Tips for Helping Your Dog Wear an Elizabethan Collar
The Elizabethan collar, or e-collar, is every pet owner’s worst nightmare.
The large, clunky piece of plastic, often called "the cone of shame," is a necessary evil that will prevent your pup from re-injuring himself after a surgery or accident. But living with him during this time is hard work. Here are a few tips to help you and your dog survive this dreadful experience.
Be His Guide Person
Much like a guide dog is supposed to help direct a blind person, your job as owner is to help your pup navigate the world with his new accessory. It’s easy to get frustrated as he bumps into walls, stairs, doorways and your legs, but he needs your help to see more clearly. Rather than let him wander into a wall, make sure you gently guide him toward the center of openings and through hallways.
Train Him to Walk
One problem with the cone of shame is that dogs tend to walk with their nose to the ground, causing them to bump the e-collar repeatedly and get stuck. Take a treat and hold it in the air above him. This will encourage him to keep his head up while you walk so he won’t drag the floor. Training doesn’t have to stop just because he got injured or neutered.
Make Eating Easier
Depending on your dog’s size and the size of his e-collar, getting his muzzle into a food bowl could be a problem. Pull the bowl away from the walls to give him more room. If the cone prevents his mouth from reaching close enough to the ground, invest in a raised bowl that’ll give him more access.
Remove it Sparingly
An e-collar should never be removed if you can avoid it, but sometimes you don’t have much choice. If your dog just can’t seem to get the hang of eating with the cone on, it’s okay to take it off. Supervise him closely as he eats, then put it back on right afterward. If he tries to get at his wound or sutures, put it back on immediately. Never take his collar off when he won’t be within sight, even at night.
Avoid the Dog Park
Your dog will want to play within a day or two of his surgery but he needs more time to heal. Keep him or her away from the park and other places where he could get too excited. His e-collar could cause damage to another pup or he could pull his stitches. Keep playtime at home short and less strenuous than usual.
Ridding the house of obstacles will help your dog navigate. Set aside furniture that the dog could easily run into until the collar comes off; you should be able to get by without a coffee table for a couple of weeks. Move his bed to an area that’s easy for him to get to without anything around he might bump into. Also, hide the breakables.
Wear Him Out
Your dog shouldn’t be allowed to bounce off the walls while he has the e-collar on but that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise him. Walks are a great way to burn off excessive energy so feel free to take him on a few throughout the day. The more tired he is, the less likely he’ll be running around the house knocking over lamps and pictures.
Carry Him When Needed
Hopefully you’ve been hitting the gym, because your pup might need you to lift him a time or two during this period. Letting your dog jump into an open car door is a recipe for disaster, so give him a lift. You might also have to carry him up the staircase for the first day or two until he gets the hang of climbing with the cone.
Opt for a Different Brand
The plastic cone of shame isn’t the only option. You’ll pay more for alternatives, but some dogs do better with softer cones or inflatable ones shaped like donuts. Be careful, though, because they don’t always provide the best protection depending on where the sutures or wound is located on your pup. Always monitor your dog with any store bought e-collar alternative; he’s sneakier and more flexible than he looks.
Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible.