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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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Effective

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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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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.

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.

Written by James Barra

Veterinary reviewed by:

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Diana

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English Springer Spaniel

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Six Years

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Question

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I recently purchased her she has been a kennel dog and used for breeding.she's never handle a collar or leash and tends to run toward fence and road when outside I have had a collar on her for almost a week and she tries to avoid me when I put leash on to take her out. I don't want to stress her

July 5, 2023

Diana's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, When you are home, rather than taking the leash on and off, I would keep a leash on her to drag around, but choose the lightest weight leash that will hold her weight safely and only leash on when you are home to supervise. While the leash is on her, work on distracting her by playing games or teaching fun tricks or simple commands where she can earn favorite treats and take her mind off of the collar and leash. If you have a fenced yard and she will come back inside willingly after going potty you might want to wait to use the leash on her completely for one week while you work on getting her used to both. To get her used to both, 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

July 10, 2023

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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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1133 Dog owners recommended

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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