A Pain In The Neck

You may recognize this trio as they are familiar faces from the BARKSiDE staff. Scout is the Border Collie and he’s fast and just as obsessed with sticks and toys as you would expect him to be. Nash is the German Shepherd and he’s a lovely, loyal boy who will do almost anything for you. And River is the Thai looking fellow from, you guessed it, the streets of Thailand. He’s come a long way and he’s settling into his new lifestyle more easily than one might think. He’s living it up as a real explorer by day and extreme cuddler by night, or really any moment he’s not sniffing something. They are an adventurous crew who, as you can tell, love to wander off the beaten path. Afterall, who needs a trail when you’ve got endless fields, forests, hills, lakes and mountains in your backyard?

If you look closely, River is wearing a harness and is tethered on leash. It’s much safer to give him some restrained freedom by using his harness than it is to use his collar. We have defaulted to handling dogs by their collars, and understandably so as it’s what they are wearing most of the time, we keep them identified and it’s naturally the easiest area to use when you need to hold on to them. But when you really think about it, the neck is a very sensitive body part and we already know that.

We’ve all had those times where you hit your head while getting up and a sharp pain with a burning sensation takes over the side of your neck for a few seconds. Or you wake up in the morning with a kink and suddenly you can only look in one direction for the day. For anyone who has unfortunately had even a minor neck injury, they know how painful it can be and the repercussions of other symptoms like back pain, compensation and tingling in the hands and arms, for example. Recovery is long and often a certain amount of damage is permanent. It doesn’t take much for the neck to feel discomfort because, again, the neck is sensitive. It’s no different for dogs and yet we unintentionally handle them by one of the most delicate body parts.

A dog leashed to its collar will inevitably pull and by instinct we correct it, usually by inadvertently jerking. They strain, they cough, they gag, they get guided in all directions and it’s certain they feel discomfort, even if they don’t pull all the time or if we are gentle about it. Remember, it doesn’t take much and furthermore, the size and strength of a dog is irrelevant to being exempt from the impact.

None of us want our dogs to be uncomfortable after all and yet they can’t tell us so we just go on without knowing. Veterinarians are starting to suggest that neck injuries could be contributing to certain symptoms and even misinterpretation. For example, the potential link between hypothyroidism and damage to the thyroid gland from collar pressure. Or when dogs show signs of allergies, like excessive scratching or mouthing at their paws, perhaps these are caused by after effects of neck injuries like muscle tightness along the spine creating pain and tingling feelings in the extremities.

More people are realizing that choosing to handle your dog using a harness is a better alternative to a collar. Sometimes it just takes us focusing on our habits to reevaluate and notice that there is a better way.

Photo by Cass Heather