Does My Dog Need To Wear A Collar?

If you’re reading this post, you’re either a dog owner, or closely related to one. Or maybe you’re a prospective dog owner doing due diligence before bringing your new pooch home, in which case we hope to clarify the matter of collar wearing for you!

Collars and identification is a HUGE area of confusion for a lot of dog owners. But why?

Thanks to strong media campaigns following the introduction of the Microchipping of Dogs regulations in the UK in 2015, the vast majority of the public now know that their dogs need to be microchipped, and that they should keep their dog’s microchip details up to date.

But somehow, during all of this influx of information, the subject of dog collars and identification tags somehow fell by the wayside.

Willow the beagle shows off her new puppy-adolescent collar

Let’s answer the question of, “Does my dog need to wear a collar?” in the simplest way possible:


The wording of the law is very clear on this, and can be seen in its original form in Article 2 of the Control of Dogs Order 1992.

Wearing of collars by dogs

2.—(1) Subject to paragraph (2) below, every dog while in a highway or in a place of public resort shall wear a collar with the name and address of the owner inscribed on the collar or on a plate or badge attached to it.

The Control of Dogs Order, 1992

And the repercussions for ignoring this Article?

A fine of up to £2,000.

That’s your family’s next holiday to Tenerife, all for the sake of a collar and tag!

As we see here, it’s not just the wearing of a collar that’s important, it’s also the method of identification that goes with it.

“…with the name and address of the owner inscribed on the collar or on a plate or badge attached to it.”

In the eyes of the law, this is very clear. Your dog, when in a public space (which could potentially include your own garden), should be wearing a collar that either has your name and address written/inscribed on it, or your name and address should be inscribed on a plate or badge that is attached to the collar.

Is your dog’s collar and tag compliant with UK law?

But there are exemptions!

The exemptions, as listed on the website, are as follows:

(2) Paragraph (1) above shall not apply to—

(a)any pack of hounds,

(b)any dog while being used for sporting purposes,

(c)any dog while being used for the capture or destruction of vermin,

(d)any dog while being used for the driving or tending of cattle or sheep,

(e)any dog while being used on official duties by a member of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces or Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise or the police force for any area,

(f)any dog while being used in emergency rescue work, or

(g)any dog registered with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

Let’s take a moment to clarify those exemptions.

“Pack of hounds” relates to hunting dogs. Almost exclusively foxhounds. Potentially beagles. But if you’re reading this post, you’re almost certainly a pet dog owner, so this doesn’t apply to you.

“Sporting purposes” includes those sports which the wearing of an ID tag is deemed unsafe, so agility and hoopers or gundog work. In those situations you can either go collar-less, or opt for a flat plate/agility tag, which sits flush against the collar and poses less of a catching/choking hazard.

“Capture and destruction of vermin” should be self-explanatory.

“Driving or tending of cattle or sheep” will almost exclusively apply to working pastoral breeds such as border collie, welsh collie, Australian kelpie, or heeler/cattle dog. May also include other herding breeds such as German/Belgian shepherd or Rottweiler. It is ONLY when your dog is an active working dog that you are exempt. Pet owners of these breeds must follow the law.

“Official duties of HM Armed Forces/Customs & Excise or police force” should also be self-explanatory. If you have to ask, then this exemption does not apply to you.

“Emergency rescue work” typically relates to search dogs, whether they are SARDA, cadaver dogs, detection dogs, fire dogs, or any dog engaged in saving lives. Again, if you have to ask, this exemption does not apply.

Finally, “registered with Guide Dogs for the Blind Association” does what is says on the tin. You will know if your dog is registered here.

According to recent statistics, 27% of adults within the UK are dog owners, and there are over 10 million pet dogs in the UK right now. 99.9% of those dogs will NOT be exempt.

So put a collar on your dog. Put your own name, address and phone number either on the collar or on a tag attached to it. Unless you meet a very specific criteria, this is required by law.

A flat, agility tag is one method of identification available for your dog’s collar

Common types of ID you can use

1) A plain pendant tag. The most common option, often available from your local cobbler or key-cutter.
2) A barrel tag. Usually, the name and address of the owner is written on the paper inside, and then sealed within the barrel to protect it from the elements.
3) A plate/agility/flat tag. A flat tag which the collar is threaded through. Many agility organisations, including the Kennel Club, prohibit dogs wearing pendant tags from competing, due to the health and safety risk of the tag catching on equipment. A flat/agility tag is an acceptable alternative, and also less likely to snag and break off when your dog is running through the undergrowth.
4) Your name/address sewn into or written onto the collar itself. Check the stitching/lettering regularly to ensure it’s legible.

But I walk my dog on a harness! Does it still need a collar?

In the most literal interpretation of the law, yes. If you walk your dog on a harness, or a head-collar/gentle-leader, you would still need to ensure a collar and ID tag are present.

In practicality, an ID tag attached to a harness may be a suitable alternative and show compliance with the law. But the law was written before harnesses were commonplace, and hasn’t been updated since. So if you do decide to go with the harness and tag rather than collar and tag, you may still face prosecution and fine.

Why take the risk? Better to err on the side of caution and ensure that when your dog is in a public space, it is wearing a collar and ID tag even if your lead is never attached to the collar.

Want to know more about ID Tags and the law? Head over to for a full breakdown on what information to include on your tag.

What about in my home? Isn’t that a private space?

Whether or not you want your dog to wear a collar/tag inside the home is entirely your choice.

My own preference is, if the dog is crated at any point while unsupervised, the collar is not worn. This is due to an incident (and other anecdotal incidents) in which the ID pendent was caught between the floor and bars of the crate, and risked choking the dog. A collar without a pendent tag doesn’t have the same risks.

You’ll also want to consider your options if you are a multi-dog household. There have been a few reports recently on social media of lethal entrapment. That is, when the dogs are playing/play fighting and the jaw of one dog becomes trapped in the collar of another dog. This can end badly, with the dog(s) involved suffering broken jaws, asphyxiation, and even death.

Here at DWL, we have three dogs at home, and they do not wear collars in the house. When we had just a single dog, she wore a collar.

It is up to you, as the guardian of your dog, to weigh up the risk/reward of allowing your dog to wear a collar and tag in the house.

What info should I put on my tag?

According to the letter of the law, your dog’s collar or tag should contain your own name and your own address. It’s recommended to include your phone number for easy contact.

If you’re going on holiday with your dog, you could also include a temporary tag including your holiday address and mobile number, in case your dog strays while away on your jollies. There is no point the dog warden ringing a phone at your home that won’t be answered!

It’s not recommended to put your dog’s name on your tag, as this can be read by potential ne’er-do-wellers, and make it easier for your dog to be stolen while out on walks.

Our own dogs have our name, address and telephone number inscribed on one side of the tag, along with our vet’s address and telephone number on the opposite side of the tag. Our registered vet should know how to get hold of us in case of emergencies!

You may also wish to include any vital health information about your dog, such as any life-threatening allergies or medications required, in case your dog is found by a well-meaning member of the public.

a terrier, a beagle and a collie sitting side by side in a field
The Dog Ways pack always wear their collars and ID tags while out in public!

We hope this clarifies the matter of collars and identification for you.

To summarise, when out in public, always ensure your dog is wearing a collar and ID tag, even if you walk your dog on a harness or head collar.

You can remove the collar and tag if participating in one of the exempted activities.

Consider your own home situation carefully when deciding whether your dog(s) should wear a collar and tag inside your home.

Happy walking!