Saturday, May 02, 2009

Collars for the dogs

Star has been living in foster dog hand-me-downs since we got her.

Her classes require a flat buckle collar. The only flat buckle collar I own is so big that I had to use a razor blade to cut a slit in it three inches back from the smallest hole so that I could fasten it through the slit. The entire contraption clearly doesn't fit, and what's worse, it's blood red.

Anyway, I think every dog deserves his or her own collar once they are adopted into a family. So I went looking for a fancy collar for Star.

One thing I am very aware of is how a collar can totally change how people perceive a dog. When we were trying to rehome a big black-and-white pit bull foster named Elvis, people were more willing to pet him when he was wearing a tuxedo collar and bowtie. Felanie became a much cuter dog when I got her a pink leather collar with big silver heart studs. Dozer looks like a "good guy" in his black collar with silver sheriff stars.

And poor Star looks like a neglected stray dog in her oversized, mangled bright red collar.

A quality collar conveys all kinds of meanings, in particular, "This dog means enough to someone that they spent a good bit of a paycheck just to make the dog look nice." That doesn't mean that dogs wearing hand-me-downs aren't just as beloved (we love Star a lot), but I'm talking about first impressions. If I encountered a stray dog wearing a personalized leather collar with rhinestone-encrusted studs, I would assume someone was missing that dog pretty badly.

Some collars, like spiked collars, have varying effects based on what type of dog is wearing it. I discourage people from putting spiked collars on pit bulls and other stereotyped "scary" breeds because in this case the collar is only adding to the fearsomeness. Putting a spiked collar on a Chihuahua or some small dog is likely to garner amusement because of the perceived irony (again, based on stereotype; most people assume the Chihuahua isn't a very fearsome dog--thus, putting a fearsome collar on it is an ironic statement and therefore funny).

At any rate, I went online searching for a quality leather collar with a pretty design. I am drawn strongly to shiny things and badly wanted a rhinestone-coated collar for Star so she would look like a princess... but unfortunately, at the size I need (for a 17" neck) most such collars are thin fabric, designed for the fragile necks of sighthounds. That won't do. Something like that won't stand up to the rough business of dog play and training.

One alternative is a leather collar with embossed designs, or with metal conchos/studs. I chose the latter because metal is still shiny, and there are a wide variety of pretty conchos to choose from.

Having run a website for many years now, I have gotten quite a few suggestions from site visitors as to where to buy a pit bull-appropriate collar. My favorite by far is Paco Collars. There are several reasons for this.

1. The founder owned a pit bull and the company does some nonprofit work for pit bulls.
2. Everything is handmade.
3. The leather comes from a single source and is from beef cows, not leather cows, so unlike many leather products, cows aren't being killed just because my dog needs a collar. They're getting eaten too.
4. The designs are really pretty. Or handsome.
5. The lifetime warranty is a big plus. Dozer's cheap sheriff collar (bought at a mall store) is coming apart after only four years. And Dozer is not a rough-and-tumble dog.
6. When my dog dies, they will remake his/her Paco collar into a bracelet. (Quiet sob.)

Are the collars expensive? Yes. Are they worth it? TOTALLY.

I bought the Alabama because it has wings. Wings, I tell you!! Originally, I planned to give it to Star (because it has stars, too).

But once it came in and I tried it on her, I realized it wasn't going to work. It was too wide (1.5"). You know those "thug" dogs that wear super-wide collars and you wonder how they can even turn their head from side to side because the collar covers their entire neck? Well, this is how the Alabama was on Star. She looked way too thuggish. Not scary, because who's scared of stars with wings? But the width sort of said, "Look at my badass dog that requires a super-wide collar because its neck muscles could snap a regular collar in half." Not the message I wanted to send.

So I gave it to Dozer. He's 85 lbs and has a longer neck, so the collar fit much better proportionally. It doesn't look too wide at all. He looks quite classy, really.

Having figured out where I went wrong, I subsequently ordered the Milan Heart collar for Star. It is a smaller collar (1" wide) and should work better on her short neck and 50 lb body.

Yes, that extra 0.5" of width really does make a big difference!


Anonymous said...

I have seen these before and hesitated. After your write up I think that I am going to get one for both Daisy and Roscoe, poor sprocket hasn't worn a collar for about a year. His arthritis is bad enough that I hate putting anything on him that will bother him, and he is basically a house dog except for a few forays onto the patio.

happypitbull said...

I know what you mean... I've known about Paco Collars for like four years now, and that's about how long I've hesitated to buy. It's a pretty big expense to justify.

To avoid disappointment, the trick is to make sure you choose the right size. This means measuring the width of a collar that looks good on your dog. It also means measuring the dog's actual neck circumference rather than going by store collar sizes.


Star is a medium-sized dog, about 50 pounds. She fits in a store size 21" collar, but her actual neck size is 17". Paco Collars wants to know the actual size--17". Also, her nylon flat buckle collar is a 1" width and it looks fine. That is therefore the width of collar that works best for her.

Dozer is a large dog, about 85 pounds. He fits in a store size 24" collar, but his actual neck size is about 18". His old mall-bought collar was a 1" width and it looked a little skinny on him, so a 1.5" width collar suits him well.

So, take what you know about your dogs' current collars and their actual neck sizes and apply that knowledge when choosing a handmade collar like one of Paco's collars.

I understand about Sprocket. For the last few months of Fel's life, I didn't keep her collar on her. It was not comfortable for her, considering how swollen her neck was. Of course, she didn't go anywhere except to the vet anyway, and certainly was in no condition to run away from home, so it wasn't very important for her to have a collar/tags anyway.

Dennis the Vizsla said...

That's a great-looking collar that you got for Dozer. I agree with you on the use of collars and how they affect perceptions -- when I see somebody walking a "scary" breed in a spiked collar, the first thing I think is that the owner must have issues. Why would you want to dress up your dog like a thug?

Leila said...

I think that Dozer's collars is gorgeous. I've had Quizz in an Ezydog collar for several years. Because I've loved the neoprene/webbing combination (and the color never rubbed off on him)that has always dried fast when wet. But after seeing Dozer in his collar, I'm going to have to look into the Paco collars. They are sharp!


Princess said...

I've looked at Paco Collars and have wanted to save up for one for P, and your review just made me even more anxious to save for one! Thanks for sharing!

~P's Mom