How to Train Your Dog to Accept a Collar

Easy
1-3 Days
General

Introduction

You’re in a rush but you need to walk the dog before work. It’s cold and dark outside so you just want to get it done. However, your dog has other ideas. He simply refuses to let you put a collar and leash on him. He’s just a puppy so he’s still confused and unsure about the collar. He doesn’t realize it’s not going to strangle him or do him any harm. It’s making the walking procedure and even taking him out of the house a nightmare. You try to get him to sit still but he’s just not having any of it.

Training him to accept a collar will make your life a whole lot easier. He can’t roam around without a collar. He may end up leaping into the road and seriously injuring himself in a traffic accident, or worse.

Defining Tasks

Thankfully, training your dog to accept a collar is nice and easy. At the moment, he’s simply not used to it. But as with anything, once he’s had it for a few weeks he won’t even know it’s there. Getting him to accept it though is a hurdle. You can overcome that hurdle by incentivizing him with some mouth-watering treats. You may also need to take a number of steps to distract him from the device being fit around his neck. If you can make wearing a collar fun and a game, then your task will be far easier.

If he’s a puppy you can expect results in as little as a day. If he’s older and won’t accept a collar then it may indicative of something more sinister and you may need several days.

Getting Started

Before you start, you’ll need a few things. If he’s not accepting his current collar then you may want to invest in a new, comfier collar. You’ll also need a decent supply of delicious treats. Alternatively, you can break his favorite food up into bite-sized pieces. This will be used as an incentive.

You’ll need to dedicate just a few minutes to helping him accept his new collar. It shouldn’t take long, he just needs some reassurance. 

Once you have all of those things you can grab your collar and head for your dog!

The Cold Shoulder Method

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Step
1
Fit the collar
Hold him still and fit the collar on him. Make sure it’s not so tight he can’t breathe, but that it’s also secure enough that he can’t get it off. You wouldn’t like something choking you, so its important you put a mark on the hole you use so you can fit it with ease again next time.
Step
2
No choke collar
Avoid using a choke collar to start with. These are usually used for training purposes and can be extremely uncomfortable, especially if he’s not used to wearing a collar yet.
Step
3
Wait
Now let him get used to the collar. It may take several hours but eventually he’ll stop trying to get it off and accept his fate. During this adjustment period, keep an eye on him to ensure he’s not in pain and he can breathe properly.
Step
4
Cold shoulder
Make sure you don’t give him the attention he seeks when he’s rolling around trying to get the collar off. Don’t laugh, talk or try to comfort him. He needs to know that this type of behavior won’t get him what he wants.
Step
5
Head out
Wait until he’s accepted the collar before you secure him to the leash and head out for a walk. Otherwise, you might find he has a problem with the leash too. So be patient, he’ll eventually give up trying to get it off.
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The Right Collar Method

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Step
1
Puppy size
If he’s a puppy, it’s important you buy him a collar that fits now, not one that he will grow into. Bigger collars, he’ll find easier to slip out of and are often more uncomfortable. Think of the now and you’ll find the process far easier.
Step
2
Small & lightweight
You want his first collar to be minimally intrusive. That means get him a collar that is small and light. It will feel less like a strain on his neck and he’ll accept it far sooner.
Step
3
Opt for clips
Instead of a traditional buckle collar, opt for one with clips. These are straightforward to fit and remove. This will prevent you snagging some of his skin when he’s fighting to stop you put it on him. The less time it takes to put on the less stressful it will be for him.
Step
4
Reward
If he’s really going crazy when you try to put the collar on, hold out a treat to distract him. Just hold it firmly in your hand so he tries to sniff and get it. You can then use this moment to fit the collar around his neck. When it’s on, let him have the treat and give him some praise.
Step
5
Remain calm
Fitting a collar for the first time can be a frustrating experience. However, it’s important you remain calm throughout. Don’t shout at him. If you scare him he may become aggressive and you don’t want to instill that as a coping mechanism into him.
Recommend training method?

