Taking your dog’s collar off at night: Safe move or safety risk?

Think of your dog’s collar as his wallet. It contains his personal identification and emergency contact information, so you make sure he’s wearing it when he leaves the house. It comes in a variety of colors and materials to reflect his unique personality. You purchase new ones as the old ones wear out or start to bind.

When you look at it that way, your dog’s collar is an undeniably important piece of apparel. Statistics agree. According to American Humane, close to 10 million pets are lost each year. Of dogs that end up in animal shelters, only 15% of those without tags or microchips are reunited with their owners.

Some pet owners take off their dog’s collar at night, but is that a safe move? Here’s what we know.


Do dogs really enjoy wearing collars?

Every dog is different, which means each one reacts differently to wearing a collar. Experts say their response depends on a variety of factors:

  • What happens after you remove the collar. There may be a flurry of excitement when you remove your pup’s collar if something desirable — such as playtime with other dogs — follows immediately after its removal. Likewise, he may resist having his collar removed if something undesirable happens, such as going into his crate before you leave the house.
  • How the collar fits. If your dog’s collar is too tight, it may have irritated the skin and be a painful area for you to touch. If it’s too big, it might get caught on objects easily, which can create panic and anxiety.
  • Skin and neck sensitivities. If your dog has skin allergies, his collar may be aggravating them. Additionally, if your dog has an injury on his neck — like a cut or muscle strain — he may not appreciate having anyone touch his neck.


When should you remove your dog’s collar?

Accidents happen and pets get lost, which is why it’s advisable to keep your dog’s collar on whenever possible, especially when you’re walking him on a leash, moving households, or traveling. Still, there are times when it’s perfectly acceptable (and safe) to remove your dog’s collar:

  • When he’s in his crate. Even the best-fitting collars can become choking hazards when identification tags catch on the bars of a crate. It’s also possible for your dog to get his leg caught in the collar when he’s scratching his neck, which can result in a fracture or other leg injury.
  • At bedtime. Removing your dog’s collar after the day’s last potty break can give the fur and skin beneath his collar a welcome breather. If your dog moves around frequently at night or scratches and shakes his head a lot, removing his collar might make nighttime quieter for the human members of the household. (Keep the collar on if your dog has access to a doggy door.)
  • When he’s playing with other dogs. Dogs are rambunctious when they play with each other. Whenever possible, let him enjoy his romp (in an enclosed, supervised area) without his collar, which will help minimize the risk that it will accidentally catch on another dog’s collar or limb. Every play area is different, so be sure to note the rules. Many pet-sitting facilities remove dog collars during group play; some dog parks require that your dog wear his collar and ID tags at all times.

Let common sense guide you

Without question, a collar is the most logical place to attach your dog’s identification tags. It’s also the first place someone will look if, heaven forbid, your dog gets lost. And, provided you don’t use a harness when you go for a walk, a collar is the best place to attach a leash.

Besides collaring your dog, experts say, you can keep him safe by making sure he gets enough exercise and mental stimulation, securing cabinets and other areas in which you keep toxic materials, supervising him when he’s outside, and putting decals on your windows that alert emergency personnel that you have pets.

All things considered, does your dog need to wear his collar at night? Probably not, especially if he is secured inside your home with no unsupervised access to the yard through a doggy door; however, every situation is different. The key is to consider your dog’s behavior and your lifestyle to create the safest possible environment for your pet.

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