Thinking Safety During Dog Play…

There’s nothing more fun than watching dogs playing with each other.  Those of you who know me, know that I am against dog parks, but I love watching 2 or more dogs playing (especially ones that know each other).  It’s like poetry in motion.  Oftentimes I take my dog to a friend’s house to play or have a friend bring a dog here so he can enjoy some romping that is good for everyone’s soul.

There are a couple of things to consider before letting dogs play, most importantly – do these dogs get along and are they matched in drive / personality.  This is something you should be able to see early on in their playing and it shows through their body language.  Stiff dogs, dogs that are prone to constant mounting or dominance are not good candidates and should be taught the rules of play before being set free with a well mannered dog.  Dogs should bounce and bark, jump, roll and have a loose body posture – these are generally the signs that the play session will go well.  I like to monitor dog play for  a short while to keep an eye on things and to lend a hand if a dog is being picked on.  For those that like to “leave it up to the dog,” I would caution you to remember, it only takes one bad experience to potentially turn a good dog bad, and that’s not something I want.

Just recently a good friend of mine brought up a great point, and luckily her situation ended ok, so I’d like to share it here.  A big consideration when dogs play is whether or not they should wear collars.  For the most part I don’t encourage newly introduced dogs to wear a collar, I prefer to have them drag a slip-lead so that I have something that I can grab onto in the event things go sideways.  However, as play gets more playful, this can be a problem.  My dog generally wears a choke chain and this can present a problem to other dogs playing with him.  A dog’s teeth can easily get damaged if they connect with the chain, so I like to remove it once I know the dogs are safe together, and if possible I prefer a rope or canvas type collar during play for the safety of the dog’s teeth.

What happened to my friend didn’t involve damage to her dog’s teeth, but much worse.  I’d like to point out that she is one of the most dog savvy people I know,  so if this could happen to her, it could happen to anyone.  Her dogs were playing in the backyard (wearing their collars  – the type of collar is important, as you’ll see in a moment) when she heard a yelp, she looked outside and saw a tangled mess.  One dog’s lower jaw was tangled in the other dog’s collar.  It seems that his jaw got stuck in the collar and then the collar twisted over so there was no way he could remove his jaw.  What made this even worse is that the cinching on his lower jaw created a binding on the other dog’s neck – almost choking him to death.

As I said, my friend is a very competent and dog savvy person, so she thought clearly enough to run into her house and get a pair of scissors and she was able to cut the collar off of the choking dog’s neck.  If it had been a choke chain she could have lost her dog (possibly both dogs).  Luckily, in this situation, no dog was hurt, and although it’s a one in a million situation, it is something we should be aware of- which is why I’m sharing it here.  I’ve heard countless stories, but never this one.  I previously had a very different concern for dogs wearing collars during play, I now know another thing to watch out for and want to ask you to share this post with all of your friends.

I wish you and your four legged friends all the best – always!

Robert Cabral

Comments 2

  1. The same thing happened to me. This was years ago before I had enough experience to approach the situation calmly. Both my dogs were playing in the back yard and one dog’s jaw got caught under the collar of the other dog. Add to the situation, the dogs get increasingly anxious and difficult to handle when they are struggling. It was a two person project to get them untangled and thankfully someone else was around. The dogs seldom were in the backyard when I was not home but after that, when they were, they had their collars off. Very scary.

  2. The same thing happened to me. This was years ago before I had enough experience to handle the problem calmly. My two dogs were playing and one dog’s lower jaw got caught under the other dog’s collar. As they got more anxious they became more difficult to handle. It was a two person project to get them apart. Fortunately someone else was around. My dogs were very seldom in the backyard when I was not home but after that anytime they were out there together they had their collars off. Very scarey.

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