Whole Dog Journal's Blog March 26, 2013

An avoidable horror

Posted at 02:45PM - Comments: (11)

I’ve heard of it happening, but have never witnessed it before tonight: the horror of a dog getting his jaw twisted in another dog’s collar. May I never witness it again.

I was working at my computer when I heard a dog down the street, screaming. The only other times I’ve heard a dog scream like that were when one was hit by a car and another was kicked by a horse. I ran out my office door and down the street toward the noise. There is a black Lab-mix who is often playing in a fenced front yard two doors down, and I saw a young woman bent over what I thought was just that one dog. My first thought was that he had somehow broken a leg and she was restraining him. I ran through the gate and saw that she was, in fact, bent over TWO black Lab-mixes. I couldn’t tell at first what I was seeing, just this tangle of screaming dogs. I yelped, “What’s happening?” And the young woman shouted, “They’re stuck, I don’t know how!” It was SO confusing because both dogs were solid black and writhing around.

Then I saw the collar around the lower jaw of one dog. “”It’s the collar!” I yelled. “Do you have anything to cut it?!” My mind was racing but I couldn’t think of a single thing I had in my office that would cut it. The young woman yelled at someone else – her roommate, it turned out. “Get something to cut the collar!!”

I was also feeling all over the collars for a buckle. I felt a quick-release buckle and released it – but it was the release on the collar of the dog who had his jaw stuck.  Just then I smelled poop; the dog whose collar was twisted was collapsing, and had just evacuated his bowels. He was being choked to death right in our hands. 

I finally located the other buckle. It was a plain metal buckle. It was also in the mouth of the dog whose jaw was twisted inside. There was NO WAY I could get it to release.

The woman who was holding the dogs with me was screaming for her roommate. I said, “Let’s try to roll them to untwist it.” We grabbed the dogs’ bodies and tried to figure out which way would release the twist, but we simply could not see the solution in the mass of twisting black fur. One dog was moaning, the other gasping.

The other woman ran out with a pair of sharp scissors and a knife. I doubted the scissors, but it looked safer than a knife. She tried to jam the scissors under the collar and it was incredibly tight. She quailed for a moment, yelping, “I’m afraid to cut him!” And I said, “Just do it! Stitches are better than dying!”  She jabbed the lower blade of the scissors under the collar and worked them with all her might, and by some miracle, the material started to separate.  “Yes! Good! You’re doing it! Keep going!” the two of us holding the dogs encouraged her. We were ALL gasping for air at this point.

Then it was done. The collar fell off and the dogs literally fell apart. The one who was being choked coughed and gasped. The one with his jaw twisted ran away from us across the yard, then ran back with his tail between his legs – scared but ok. We encouraged the other dog – Good boy! You’re ok! – and he got to his feet, wobbling, and wagged his tail weakly, but it was apparent that he was regaining strength moment by moment. I said to the young women, “Are you ok?” “Yes, yes, are you?” We were all ok.

For the next 20 minutes or so, we talked and watched the dogs. In those minutes, both dogs defecated. The choked dog peed, too, and a few minutes later, he vomited. He seemed just really shaken but ok. I ran back to my office and found one of Otto’s older quick release collars to give them. We all hugged each other and the dogs.

Thank God the dog hadn’t been wearing a choke chain; I don’t have bolt cutters hanging around and don’t know anyone else who does either. That dog would have been dead if he had been wearing one.

Please: If your dog has a buckle collar – or one that has to be pulled over the dog’s head to take it off -- PLEASE remove it before he or she plays with other dogs. Better yet: Don’t ever put any collar on your dog that doesn’t have a quick-release buckle.

Comments (10)

I am actually a dog collar fan. BUT, I always use a broad, heavy leather collar. And I cut down larger collars for my dogs so that their collars are broader than those that are normally sold for that dog's size.
These collars do not twist and are unlikely to ever be caught in a dog's jaw.

And yes, one of my dogs years ago DID get caught, in a flimsy narrow collar, by a dog that attacked her. -- and THAT is why I changed to leather collars.

