You may have noticed that your dog has a lot of skin around his neck area. While you think it's super cute, you're curious about the purpose that it serves. Is it just so we can say, "awwww," or is it beneficial to their health and wellbeing?
As it turns out, the loose skin on the neck area exists for a few reasons. Learn what those reasons are, as well as what safety precautions you need to take when playing with it.
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Do all dogs have extra neck skin?
It turns out that all dogs do have that extra neck skin, though some dogs will have more than others. On the top of the neck, all dogs have extra neck skin called the scruff. Only some breeds have loose skin around the under part of their neck area. This is called the dewlap or wet neck, and it's common on breeds like the Shar-Pei, the Bloodhound, and the Mastiff.
What is dogs’ excess neck skin for?
The scruff is how mothers carry their puppies during the first few weeks of their lives. Once the mama dog gets a solid grip on her puppies' scruffs, she will move them from place to place. Only in rare cases would this injure or hurt the dogs. Holding the puppies by the scruff teaches them to be submissive. When dogs are fighting, and they want to show dominance over one another, they'll grab each other by the scruff or even bite there.
Some dogs will have the dewlap or wet neck underneath because it helps when it comes to tasks like guarding and fighting. For instance, the Shar-Pei would likely win in a fight with another dog because of his loose skin. If an attacker bites, the Shar-Pei could twist in his coat and bite back or recover quickly. The loose skin is also a barricade between the inner body parts; when an attacker bites, they will only get the loose skin instead of seriously injuring the pup.
Safety precautions with extra neck skin
After some puppies grow up and become adult dogs, their scruff may mostly go away. In other dogs, it sticks around. Even if your dog has the scruff still, it's not a good idea to pick him up by it. Your dog is going to be too heavy as an adult for that to be safe.
In addition, it's never advisable to pick up a dog by his collar, because you may restrict his air supply and cause him to choke. If a child is playing with a dog, they may try to lift him by the tail, which could lead to serious nerve and muscle damage; if injured in that area, he may not be able to control himself when he goes to the bathroom or move his tail properly anymore. Also, teaching a child not to pick up a dog by the front or back legs is critical. Picking him up in this way could also lead to a bad injury for your pup.
The extra neck skin on the back of your dog's neck is called the scruff, and every dog has it. If he has loose skin underneath, that may be because he's of a certain breed that needs it for fighting or guarding purposes. It's never advisable to pick up a dog by the scruff, since that's only reserved for the mama dog when your dog is just a puppy.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.