To take your dog into a public place it must be properly attired, writes David Tomlinson, looking at the latest options in canine neckwear

It is a legal requirement for dogs in public places to wear a collar, with the name and address of their owner. David Tomlinson considers the best gundog collars.

For more on gundogs, David Tomlinson considers what’s in a gundog’s coat colour. Read best gundog coat colour: colour coding.


There’s one law that I suspect most owners of sporting dogs have broken on numerous occasions, and that’s the legal requirement for a dog in a public place to wear a collar with the name and address of its owner engraved or written on it, or engraved on a tag. A telephone number is not required but is advised. Failure to so equip your dog can leave you liable to a fine of up to £5,000, although I would be astonished if anyone has ever been charged such a sum.

Like all good laws, there are exceptions. Emergency rescue dogs and registered guide dogs are exempt, as are dogs being used by a member of HM Armed Forces, the police or HM Customs and Excise. Sheep and cattle dogs are allowed to work without a collar, and so are hounds and gundogs. However, do note that gundogs can only go collarless when they are actually working; if you take your dog for a stroll across the common, or even into the pub, it should be collared and tagged.

There’s a good reason why working dogs are exempt from wearing a collar and that is, of course, the risk of them getting caught or hung up while working in thick cover or even navigating their way over or through a fence. I have seen many working gundogs wearing collars over the years but never yet seen a dog get trapped by one, although it clearly can happen.

There is a common misconception that a microchipped dog doesn’t need a collar. Since April 2016, all puppies have to be microchipped before they are eight weeks old and the onus is then on a dog’s new owner to update the information to the relevant database, of which there are several. Microchipping is a great advance but it isn’t 100% reliable. Chips can migrate and so be difficult or impossible to read, while specialist equipment is needed to read them. This is a case where old technology scores over new. A lost dog wearing a collar and tag is easy to return to its owner.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have never lost a dog, and for years I was lax about insisting that my dogs wore collars when being exercised. Like most gundog owners, I’ve always used rope-slip leads, so there was no need for a collar to clip the lead to. What made me change my unlawful ways was a wayward spaniel that on a couple of occasions ran off while on a walk (she was pursued and eventually retrieved) and another spaniel that became deaf, so was prone to heading off in the wrong direction.


Twelve years ago I invested in a pair of top-quality, bridle-leather collars for my spaniels. Bridle leather may cost more but it repays in the long run. These collars have been remarkably durable and are just as good today as when I bought them, though they have been cleaned regularly with saddle soap, the secret to such longevity. The dogs now wear them all the time unless they are working.

There are numerous makers of dog collars, as I discovered when looking for one for my sprocker, Emma. Her nylon puppy collar was due for replacement but she needed a smaller size than the springer collars I have. After a great deal of research I eventually bought her a pair of collars (one round, one flat) from Bellman and Flint, having seen the company’s advertisement in The Field. Very smart they are, too.

Conventional round engraved tags that attach to the collar with a metal ring may be cheap and cheerful, but they have a remarkable ability to wear through and get lost, so you can all too easily end up with a collared dog without identity. The best solution I’ve come across is the Indigo Collar Tag. These are indestructible engraved metal tags that slide onto the collar. They don’t rattle, can’t fall off, don’t rust and the engraving doesn’t fade. Like the collars, mine have lasted 12 years and still look as good as new. Indigo Collar Tags are guaranteed for the life of the dog, but they should last much longer: mine are now on the next generation of dogs.

A relatively new development in the canine world is the tracker collar, using a GPS system so you can see from a map on your smartphone or computer exactly where your dog is. If you’ve got a well-trained dog with good recall this is something you don’t need, but if you have a dog that likes to hunt in the next county it’s a useful piece of kit. It also has practical uses in the sporting field. Many falconers use tracker collars on their dogs so they can locate the dog quickly when it is on point. It’s also invaluable with dogs used to find wounded or shot deer.

The cost of GPS tracker systems are relatively modest, starting at around £50, plus subscription fees – the GPS requires a mobile network to send the location of your dog to your smartphone. These fees vary, but expect to pay around £50 a year. The only drawback to the system is areas with poor mobile coverage. I once encountered a couple who had lost their tracked (rescue) dog, but as there was no mobile signal they were frustratingly unable to locate it. Modern technology is wonderful, but not infallible.