitivity in the area. Another possibility is he may have pulled a muscle around that area when being groomed or caged. Some dogs have very sensitive skin after they are shaved down. It’s not uncommon for some dogs to act a little weird after being groomed, especially the smaller breeds. When working at the vet’s office we used to get calls of owners concerned about dogs “walking weird” or “shaking” after being groomed.

One thing you can try is to sort of try to“re-create” the sensation of hair, by making some “padding” between the neck and collar. You can do this at home by making a sleeve or soft fabric through which you can insert the collar or you can look for special collars for dogs with sensitive skin that have a layer of special cushioning. I know some companies that make fleece-lined collars. You can use this collar until the coat grows back.

If the padding alone doesn’t work, you may need to also create positive associations with the collar, by using a desensitization and counterconditioning program. Basically, you would start very gradually to introduce the collar (desensitization), while you make great things happen (counterconditining). To do this, you will need high-value treats that are used exclusively for these “collar” sessions. Here is a step-by-step guide:

1) Hold the collar behind your back and present it, when your dog looks at it or sniffs it, praise lavishly and immediately give a treat. Put the collarbehind your back again and present it again, rewarding him for looking at or sniffing. Repeat several times. Then, put the collar away and no more treats. You want to make it clear that treats come out only when the collar is in sight.

2) Hold the collar behind your back and present it, now place it around your dog’s neck without buckling it, praise lavishly, while somebody feeds him a treat. Remove from the neck. Repeat several times. You want to make it clear that he’s fed treats only while the collar is around his neck.

3) Hold the collar behind your back and present it, now place it around your dog’s neck and buckle it loosely, leaving it on while you praise lavishly and a helper feeds him 2-3 treats. Then unbuckle. Repeat several times. You want to make it clear that he’s fed treats only while the collar is worn.

4) Hold the collar behind the back and present it, now place it around your dog’s neck and buckle it a little bit tighter, leaving it on while you praise lavishly and your dog is given 2-3 treats. Then unbuckle. Repeat several times. You want to make it clear that he’s fed treats only while the collar is worn more.

5) Hold the collar behind the back and present it, now place it around your dog’s neck and buckle it normally. Praise lavishly and give him a longer lasting treat such as a cookie, stuffed Kong or other type of long-lasting chew. When your dog is done with it, remove the collar. You want to make it clear that he’s fed treats only while the collar is worn more.

6) Try letting your dog wear the collar during meal time or during play sessions. When meal time is over and play time is over, remove it. At this point, your pup should be more comfortable.

If at any time your dog show signs of shutting down, it’s often indicative of going too fast in the process. Go back a few steps and try again. However, keep into consideration that if there’s a medical problem such as an irritation, these methods won’t work until the problem is addressed.

Another option is to let your dog wear the padded collar and present your dog with salient stimuli that will help your dog forget all about wearing the collar. For example, put the collar on when you have a play mate coming over, when you have guests coming or put your dog in the car, place the collar on and immediately go out for a walk. The idea is to present your dog with situations where he’s excited enough to forget all about the collar. Think about situations during which your pup us super excited and use them to your advantage. There are chances he may remember about the collar once he returns home, but can try to beat him to it by removing it before he can even think about it. If you find a situation where he forgets all about the collar, make sure you present the collar and put it on right before exposing him to that situation so he’ll learn to associate the collar with that happy happening.

Finally, consider that if the moment your dog starts scratching, you remove the collar, your smart pup may have learned that his scratching action is the magic button that puts you in action to take off the collar. If you do this often enough, when the scratching doesn’t work to make you get up and remove the collar, your pup may decide to upgrade to more dramatic displays in hopes of getting the collar off. This is called an “extinction burst” sort of like a pup in crate that whines and the owner opens the door every single time he hears the whining, but then that day the whining doesn’t work, the dog starts scratching the crate’s door and throwing a tantrum that gets the owner running to get him out.

Some trainers may suggest to wait it out and remove the collar or open the crate door only once the dog is quiet, or in your case, giving signs of acceptance of the collar. In other words, waiting for you pup to eventually get over it. However, while this strategy may work, it’s far better to work on changing the way the dog feels about the collar by creating positive associations than waiting for the dog to overcome the unpleasant sensation on his own. Not to mention, it wouldn’t be nice to use this strategy when we are not sure if the response to the collar stems from a local irritation! So I would first rule out any irritations or neck issues and then start trying the steps suggested above. I hope this helps your pup overcome his bad feelings towards the collar. Best wishes and kind regards!