Why Do Dogs Freak Out When You Take Off Their Collar?

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Dogs often get excited about certain routine behaviors because they associate the behaviors with what comes next. In other cases, dogs become happy when you perform certain acts because it's the end of something they don't like. Getting excited about dog collars may mean she's either excited about what's coming up or she's glad to have the collar off. Either way, if you look for patterns, you might find out why your pooch is happy to have the collar come off.


Dogs are quick to make associations between objects and emotions.
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What is operant conditioning?

One reason your dog might be freaking out when you take off his collar is because he associates this act with something else. This is known as operant conditioning. For example, it's pretty obvious why dogs get excited when you take their leash off the wall and get ready to attach it to their dog collar — they know it's time to go for a walk or engage in outdoor play that they like.


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When you take off your dog's collar for a specific reason, such as a bath or grooming, the dog knows what's coming. That's because each time you've taken off his collar, you've bathed or groomed him. So, he associates the removal of his collar with bathing or grooming.


If you randomly take off the collar for no particular reason and only do this once in a great while, the reason your dog might be getting excited has nothing to do with operant conditioning. It might simply be that he dislikes the collar.

Negative associations with dog collars

Maybe your dog doesn't like the collar.
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If your dog gets excited about her dog collars coming off and you don't follow this act with another regular act (such as grooming), the dog might be happy that the collar is coming off because she doesn't like the collar. It might be that the collar is too tight or too loose. When was the last time you cleaned the collar? Does it smell bad?


If the material of the collar scratches her, she'll get used to it, but she will be happy when it comes off. If your dog is a puppy, she might not be used to the collar or has grown more quickly than you realize, and the collar is now too tight.

One way to see if your dog has negative association with dog collars is to look at how she reacts when it's time to put it back on. If she hesitates or needs to be called twice, you know there's a problem with the collar (or any collar). Consider loosening the collar to see if that helps. Take a close look at the collar to see if there are any frayed ends, items that have lodged inside, metal or plastic tags that might dig into the dog, or if the collar smells bad. Try buying a new collar to see her reaction to it.



Positive associations with dog collars

If you only take the collar off when the dog is going to be inside the house for a while, the dog might be happy knowing he's staying inside for a while, or the dog might feel freer now that the restraint is gone. The dog might associate the collar with a regular act that follows.


Do you rub the dog's neck and give him a short massage, words of affection, and a kiss or hug when you remove his collar each time? If so, that might be the reason the dog gets excited when you start removing the collar.

When to see a veterinarian

Maybe the collar is bruising your dog's neck.
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Search your dog for an injury if you can't figure out why he becomes excited when the collar comes off. If you can't find an external cut or bruise, call your vet and explain the situation and see if you need to bring in your pet. If your dog has started exhibiting this behavior only recently after being fine with wearing a collar, this might indicate a medical problem. The same is true if your dog resists you taking off the collar.



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