The Distraction Method

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Step
1
Fit the collar
Hold him still and then carefully fit the collar. Make sure it fits correctly. Also try to make sure the identification tag on the collar can be seen. If he seems in genuine pain, take it off or loosen it.
Step
2
Food puzzle
For those first few hours he’s probably going to be jumping around trying to get the collar off. You can offer him a means of distraction. Give him a food puzzle for him to sink his mouth into.
Step
3
Tug of war
Take out one of his favorite toys and distract him with that. Encourage him to hold it in his mouth and then play tug of war. This will keep him distracted until he barely realizes he’s wearing a collar anymore.
Step
4
Obedience commands
Have him perform a trick for you. If he can’t do one yet, start teaching him. You can begin with something simple like ‘sit’. This will keep his mind off the collar and channel his energy into something more productive.
Step
5
Reward
When he’s performed the trick or calmed down, you can give him a treat. It’s important he gets a reward at the end. This will show him that in future, the best way to get food is to behave as instructed and calm down.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Yoshi
Shiba Inu
9 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Yoshi
Shiba Inu
9 Months

Takes a long time to get collar on to begin with. Yesterday he was screaming like it was hurting him. Then he went to his cage and wouldn’t come out. He kept holding his head down like he was in pain. So I decided to take it off of him and then the challenge began. It took two of us and a bag of treats to get the collar off. He was screaming and flopping all over. Suggestions would be wonderful. I am at my wits end.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sarah, To begin with, introduce him to the collar with treats. Show him the collar and give him a treat, let him touch the collar and give him a treat, hold the collar against his neck and give him a treat, put the collar on him and take it off again and give him a treat, put the collar on him and give him a treat every few seconds while it is on and then take it off again, and finally, put the collar on him and leave it on. Make the entire experience extremely rewarding. Use an upbeat, confident tone of voice when you praise him and ignore any dramatics. Try not to sound anxious, angry, or sorry for him. Your confidence and happy attitude will help him feel more secure. If you are using a properly fitted buckle collar that is not too tight, then the collar is not hurting him and he is simply protesting having something around his neck. Make the experience of putting on the collar and taking it off extremely rewarding by practicing each of those steps with treats until he becomes comfortable enough to move onto wearing it, but once he is wearing the collar leave it on him for at least fourteen days straight. Ignore the screaming and the sulking. The more you give into that the more he will do it simply because it gets him what he wants, the collar off and your attention. He needs to wear the collar for enough time without taking it back off for him to become used to the sensation of the collar. It is normal when you introduce collars and leashes to dogs older than twelve weeks for them to strongly protest them when you first introduce them. It typically takes at least two weeks for them to become comfortable with the feeling of the collar and learn to ignore it. After you put the collar on him you can distract him with his favorite game, a walk, or dinner. Do whichever one he likes best and will take his mind off of the collar the most. As long as he is still drinking water and is not loosing weight because of the collar, then he should adjust. When you take the collar off again use the treats also, so that he will learn to trust you touching his neck. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Koda
German Sheprador
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
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Koda
German Sheprador
1 Year

We actually found our Koda roaming the neighborhood and after weeks of looking for a lost owner, we decided to keep her. She’s very sweet but very nervous and won’t let us put anything around her neck. We want to take her out for walks but it feels impossible. I’ve been sitting outside with her nightly to try and coax her head through the collar with treats but after a few attempts she catches on and refuses the treat in my hands, any suggestions ?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello Claire, I would break the training down into smaller steps and go slower - especially now that pup is so suspicious of the collar. It sounds like you are trying to go from no collar to collar on and buckled in one night, and just repeating that process each night - which is moving too quickly for pup. Instead of trying to get pup's head in the collar all at once, spend one day simply laying the collar on the ground and sprinkling treats around it several times a day. Do this until pup is comfortable touching it without you holding the collar - go at pup's pace. Watch their body language and stay at this step until pup is relaxed again around the collar. That may take one training session or a week - depending on how suspicious pup is of the collar at this point. Practicing for short periods multiple times a day can help things go more quickly. Once pup is comfortable just touching the collar, hold it in your hand and have pup eat treats out of the hand that is holding the collar. Do this until pup isn't worried about you holding the collar up anymore - don't try to suddenly put it on pup yet or that will set you back. Practice at this step until pup looks happy and confident again with the collar just being held up. End the training session while pup is doing well still. Next, loosen the collar as much as you can so that it makes a large loop, hold the collar up with one hand and hold the treats through the collar's hole with your other hand, so that pup has to move their head toward the collar hole to eat the treats - don't require pup to put their head through the hole yet, just in front of the hole. Do this step until pup is happy and confident about the collar being held up and approaching it - do NOT suddenly try to throw the collar over pup's head or move it toward them - pup is the one moving, you are keeping the collar still at this point. Practice that step until pup is relaxed - even if that takes several sessions. Next, hold the collar the same way, but offer the treats a bit closer to the collar, so that pup has to poke the end of their muzzle through the collar loop to take them. Practice this until pup is comfortable doing that. As pup relaxes, move your treat hand a bit further back so that pup is poking their head through the collar more and more as they improve - again, don't move the collar toward pup at this point. Let pup move their head in and out of the loose collar freely to get treats. Practice until pup has no issues with placing their head through the collar. Go back a step and practice at that step for longer before continuing if pup becomes nervous again. Next, once pup is comfortable poking their entire head through the collar, move the collar very slightly back and forth while holding it up, and holding treats in the collar for pup to move their head through it - you are just getting pup used to the collar moving, not putting it on yet. The collar should still be a large loop at this point - not fitted. Practice until pup can handle the collar moving. As pup improves, gradually increase how much the collar is moving back and forth while pup reaches their head through it. Next, have pup poke their head through the collar, and reward pup with several treats at a time for keeping their head in the hole for longer. Gradually increase how long pup holds their head in the collar for by spacing out rewards as they keep their head in the hole. Next, when pup can hold their head in the collar for longer, have pup poke their head through the collar, sprinkle several treats on something that's at pup's chin height so that your hands are free, and slide the buckle that adjusts the collar size back and forth while pup eats the treats. Start with small movements then stop touching the collar - you are just getting pup used to you messing with the collar a bit. Practice this until you can gradually work up to being able to adjust the size of the collar completely without pup feeling worried, while they eat the treats off the object at chin height. Once pup is can hold their head in the collar for several minutes while you adjust it, without being worried, adjust it to the proper size and leave it on pup for at least two weeks, to help pup get used to the feeling of wearing it around. Most dogs will scratch at it and feel like it's itchy for at least a week when you first have them wear a collar. Choose a collar that's safe for pup to keep on - such as a durable plain buckle collar - not a prong or choke or other training collar that could tighten or accidentally correct. When you catch pup itching at the collar, distract pup with a fun toy. Check out the video linked below for an example of getting pup to poke their head through an opening. The dog in that video wasn't afraid of the harness during training - so the training was done in one sitting for the sake of showing the steps, but expect your pup to need several sessions between each training step - moving too quickly will likely set pup back. Pup needs to get to the point where they are completely relaxed at the current step before you proceed to the next step - how long that takes will simply depend on pup's specific temperament. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tn5b8u1YS_g&feature=emb_title Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rex
australian collie
9 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Rex
australian collie
9 Weeks

