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September 25, 2008
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October 20, 2008
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Dog Collar Nearly Kills Nissa

I have to share a very scary thing that happened here tonight. I feel it’s important to share this in the hopes that others will learn a very important life-saving lesson about dog collar safety. We nearly lost Nissa tonight and I don’t want this to happen to others. If I can stop even one person from using a collar on their dog when at home, I may save a dog’s life.

My husband has told me many times that doesn’t like the dogs wearing their collars in the house or the back yard. He feels collars are not necessary at home, only when we are going somewhere and they need to be leashed. I fought him on it each and every time the topic came up because I felt we needed something to grab should it be necessary, should they escape from the house they are wearing their collar and tags with their ID and contact info. Plus, it’s city ordinance that all dogs wear collars and tags. After what happened tonight, it’s to hell with all of that! No more collars at home!

I was working at my computer, Riley and Nissa were playing behind me when Nissa started screaming and Riley growling like he wanted to kill something. Intent on what I was doing on the computer, I hollered “enough!” which usually will snap them out of even rough play which is what this sounded like but instead, the sound of absolute mayhem broke out.

I knew then something was very wrong and spun around. There was Riley with his open mouth around Nissa’s throat and Nissa still screaming. It looked like he had her by the throat and wouldn’t let go. I was horrified! Riley would never hurt Nissa like that! Then it hit me, he wasn’t trying to kill her and this was definitely not playtime. The realization that they couldn’t get themselves apart from one another hit me like a thunder bolt. I raced over and grabbed them around the backs of their necks and found that Riley’s entire bottom jaw was caught in Nissa’s collar, his teeth directly at the front of her throat. Both dogs were absolutely panic stricken which was the cause for the screaming and growling. Nissa thought Riley had a hold of her and refused to let go. She was choking! Riley thought Nissa was the fault of his jaw being caught so he was defending himself.

I knew that if Riley bit down he would probably kill or at the very least severely injure Nissa. His teeth were dead on at the front of her throat. He’s either smarter than I think he is and realized he should not bite down or the collar around his entire bottom jaw, caught on his teeth was preventing him from biting down. I’ll never know which.

I could hear Nissa gasping for breath and Riley continued to growl like I’ve never heard him growl before as I fought to unbuckle her collar, but it was so tight already that doing so only increased the choking action and it was not coming off that way.

I was home alone and I’m not the most resourceful person there is. The two of them were absolutely wild! I’d never in my life seen anything like this. I knew every scissors in the house was dull and that I’d never be able to cut through that leather collar in time to save Nissa’s life. There was absolutely no way I could hold the both of them and cut that collar off before Nissa stopped breathing, she was already buckling at the knees. I thought of running for a box cutter to slice the collar off but then I risked slicing one or both of them and killing or seriously injuring them that way. They were simply thrashing around to much to make this a safe move and I was afraid that I’d not be able to control the box cutter enough to be safe using it. As a last resort, I probably would have tried it. Better a slice to the body than a dead dog is what it would have come down to and just hope like hell I didn’t slice something like an eye or a jugular.

Knowing I could be bitten severely, I felt I had no other choice, I had to save my dog. My face and neck were very close to Riley’s teeth as I struggled to stop their thrashing. The thrashing was increasing their panic and their panic increased the thrashing and that collar was tightening around her neck. There was no one to call for help, no time to call for help and even if there was, by the time anyone got here, it would be to late for Nissa. I held them around the back of their necks and yelled sharply “Hey!” to try to get their attention. They were so frantic, they didn’t even hear me the first time. Nissa was freaking out and Riley was definitely at what calls Level 10. This was a dangerous situation all around. They were fighting me as well, but stopped thrashing just long enough for me to body slam them against the couch and hold them down so they would start to pay attention to me. It took three tries to accomplish this. We’re talking about 150 pounds of dog thrashing around in sheer panic and one person trying to stop them. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally got their attention long enough to calm them somewhat. My brain was spinning a mile a minute “How do I get this collar off?” “How do I get them apart?”

I knew if I panicked it would just get worse because they’d feel my panic and things would just escalate even more. I had to find a way to keep me calm so that I could try to calm them but they were so freaked this was not an easy task. I could hear Nissa literally gasping for air and knew that she was almost out of time yet I had to make them calm down so I could somehow get them apart. I still didn’t know how I was going to do that, but if I could get them calm, the collar would not continue to tighten which would buy me some time.

As calmly as I possibly could, I just kept gently telling them “Easy, Momma will get it. Easy, Momma will get it.” This seemed to calm them enough that I was finally able to get my hand inside Riley’s mouth and pry the collar from his jaw.

Riley stumbled backwards and Nissa took off like a shot to get away from us. I was shaking like I can’t remember shaking since I had small children and something scary would happen with them. I stood there for a few moments trying to catch my breath and calm myself. I could see Nissa and I called her several times but she would come nowhere near us. Riley on the other hand, seemed like nothing had ever happened and was ready to play again! (Dogs live in the moment, remember?) Nissa’s not so good at that, though, she wouldn’t come anywhere near me no matter what I did.

