How to Train Your Dog to Accept a Collar

How to Train Your Dog to Accept a Collar
Easy difficulty iconEasy
Time icon1-3 Days
General training category iconGeneral

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.

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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.

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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!

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The Cold Shoulder Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Right Collar Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Distraction Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

By James Barra

Published: 12/05/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Stephanie

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Australian Cattle Dog

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Two Months

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Question

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I have introduced my puppy to its collar. It is a small nylon webbing type collar with a plastic fastener with two steel rings you clip the lead into either side of the plastic fastener. I have made sure it is not too tight, but puppy keeps stopping and scratching at it as though it is dementing her. I try to distract her, but she soon stops, sits and starts scratching at it. I have noticed that she does it less when crated. Should I just leave the collar on all the time until she stops scratching or should I take it off when we are inside to give her respite?

Aug. 26, 2022

Stephanie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello, At this age, I would leave it on, distract with toys and treats (a dog food stuffed kong can be a good distraction that lasts pup longer) when you can't but also don't worry too much about the scratching. The scratching is normal at first. I would take the collar off at night to give pup good rest, but let her wear it during the day. Expect her to be kind of aggravated by it for about a week, then it should become easier for her to ignore. If she continues to have trouble with it past a week or two, then I would use something even lighter weight at first, like a collar made out of paracord or those little plastic ones used by breeders. A plastic one won't be weight bearing so use a real collar for walking outside, and the plastic one inside just to get her used to the feeling of it. With a light plastic one, you should be able to keep that type on all the time. Know that the scratching is 100% normal though, as long as pup will eat, drink, go to the bathroom, and sleep (taking the collar off temporarily during sleep time if not) still. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Aug. 29, 2022

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Chuck

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Border Collie

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10 Months

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Doesn't like anything tugging on his collar so when I go to get the leash he hides and will try to struggle out of the collar before I can get the leash on I got another pup from the same litter and zero problems Side note chuck is extremely timid any kind of noise sends him hiding behind or under me and it took almost a full week after getting his collar on before he would come back around me

May 10, 2022

Chuck's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Ali, I would start by laying the leash on the floor and sprinkling treats around it often. Once pup is okay touching the leash on the floor, then I would hold it in your hand and offer treats with your other hand into the leash holding hand, so pup is associating you touching it near them with the rewards. Next, I would reach toward pup with the leash without clipping it, then offer a treat with your other hand quickly. Repeat reaching toward pup without clipping it and rewarding often until pup isn't bothered by the leash moving toward them. Next, I would clip and unclip it and reward it each time. Next, I would clip, wait a couple second, unclip, then reward, repeating until pup is comfortable. Gradually extend the time pup is wearing it for as pup improves. When pup is okay having it clipped to them, then I would practice the Drag method from the article I have linked below. Once pup is fine with that method, then I would practice the Pressure method also, to get pup used to actually walking with you and following you with the leash - which will allow you to begin Heel later if you want to. Drag method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 10, 2022


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