Collar Grabbing – Please Don’t Do It. Did you know that 20% of all dog bites occur when a family member reaches to grab the dog by the scruff or collar. One doesn't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out why this happens. The dog has learned that when people grab its collar bad things often happen. It only takes one time to make your dog hate coming when called and hate having you reach for its collar if you reprimand or punish the dog while raising your voice. The dog will become hand shy or will run from you, or worse, become defensive. So…..for sure, never ever grab a collar of dog you do not know will allow it…. particularly a newly adopted dog. You don’t know what the dog has endured in the past (nor do we) and whether or not it will let you do this. If you ignore this warning, do not be surprised if you get bitten. What you need to do is teach the dog that having someone reach for his/her collar is not a bad thing and only has positive consequences.
Start by breaking treats into pieces smaller than a pencil eraser and adding these special treats to your “come here” kibble bags that you have hidden all over the house. Many times a day, call your dog to “come here” and reward him kibble for complying. Then, reach slowly and gently under his chin and give him a little scratch. When he accepts this attention, smile, praise him, and feed him one of the treat pieces. With each repetition of this process, you should move closer to grabbing his collar from under his chin. For dogs who haven’t shown any particular sensitivity to the process, you should be able to grab his collar within 6 trials. For dogs who have shown sensitivity to collar grabs, go slowly. It may take 12 or more repetitions before you feel safe grabbing his collar underneath his chin. No matter how long it takes, there are a few points to keep in mind. The first collar grab should be very gentle. You should only grab for underneath his chin. After he willingly allows this first collar grab, they should smile, praise like crazy and give him several pieces of the yummy treats.
Once you have mastered the under the chin collar grab, repeat the process but reach for his collar on top of his neck. Moving your hand over his head is more frightening for him so it may take many repetitions over the course of days before you are comfortable grabbing his collar. Go as slowly as he needs you to go. If he acts frightened of your hand at all, back up to the last point where he accepted your touch without reaction and progress more slowly. Remember you may be undoing years of damage here so patience is critical.
Once your dog accepts gentle collar grabs, begin reaching out to grab more quickly and putting more pressure on his collar. Always reward him with your smile, kind words, and treats for allowing your grab.
Finally, you may begin reaching out to grab his collar in unexpected situations. Again, slowly increase the speed at which you grab him and the pressure you exert when you do grab him. Once he shows no negative reaction to having his collar suddenly, strongly and unexpectedly grabbed, you may begin rewarding him with treats only on a random, every now and then, basis. It is at this point that you may also begin grabbing him to attach his leash when he is playing off-leash in a safely fenced area. Do three or four collar grabs complete with leash attachments, holding the dog for a few seconds before unsnapping leash and commanding the dog to “go play”, before you actually stop the fun for real.