Rusty has worn a collar for most of her life. We first introduced her to one when she was a puppy and it has rarely been removed, except for when we have been grooming her.
Recently, she went to the groomer’s to have her fur stripped (this is done about twice a year; when the fur is ready it is very easy to pull out without causing discomfort for the dog). Shortly after she returned, a piece snapped on her collar and we began to talk about buying a new one. However, once we took her old collar off and saw how she looked without it, we began to discuss whether she actually needed it at all.
A lot has changed since Rusty first joined our family: we now have a fully-fenced garden so that Rusty can be free range without us having to worry about her straying onto the road or disappearing after cats. She is also now walked on a harness as this is much better for her neck.
At this point we decided to try removing her collar and see if it was really necessary for her day-to-day life and safety. Everything seemed to carry on as normal and at that point I assumed that it was the end of Rusty’s days with a collar.
Around that time, I noticed that Rusty suddenly became very clingy towards me; she was constantly pestering me for fuss and attention, and while she would normally have a few cuddles and then race off to grab a toy for me, instead she was quite happy to sit for lengthy periods of time while I fussed her.
A couple of days down the line, my parents woke up to find Rusty in their room in the middle of the night! Rusty has never been allowed upstairs and this is not a rule she has ever broken. (There have been a couple of occasions when she has climbed halfway up during thunderstorms, but she always stopped and waited for us on the landing where the stairs chance direction).
Mum sent her back down, but this was repeated several times over the next few nights. One morning I got up at about four to get some water and found her outside my door. It was very bizarre behaviour and we were struggling to understand it. She didn’t seem distressed and there was nothing that could have frightened her.
This did seem to coincide with Rusty’s collar having been removed, so mum did some research and came across a thread on a dog forum in which people were discussing their dog’s responses to having their collars removed.
There were a variety of different opinions, but a couple of people suggested that the collar may be like a ‘security blanket’ for the dog (especially if it is used to wearing it all of the time).
Rusty is quite a timid dog, so she have been experiencing quite a bit of stress due to having her collar removed. Long term stress has several detrimental effects on the dog as it causes the digestive, immune and growth systems to shut down: in a fight or flight situation this allows more energy to be directed into the response, but the dog should not be exposed to it on a regular basis as the its body will never fully recover.
After reading this, mum decided that we should put Rusty’s collar back on and see how she reacted.
Over the nights that have followed, Rusty has tried to come upstairs once. We think that this particular occasion was due to the strong wind outside making quite a bit of noise. Rusty also came up to my room the other day when there was a shooting party close to our house: she does get frightened by this and it is normal for her to seek our company if she hears gunshots.
Apart from these occasions, she has settled back into sleeping in her bed without trying to find us – so we can only surmise that this issue was as a result of her collar being removed. There is very little available information about this, but it could prove to be an exciting prospect for further research.
We will be buying a new collar for Rusty soon, but it has lead me to reconsider how I will use collars on any dogs I own in the future.