Rex is a 9 week old Australian collie. We have been trying to get him to accept his collar, but any time we put it on, he starts dragging his face along the ground and then stops moving all together. We've tried treats, but the moment the treats go away, he resists again. Sometimes he doesn't even care about the treats in the first place.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
126 Dog owners recommended

Hello! So it can take 2-3 weeks for some dogs to accept a collar. Continue doing what you are doing with the treats. I know it is rather frustrating at the moment, but he WILL accept it and it will just become a normal part of life for him.

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Question
Rose
Mixed
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Rose
Mixed
3 Years

We recently fostered a dog from Romania and have had her for 5 weeks. She is still so nervous and we cannot get a collar on her to get her out the house. Have you got any tips on getting a collar on her and getting her to become more comfortable as she spends all her time under the table or chair. thank you

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
126 Dog owners recommended

Hello! If it is possible, try teaching her some training commands. There is a lot to be said about a dog who has a purpose. Spending 10-15 minutes a day working on commands (even if she already knows them) does wonders for their overall behavior. The internet has tons of resources on how to teach commands like sit, lay down, stay, etc. If you haven't tried using treats when putting a collar on her, I would go that route. If she won't take a treat, you can try on an empty stomach before she has had breakfast and use her meal as her reward. Food helps to build a positive association with whatever a dog is fearful of. You can have someone distract her by feeding her out of their hand, while the other person gently slips the collar on.

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Question
Coco
Golden Retriever
3 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Coco
Golden Retriever
3 Months

Coco is now three months old and she is not accepting the collar. If we tied a collar too, she is scratching her neck every minute and making wounds. I don’t know how to distract her from the collar and how to make her to accept the collar

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
92 Dog owners recommended

Hello, did you try any of the methods suggested in the guide where you submitted the question? Try a very lightweight collar to start. Distract her with a game of tug of war or treats:https://wagwalking.com/training/accept-a-collar. You can also attach the leash right away and take her outside in hopes the sights and smells will take her mind off the collar, too. Make sure it is not too tight, as well. You may want to try a harness if you do not have success, just to give Coco a break from trying the collar, which you can try again in a few weeks. Leave the harness laying around the house so that Coco sees it and gets used to the smell of it. Look here for harness tips: https://wagwalking.com/training/wear-a-harness. Make sure the harness is not too small and be extra careful to not pinch the skin or pull the fur, or Coco may resist even more. Use a cheery voice when putting on a collar, leash, or harness and give treats while training to accept them as well. All the best!

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