Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Truth About Spiked Collars

A spiked dog collar can make a pooch look tough (or silly, depending on the dog), but what are they actually for? Is the purpose of a spiked collar just to make a dog look as badass as possible? Is it supposed to make the dog difficult to grab? Were they originally intended as human fashion accessories that migrated onto our pets, or did that work the other way around?
Photo by Erin Koski

Spiked collars aren't just a fashion statement, they're actually a historic piece of equipment for working dogs. The spiked collar dates all the way back to ancient Greece, when they were first used as neck armor for herding dogs and flock guardians. These brave dogs needed to protect their sheep and cattle from predators like wolves. The neck is the most vulnerable part of the dog, and predators know this. Most breeds have thick, dense fur around their necks, some practically have a mane.

A dog with a neck full of spikes was more likely to walk away from an encounter with a wolf. I used to do medieval reenactment, and of course Brisbane needed to have a period ensemble. His collar is not a deliberate recreation of a historic design, but it is a lot easier to live with.
Photo by Erin Koski
The oldest spiked dog collars tend to have long, nasty spikes that extend several inches from the collar. Some of them are made from twisted metal links with forged spikes. Brisbane's spiked collar was custom made at a Society for Creative Anachronism event, and follows the trend in historic dog collars. As spiked collars became more widespread, the spikes became less nasty and more decorative.

Photo by Erin Koski
The next dogs to sport pointy bits on their necks were mastiffs, the dogs of war, along with guard dogs. Again, these dogs were expected to face combat of some sort, and the wide spiked collars helped prevent anything from attacking their necks. Next, the concept migrated to fighting dogs, bull baiters, and other dogs with tough jobs.

Today spiked dog collars are a fashion statement, but they can still serve a purpose. A heavy spiked collar is protective neck armor, if it is wide enough it will also distribute force and help prevent damage to the throat when the dog pulls on the leash.

With that in mind, spiked collars do not belong on any dog that can be reasonably expected to play with another dog. Wearing a spiked collar around town is cool. Wearing a spiked collar to the dog park is stupid, especially if the outing is for a highly social dog that loves to play. Back when we routinely visited dog parks, I saw plenty of happy, silly dogs attempting to wrestle and play while wearing collars intended to injure dogs that joined them. I'm pretty sure that's not what the owners had in mind, but this doesn't seem like rocket science. Maybe I'm wrong...

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