I feel that my dogs are more at risk from getting out and being without identification, than they are for accidents with their collars. And, by the way, do NOT rely on microchips -- the 'finders' need to think to check for them -- which in my sad experience seems to be only after they have destroyed the dog :-(

I feel that my dogs are more at risk from getting out and being without identification, than they are for accidents with their collars. (And, by the way, do NOT rely on microchips -- the 'finders' need to think to check for them -- which in my sad experience seems to be only after they have desproyed the dog :-(

Posted by: Jenny H | April 30, 2013 9:05 PM    Report this comment

I was horrified to hear about a similar incident from my sister-in-law involving her two Scotties. I have always used quick release collars. I have 3 Springer Spaniels, one being a puppy, and I've seen her grab a collar when she is playing. I take the collars off when I'm not home since they are confined to the house while I'm gone anyway. I'm so glad the Labs are OK.

Posted by: Bonnie W | April 2, 2013 6:21 PM    Report this comment

After reading these stories I am glad I have never left a collor on any of my 3 dogs when in our fenced in yard or house.The only time they have one on is if out walking with me and a leash on them. But I never thought of them catching a collor in their mouth, was afraide of catching one on bush or tree or furniture. Thank you all for your stories.

Posted by: Mary H | April 2, 2013 1:54 PM    Report this comment

This happened to me when my young dog was playing with my adult dog in the house. Her lower jaw got caught in the other's collar. I'll never forget the sound of that screaming. Luckily, it was a webbed collar and I had scissors at hand. Never again have they worn collars inside the house. For this and other reasons, it's wise always to carry a multi-tool just as you would your cellphone wherever you go.

Posted by: Czerny | April 2, 2013 12:46 PM    Report this comment

This EXACT same situation just happened to me last month. Two of my four Labs were playing in the house, one of them likes to grab at the collar of the others. This time, his lower jaw went under the collar of the other dog...and that dog twisted around. Suddenly, one dog was in pain and the other was choking. I was sitting in the same room with them (thank goodness) and it still took me about one minute to get them apart. I have quick release collars, too. It was SCARY! I now remove all of their collars when I leave the house...just in case.

Posted by: tina b | April 2, 2013 12:41 PM    Report this comment

I had my pups snout twisted in another dog chock collar. It was the worst experience I have ever had with me animals. I wish this experience upon nobody. It was wrapped around his snout. There was blood.... no more needed to be said!! We now avoid dogs with dangling collars!!

Posted by: Shannon G | April 2, 2013 12:12 PM    Report this comment

I am breathless after reading that...how horrible for everyone!
I have a pup who needs some work, but she is one of those that will be tempted to chase and run, so I am uneasy relying on those easy plastic buckles and have continued to use the standard buckle type. I would be terrified of having her be collarless even in the fenced in back yard...in the house ok, but not outside. I know in the end we all want our pups to be safe...but breaking free, getting lost or hit by a car...I don't know which is preferable compared to the collar mouthing.

Posted by: robin r | April 2, 2013 11:15 AM    Report this comment

So glad everything turned out okay. This happened to us a couple of years ago when our two Standard Poodles were playing. Fortunately my husband and I were both there and I saw what had happened right away. My husband held the dog that had his jaw caught while I held the other one and with the quick release buckle got the collar off her. It is a very scary situation. If they are particularly wound up when they are in the yard playing, I will often take their collars off so I don't have to worry. I have seen dogs with choke chains playing and my heart pounds just thinking about what could happen.

Posted by: Jeanette A | April 2, 2013 11:05 AM    Report this comment

This happened years ago when we had two of our large dogs playing (a big German Shepherd and a Pyr mix that was mostly full grown, but still a puppy). He rolled over twisting the collar in the Shepherd's mouth and it was pretty much like you described except we managed to untwist them. After that, ALL of our dogs wear the quick release collars because I never want to go through that again. Glad the dogs were ok.

Posted by: Wendy L | April 2, 2013 10:49 AM    Report this comment

I have been through this with my 2 lab mixes - it is the scariest thing in the world!! My trainer suggested break away collars. Now when they grab the other's collar it comes off - no more worries about one choking and the other breaking her jaw.

Posted by: Karen Z | April 2, 2013 10:35 AM    Report this comment

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