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Do dogs have to wear collars?

Is it a legal requirement? Why do some dogs wear collars at all times and others don't?

black labrador

It is absolutely right to remove dogs’ collars whilst they are working

Gundogs are controlled with slip leads but it’s rare that you’ll see one with any sort of collar. So do all dogs have to wear collars? Is it required by law?

Out in the field you’ll see teams of working dogs under immaculate control and not a collar in sight. (See here for tips on teaching reliable gundog recall.)

The reason is that if working dogs wear collars  they could suffer an injury whilst they are doing their job. So any handler who has a collar-less dog is actually being very sensible.

Do dogs have to wear collars? Quite simply no.

However it is true that The Control of Dogs Order 1992 requires every dog while “on a highway or in a place of public resort to wear a collar with the name and address of the owner inscribed on the collar or on a plate or badge attached to it” (including the postcode).

The penalty for failure to put a collar on your dog, in adherence to the law above, is a fine of up to £5,000. Any dog that is found without such a collar may be seized and treated as a stray under Section 149 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.


However there are exceptions. The law does not apply to any pack of hounds, any dog while being used for the following: sporting purposes; the capture or destruction of vermin; the driving or tending of cattle or sheep, official duties by a member of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, Customs and Excise or the police force for any area; emergency rescue work, or any dog registered with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

Sporting purposes would include shooting, beating, picking-up and gundog training, but obviously not travelling to or from any such activity.

No collars for dogs whilst working

It is absolutely right to remove dogs’ collars whilst they are working. It is too easy for a dog to get caught in cover or the collar to snag on a submerged root when retrieving from water, with fatal consequences. Sensibly the law recognises this.

This article was originally published in 2018 and has been updated.