Dog Collars Over Time

Ancient Greek Companion Dog 320-350ADAncient Greek Companion Dog 320-350ADEver considered the historical purpose behind the many uses of dog collars? Their first use was Millennia before the birth of Christ, when bits of animal skin were attached around the necks of Leash Hounds. In sharp contrast we have today's 'smart' collars that immediately locate and send data about our pets, to 'smart phones'! In between times we had purpose-built collars. These give us an alternative insight into the many ways dogs have assisted us over time.

The Earliest Collars and Leashes

The first use of the collar and leash was by ancient Egyptians and Greeks when they used their dog's keen sense of smell for finding prey they could kill for food. Their Scent or Leash Hounds had some sort of early collar fastened around their dog's neck. Then a length of dried animal skin would complete the primitive equipment they needed to lead men on foot to the prey.

Collars for Protection

Livestock Guardian Dogs' CollarsLivestock Guardian Dogs' Collars

By the 13th Century AD well after the invasion of England, Romans brought Mastiff type guard dogs with them. While man was using armoured suits to protect himself from spears and other primitive weapons, dogs wore metal plates held together by leather which protected their throats, chests and bodies during wars and other battles.

Meanwhile Livestock Guardian Dogs which guarded flocks of sheep, goats and other domesticated species wore different collars again. These collars had large metal spikes like Turkish dog's collars shown, which protected the dogs' throats from injury should they be attacked by wolves or other wild animals.

Collars for Promotion

Schipperkes 1895Schipperkes 1895

As early as 1690 AD, dog collars were also used for promotional purposes. In Belgium in the 'Grand Place' of Brussels, shoemakers organized a competition to display their workmanship by making hammered brass collars for their little Schipperke dogs. These collars were fastened so as not to pull out any hair from the dogs' ruff. Worn only on Sundays, this display became so famous by the early 1800's, it was protected by the disciples of Saint Crispin. It was said that 'one might see a shoemaker going out without his wife or even his children but never without his Schipperke'. Also, that 'the shoemaker might forget to shine his boots, but he would never forget to shine his dog's collar'. Such was the pride in the workmanship displayed on these ornate collars. The Shows and other competitive events dogs wearing these collars attracted, existed well before the dog shows we know that judge the actual dog!

Collars for Communications

Airedale Carrying MessagesAiredale Carrying Messages

Dog collars used in communications is another complete story which extends until today. It began more than a century ago during early wars like the Boer War and World War One when brave dogs carried important messages contained within pouches sewn into their collars as shown. Before the availability of any other effective ways to communicate, the importance of all the different types of dogs that carried important communications during wartimes, can never be underestimated.

Extensive training was required to accustom these dogs to the routine. Their bases were so regularly moved, positive reinforcement training methods were described with dogs being rewarded with delicious treats of liver for returning to the last location from which they had been led! This was usually close to enemy lines amid constant gunfire and bombing raids. Dogs often wore gas masks and were required to cross busy roads and commute over unfamiliar rough and difficult terrain.

Modern Dog Collars

How times change! These days it is not uncommon for hunting dogs to be fitted with radio collars to 'track' their whereabouts. Additionally, there are bullet proof vests to protect working police and army dogs from firearms as well as stab proof vests for protection against knives.

But for modern dog lovers, the pet industry creates fashion collars. We may like to deck our dogs out in collars to match our own outfits. Or maybe a 'smart collar' which uses GPS and wi-fi to send data to our smart phones telling us not only where your dog is, but other data like whether your dog is sleeping or taking the exercise while you are not at home! Whatever use that may be!

Today historical, decorated dog collars are displayed in museums all over the world. They also are well sought after as collectable items. Considering just some of the uses for which dog collars have been adapted, gives us a better understanding of the different ways our dogs have served us over time.

References and Further Reading

Published as 2018 - Jane Harvey - 'Dog Collars Over Time - Published in Dog News Australia (Top Dog Media Pty Ltd Hoxton Park NSW NSW ABN 11 123 306 034) Issue 10, 2018, Page 8