I got them to lay down, both panting very hard, I needed to get them settled down so I could check for injuries. One entire side of Nissa’s neck was soaking wet, I was afraid to take my hand away thinking it might be blood but it was just “puppy slobber” as we call it at our house. I checked Riley’s jaw and his teeth and he is none the worse for wear.

When my husband called from the road just a few minutes later and I related what had happened he yelled “NO MORE COLLARS AT HOME!” I knew at that moment, I’d never fight him on this issue again.

Please people, if you collar your dogs – take them OFF at home. Use them ONLY when you are taking the dogs out of the house and you will be supervising them closely. Believe me, you do not want this to happen at your house.

I’m absolutely and totally convinced that without Cesar’s training I myself would have panicked and that tonight I would be mourning the loss of Nissa and very likely visiting the emergency room to have my face stitched up or learning I had lost an eye or something equally as bad. There is no doubt in my mind that Cesar’s calm voice in my head is what helped me save my little girl. I could actually hear his voice walking me through this. I would never have known that getting them calm as I could would help to save her life were I not an avid Cesar Millan fan and believer. Thank you, Cesar!


  1. Sarah says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of your story but so glad you were there and able to save your dogs! We had an incident yesterday with our puppies…. Lola is 10 months old and Violet is 9 months old. They still play fight a lot. Yesterday, they were out in the yard playing and I heard them growling at one another. Typically when they play with one another neither one growls. I ran out into the yard to break it up and noticed neither one moved. Im so thankful my husband heard me yelling and came outside behind me. As I got closer to them I could see the Lola had her teeth stuck in the Violets collar. It was so tight I could not get them loose. My husband came over to help while I ran for scissors. By the time I came back it was too late. Violet’s little body was completely limp and she was not breathing. My husband was able to free the Lola and as he picked up Violet to rush her to the vet he started compressing her chest until he saw her eye twitch and she started breathing again. Although everyone was very shaken up (we all bawled our eyes out pretty much the rest of the evening) she seems to be completely fine and back to her sweet self. I am so thankful that I was home and outside when it happened. Had any part of the day been different, she would not have made it. They are both micro chipped but I’m not sure I will ever put a collar back on them. She seemed to sleep well last night and is eating normal. She is even playing but seems to be pretty cautious when playing.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Sarah,

      Oh you and hubby must have been terrified! Thank goodness hubby is fast on his feet and started the compressions! My hat’s off to him for his quick thinking and action! WOW! I’m so impressed, please thank him for us! Had he not done what he did, your little sweetie probably would not be alive today!

      We only put collars on our dogs when we have to leash them for a walk, trip to the vet etc. Never ever do we leash them at home and if for some reason we’d have to, we’d never leave them unsupervised. Microchips are super inventions but still today there are too many people who don’t check for them when they find a lost dog which is where collars and tags come in handy.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with us and we’re so happy everything worked out fine.

  2. Skylos says:

    That is certainly a one in a million event, and very scary.

    I think you’re overreacting. (but I DO understand *why* you’re overreacting) That is, it is Super-difficult, indeed, almost impossible to objectively evaluate risk in relation to something you have deep emotional attachment to.

    That said, the risk level here is relatively low – almost infinitesimal, particularly when utilizing more sensible collar designs.

    So as an alternative to the ‘never any collar unsupervised’ knee-jerk irrationality, may I suggest collars with nylon clicky clasps for holding id tags and such. I have never collared my dogs with a buckle type collar precisely because I took the advice given to me when I got my first german shepherd – collars must be able to break off or release without being tightened. My sable girl wore one of these for about a year:

    until I replaced the collars on both shepherds with Ruff-Wear dog harnesses because I didn’t like pulling on their necks. They don’t wear anything in the house and they’re so much prettier without the collar-squish on their neckruffs!

    So remember – experiencing the unusual does not make it any higher risk than it was before you experienced, despite how you feel about it.

    Hail to German Shepherd Dogs everywhere, Cesar Milan, owners who know what to do, and good collar and harness designs!


    • Mom says:

      Thanks for dropping by and giving us your feedback. I didn’t know about break-away collars at the time this happened but I did learn about them afterward and they’re a great invention :) Thanks for posting the link for others to check them out themselves. Hope to see you again and often here at Riley’s Place!

  3. Sue says:

    Wow! That had to be really scary! I am never putting a collar on my dog again unless we’re going for a walk or something where I’m right there to keep an eye on him. I always take the collar off when Ranger is crated but I never thought of something like this happening. I don’t have a second dog, but now I realize that collars can get caught on things and in the struggle to get free, Ranger could kill himself.

    Can you imagine what would have happened if they were home alone and got into this tangled up mess? You’d have come home to a dead dog and you would never be able to forgive yourself. I would not want that to happen to me or Ranger.



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