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Hi all! Last night my Red Heeler, Cody, decided (out of the blue) that he did NOT want to wear a collar or leash anymore! To the point of extreme aggression and biting when we get close to his neck with the collar. I honestly have no idea what the problem is!

Note: We use a collar/leash combo. So he does not wear a collar continuously when he is inside. When I say leash, its also referring to the collar.

When I got home from work yesterday, it was business as usual. I let Cody out of his crate, put his leash on, and took him out for our normal walk/potty break. Several hours later, my boyfriend took him out and again, everything was fine. But then at about 10 last night, Cody started whining (which normally means he needs to go out). So my boyfriend went to take him out one last time before bed (which is what we do every night), and Cody instantly got aggressive when trying to put the collar around his neck. He jumped and tried to bite at my boyfriend.

We have a soft muzzle that we very rarely use when we take him out to places where he might get overwhelmed. (We've never had to muzzle at places like Petsmart or other stores, and we've certainly never muzzled him just to able to take him out!)

He took Cody out with the muzzle, but he refused to go to the bathroom with it on. So they came back in, the muzzle was taken off, and the same scene unfolded with the sudden jumping and biting! He is not biting hard enough to break the skin (I know he is strong enough to), so he is showing some inhibition.

We even tried putting his harness on. He let us buckle the straps around his belly, but he will not let us buckle the strap that goes around his neck/chest.

We were hoping to let him sleep on it, and maybe he would "wake up on the right side of the bed" today, but we were wrong! He will not even come up to the door if one of us is holding the leash!

I just don't know what to do or what caused his behavior! We can't do anything with him if he going to bite us every time we go to put anything around his neck. We live in an apartment and we can't even take him to use the bathroom if he is going to act like that! Not to mention all of the other things we do with him. We take him to the dog park at least 3 times a week and walk with him for at least an hour to an hour and half everyday. And on the weekends we do even more: swimming in the lake, hiking, extra time at the dog park, camping, walking downtown, you name it!

If Cody will not wear a collar we can't do anything with him, including taking him out to use the bathroom!

ANY ADVICE WILL BE APPRECIATED! I have no idea what to do with him!
 

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You need to see a vet.

This kind of abrupt change, and specific to a particular area, is all but screaming 'pain' to me. And it sounds like it's now something he associates with the leash causing.
 

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Yup, vet. That's a very abrupt change, and medical issues need to be ruled out. Would it be possible to use something like a slip lead and put it around his chest as some sort of restraint? Certainly not ideal, but you need to have something. Can you find a harness that does not require you to touch his neck?
 

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Yup, vet. That's a very abrupt change, and medical issues need to be ruled out. Would it be possible to use something like a slip lead and put it around his chest as some sort of restraint? Certainly not ideal, but you need to have something. Can you find a harness that does not require you to touch his neck?
Agree that a vet visit is in order, and a step in harness might work in the meantime. They fasten above the shoulders, with no need to touch the neck.

Yup, vet. That's a very abrupt change, and medical issues need to be ruled out. Would it be possible to use something like a slip lead and put it around his chest as some sort of restraint? Certainly not ideal, but you need to have something. Can you find a harness that does not require you to touch his neck?
Agree that a vet visit is in order, and a step in harness might work in the meantime. They fasten above the shoulders, with no need to touch the neck.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the advice everyone! I did some reserch into alternative collars and leashes today and after work my boyfriend and I went to petsmart to get some things. We got a martingale collar that doesn't have any buckles, a step in harness, some claming treats, and a package of new training treats ( to try to encourage Cody into letting us putting something in him). We got home and the first thing we tried was putting the martingale collar on him and IT WORKED! He didn't fight it all! Granted he was still in his excited mood of seeing us when we first get home, but he didn't fuss or try to fight us!

Next, came hooking his old leash (that he had such a problem with last night) up to the new collar. When my boyfriend picked it up is when he started to seem a bit uneasy and nervous. He didn't act nearly as severly as he did last night and this morning, but for some reason it seems like that leash is what he doesn't like. I have no idea why he would suddenly develop an aversion to a leash we've been using for 6 months, but hey if swaping leashes is the solution, I'll take it!
 

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If your dog is even a little uneasy at the new leash or harness or anything, even something as slight as lowering his head, you may see the same issue arise again. Dogs don't just randomly start hating something. Something about the old setup caused him discomfort. Maybe it was an unintended association at some point. Maybe, like a lot of dogs, he never really liked being geared up and reacted once and learned it worked. Regardless, I would recommend continuing to watch his behavior and educate yourself on subtle signs of stress in dogs so that you can look out for this in the future. I agree with the others in that I usually go the vet route when there is a sudden behavior change and no clear explanation.
 

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So three people said "See a vet" and you go with "different collar, kinda works, thanks guys" ?

I am going to FOURTH the suggestion of a vet visit. Sudden aggression that occurs when a very very specific spot of the body is touched screams pain reaction. Slipped disk for example, welt from a bee sting on his neck, pinched skin from buckle on the more common side of things.

A collar and leash combo makes me think slip lead? Also possible that an accidental hard correction or two mighr have occurred.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
One, I can't immediatly take him to vet. I have an alternative to work in the mean time. If I can't put a collar on him, how can take him to the vet? I want to take him but i had to find a solution to work in the mean time.

Second, i do not use a slip lead. It is a leash with a buckel.
 

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Sorry. I see the dog is 18 months old.
I too say a vet visit is not out of line.

How are you approaching this dog? These are smart, strong dogs. If you are approaching tentatively and without confidence and he has found that barking and other behavior gets you to back off it will escalate. Approaching tentatively and without confidence is "creepy" to the dog. Now if you are also afraid, he knows it and has your number.

A confident, no nonsense approach with a martingale collar with the leash already attached is what I suggest. Simply walk over and smoothly and quickly (with no overtly fast or jerky movements) slip the collar over the dog's head and then stand up and move out with a happy, "Let's Go Buddy!!" and then just go. Do not bend over the dog. Do not say anything. Be clear. Be confident. Act happy.
 
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