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Collar Confusion: Understanding Your Dog's Sadness When Their Collar Comes Off

By Aviram K.
January 23, 2023
5 min read
Collar Confusion: Understanding Your Dog's Sadness When Their Collar Comes Off
✏️ This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

It’s evening in your home, and you and your dog are winding down for the night. As you pull your pup in for one last snuggle, you feel a thick, scratchy material brush against your skin.

That’s when you realize: their collar is still on.

“Hm,” you coo to your pup, “that won’t be too comfortable to sleep in. Let me take that collar off for you, buddy.”

But the moment you remove your dog’s collar, something unexpected happens: their head drops, and their tail immediately goes down…they even begin to whimper!

They seem so…sad. Are they really sad because you took their collar off?

Dogs can definitely become sad when their collars come off. This sadness may result from associative learning, separation anxiety, and even health issues. However, it is possible to observe your pup and help them overcome their sadness when their collar comes off.

In this article, I will explore the reasons for dogs’ sadness when their collars are removed. I will also help you to determine the cause of your dog’s sadness. Finally, I will wrap things up by giving you some pointers to address the issue.

So, your dog’s collar is off, and those big puppy dog eyes are breaking your heart?

No need to feel bad. I will help you get to the bottom of why your pup is responding this way.

Ready? Let’s go!

Reasons for Dog’s Sadness When Collar is Removed


You may think your dog’s collar coming off shouldn’t cause them to feel sadness. However, it might be tough to understand the connection from a human perspective.

Putting yourself in your pup’s shoes may be tricky, but there is a reason why they feel this way.

Here are a few possible reasons:

Associative Learning

If your dog feels sadness when their collar comes off, it is highly likely that it’s due to associative learning. This is when one activity or event is linked so closely to another that you begin to connect the two things together.

Basically, your dog may have learned to associate their collar coming off with some other event they don’t enjoy. So, their collar coming off serves as a trigger for negative feelings like sadness.

Here are a few examples:

  • If you remove your dog’s collar before they take a bath, this may make them sad if they don’t like baths but can sense that one is coming
  • Taking the collar off your dog before they go into their crate may make them sad if they don’t enjoy going in their crate
  • Removing your dog’s collar before they play with another dog may make your dog feel sad if they don’t feel safe with the other dog

Separation Anxiety

Your dog may also feel sad when their collar comes off if they suffer from separation anxiety.

Removing your dog’s collar before they go to sleep may signal them that they’ll be away from you. This could make them especially anxious if you sleep in a different room from your dog or on the opposite side of the house from them.

If you are in the habit of removing your dog’s collar anytime you’ll be away from them, this may cause them sadness. Basically, they miss you!

Your pup could also feel separation anxiety from their actual collar itself. Dogs spend so much time wearing their collars that some pups may feel like it’s actually a part of them!

Health Issues

Health issues like skin irritation, cuts, or allergies could also cause your dog to feel sadness when you remove their collar. If your dog’s skin is scratched or their hair is pulled each time their collar is removed, it’s only natural that this may make them feel sad.

How to Determine the Cause of Your Dog’s Sadness


Seeing your pup feel sad when you remove their collar is a bad feeling indeed. When they hurt, you hurt! But not to worry, there are ways you can determine the cause of your dog’s sadness.

Here are a few ways to figure it out:

Observing Behavior

Observing your dog’s behavior is a great way to figure out why they become sad when their collar comes off.

Does your dog scratch around their neck when their collar comes off? Maybe removing their collar irritates their skin.

Do you remove their collar when you’re done playing with them? Maybe they’re sad because they’ve realized playtime is over.

Consulting with a Professional

Have you observed your dog’s behavior, and you’re still unsure why they get sad when their collar comes off?

That’s okay! Dogs can be complicated little characters sometimes.

Luckily, some professionals are trained to figure things like this out. Your pup’s vet, a dog behaviorist, or a trainer are all good resources to reach out to in order to help you pinpoint exactly what’s going on.

How to Address the Issue


So you’ve done some detective work, and you feel pretty confident that you know why your dog feels sad when their collar comes off.


Now you can begin testing out some troubleshooting techniques to address the issue. Here are a few things you can try:

Training and Behavior Modification Techniques

Training and behavior modification techniques can be used to help your dog feel better about their collar coming off.

Here’s an example:

Say your pup feels sad when you take their collar off after playtime. Your pup may be realizing the fun you were having has officially come to an end.

First, make sure your playtime with them is loving and connected. This way you’ve hopefully satisfied their need for connection.

Next, slowly, firmly yet gently take their collar off while affirming them. You may say things like “good job” and “you’re okay” or use commands like “stay” as you remove their collar.

Calmly pet your pup throughout the process. Go ahead and reward them with treats and more praise as they react without sadness. It is okay if you have to do this several times before your pup feels better about the whole thing.

Addressing Separation Anxiety or Health Issues

If you suspect your dog is suffering from separation anxiety or health issues, it may be best to take them to a professional before trying anything at home.

After any mental or physical health problems are diagnosed and treated, there are things you can do to help your pup further.

If your pup is struggling with separation anxiety when their collar is off, try making their transition from collar on to collar off a smooth one. Instead of just leaving for bed once their collar is off, try giving them a little extra collar-free cuddle time. This may help them make the shift to bedtime easily without feeling abandoned.

As far as physical problems, try to keep an eye on the area around their collar. Make sure to complete any treatment your dog’s vet has prescribed. Keeping the area clean, dry, and properly taken care of can go a long way to keep the hair and skin around their collar healthy.

Providing a Comfortable Environment

Maintaining a comfortable environment can help your dog maintain good spirits when their collar is removed. Try removing your dog’s collar in the same place and the same way each day. This place should ideally be a neutral temperature that is calm, uncluttered, and as cozy as possible for your pup.

If your dog can come to expect that their collar being removed will be a nice and pleasant experience, this should help them not to feel sad about it.

They may actually even come to enjoy and look forward to it!

It’s Just a Collar, Right?


Dogs can be funny creatures, and you’re probably used to yours doing things you don’t always understand. But your dog becoming sad when you take their collar off is something that throws you off quite a bit.

After all, it’s just a collar!

But your dog feels closely connected to their collar. They wear it so much they may even feel like it is a part of them! They also associate it coming off with daily events that they may not enjoy. It also may physically irritate them when it is removed.

The good news is, whatever the reason your dog feels sad when their collar comes off, you can help them feel better. By observing your pup, treating any mental or physical issues, and modifying their behavior and environment, their collar can become simply that: just a collar!

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