Mankind has been using dog collars for hundreds of years. They’ve been used as fashion statements, protection for the dog, restraint, training tools and status symbols.
Images of dog collars can be found in Egyptian paintings dating as far back as 3,500 B.C. These collars were made of leather and contained the dogs’ names and often were stylized in the art of the period.
In ancient Greece, dogs were often guardians of livestock. To protect their necks against predators, dogs were fitted with leather collars spiked with nails.
The ancient Romans were loyal and devoted to their dogs. Legend has it that Caesar publicly rebuked the masses for showing more devotion to their dogs than their children. A mosaic has been unearthed depicting a dog with a fancy studded collar and leash.
Recently, scientists used infrared on the collar of a preserved dog found in the ruins of Pompeii. The collar was inscribed with a message expressing the owner’s appreciation to the dog for saving his life against a wolf attack.
The Middle Ages
Different dogs had different jobs in the middle ages and they wore collars reflecting their positions. Hunting dogs wore simple leather collars as a means of identification. Shepherd dogs wore spiked collars similar to the collars of the Grecian shepherds. Spiked collars were also used in the sport of wolf hunting. These resembled prong collars but with the prongs facing outward…and much sharper of course. The dog would be sent as bait towards a wolf, and though the collar was meant to protect the neck, the dogs were not expected to survive. Many dogs were sacrificed for this cruel sport.
Dogs fortunate enough to be owned by upper class ladies were kept not as companions, but as ornaments. They wore collars made out of precious stones and metals.
In the 1500s a middle class began to merge and people began to keep dogs as pets, rather than as workers or ornamentation. Simple, affordable, leather collars were made for these dogs. The padlock collar became popular during this time period. These were collars with padlocks attached to hinged metal and only the owner had the key. This was seen as a failsafe way of proving ownership if there was any question. Assuming of course, that the key was not missing or stolen.
The Industrial Revolution
By the 1700s, brass, silver and gold engraved collars became all the rage. These collars displayed the owners name and witty sayings.
Some collars made from precious metals or leather would have ornate bells as decoration.
Today’s collars run the gamut from utilitarian to designer wear. They come with flashy stones, expensive baubles, or even multi-million dollar diamonds. They can be made from hemp, for environmentally conscious dog owners, or leather, nylon, pleather, or vinyl. They can be reflective to keep your dogs safe at night. They can be used as punishment, identification, or style.
It is interesting to note that people throughout the ages have adorned their dogs with everything from basic, brutal, to designer collars depending on the attitudes of the owners and the jobs of the dogs. There really is nothing new under the sun.