Skip to Content

What if my dog hates the cone?

Getting your dog to wear the cone of shame after surgery or injury can be a frustrating experience for both you and your pup. The plastic collar is designed to prevent your dog from licking or biting wounds, but it’s unnatural for your pet and may cause stress or discomfort. As a dog owner, you want what’s best for your pet, but you also need to ensure proper healing. So what should you do if your dog absolutely hates the cone? Here are some quick answers to common questions about dogs and cones, as well as tips for making the cone experience easier on both of you.

Why does my dog need to wear a cone?

Veterinarians generally recommend having your dog wear an Elizabethan collar, or e-collar, following surgeries or injuries to prevent them from disturbing sutures, licking wounds, or causing further injury. The cone prevents your dog from being able to reach problem areas on their body while still allowing them to eat, drink, and navigate comfortably. It may seem cruel, but it’s an important part of the recovery process.

Are there alternatives to the cone?

There are a few alternatives to the classic plastic lampshade cone that may be more comfortable for your dog. These include:

– Inflatable collar – This looks similar to the plastic cone but is made of soft fabric. It can be more lightweight and less awkward.

– Bite-not collar – Made of rigid plastic or foam, this donut-shaped collar fits around the neck but allows more peripheral vision.

– Body wrap/suit – For injuries to paws or the torso, a pet recovery suit may work instead of a collar.

Talk to your vet to see if one of these alternatives could work for your dog’s specific injury and temperament. However, the plastic cone is usually the most effective and difficult to remove.

How long does my dog need to wear the cone?

The length of time your dog needs to wear the cone will depend on the location and severity of the injury or surgery. Most dogs need to wear it for 10-14 days post-procedure, or as otherwise instructed by your veterinarian. Prematurely removing the cone risks complications, so be sure to keep it on for the full recommended period.

Why does my dog hate the cone so much?

There are several reasons your dog may dislike the cone:

– It feels unnatural and restricts movement and vision.

– It prevents normal grooming behaviors like scratching and licking.

– It may cause anxiety from the inability to see surroundings well.

– It can get caught on things and be clumsy.

– It’s uncomfortable to eat and drink with the cone on.

– It may elicit laughter or teasing from family members.

So the dislike is understandable! But you’ll need to power through the cone period for your dog’s health.

Tips for Helping Your Dog Adjust to the Cone

Here are some tips to make cone life more bearable for both you and your pooch:

Take it slow

Don’t just slap the cone on and expect your dog to immediately accept it. Introduce it slowly so they can get used to the feeling and restrictions. Place it nearby so they investigate it, offer treats inside it so they stick their head in willingly, and build up time wearing it in short increments with praise and rewards. Taking it slow can dramatically reduce stress.

Offer tasty distractions

Give your dog a stuffed Kong or other long-lasting chew treat when they first get the cone so they associate it with something positive. The distraction can help minimize pawing at the collar. Continue providing puzzles, chews, frozen foods, and other high-value items during cone time to take their mind off the frustration.

Adjust fit as needed

If your dog is very distressed, the cone may be fitted incorrectly. It should not rub or dig into the neck but still prevent licking. You can add foam pads for comfort. Check sizing and make adjustments to find the best fit.

Take breaks

Unless your vet advises otherwise, it’s okay to remove the cone for brief periods while your dog is under direct supervision. This gives them a chance to scratch, groom, eat and drink normally. But keep the cone on at night and when unsupervised to avoid complications.

Watch for changes in behavior

Your dog may become withdrawn, depressed or anxious with the cone. Look for changes like refusing food, hiding, or loss of interest in walks or play. If this happens, take steps to rebuild confidence like extra affection and mental stimulation. Seek advice from your vet if changes persist.

Keep environments clear

The cone can make navigating difficult. Ensure your home has wide pathways through rooms and that dangerous objects are removed. Block access to stairs or high furniture if necessary – falling could seriously injure your dog. Go slowly on walks and keep close control of the leash to avoid mishaps outdoors.

Help them sleep comfortably

The cone may make it difficult for your dog to get settled at night. Provide soft bedding that contours to the cone shape. You can also try a kids’ travel neck pillow or rolled towels to cushion the edges. White noise, calming treats, or pheromone diffusers can also aid sleep.

When to Call the Veterinarian

Despite your best efforts, some dogs just will not tolerate the cone at all. Excessive pawing, attempts to remove the collar, hiding, lack of appetite and lethargy signal serious distress. If your dog seems miserable or you’re unable to manage the cone situation, call your vet right away to discuss next steps. They may suggest:

– Prescription anti-anxiety medication to increase tolerance.

– An alternative recovery collar option.

– Additional behavioral modification techniques.

– Recommendations for sedation when the collar must be worn.

– In some cases, collar removal may be possible if an owner can provide constant supervision. But discuss the risks thoroughly first.

Don’t force your dog to suffer needlessly – veterinary guidance is important for dogs extremely distressed by cones. But many dogs do gradually adjust with time, patience and TLC.

Preventing Future Cone Use

Once you make it through the recovery period, you’ll likely want to avoid ever going through cone frustration again! Here are some tips:

Keep wounds protected

Prevent your dog from developing injuries, hot spots, rashes or post-surgical wounds that require the cone in the first place. Some ways to do this include:

– Regular grooming to maintain skin and coat health.

– Keeping toenails trimmed to prevent scratches from overgrown nails.

– Using dog boots on outdoor adventures to avoid cuts on foot pads.

– Removing foreign objects like foxtails, burrs or grass awns that become embedded in fur.

– Controlling pesky insects like fleas or mosquitos that cause skin irritation.

– Ensuring prompt veterinary treatment for any wounds to avoid self-trauma.

Use alternatives for mild issues

For minor issues like mild rashes, you may be able to avoid a cone with other options:

– Oral medications to reduce inflammation and itch.

– Topical sprays or ointments with anti-lick substances.

– Bitter apple or chewing deterrents on the area.

– Distraction with chew toys.

– An inflatable collar instead of rigid plastic.

– Onsies, t-shirts or leggings to cover problem spots.

– A body wrap or partial bandage over the area.

Discuss alternatives with your veterinarian to see if you can skip the dreaded cone next time!

Consider training

For dogs prone to obsessive licking, chewing, or scratching, training alternative behaviors can help minimize self-trauma incidents. Training programs like “lick mats” provide positive outlets using objects and textures they can lick or chew. Behavior modification can teach a “leave it” command to redirect biting or scratching. And addressing sources of anxiety or compulsion through training can reduce the underlying issue. Investing in training now makes cone-free futures more likely.


Though most dogs dislike the cone initially, the plastic collar plays an important role in healing from surgeries, injuries or rashes. With patience, creativity and veterinary guidance, you can find ways to help your dog adjust for the required recovery period. Prevent future cone use by keeping their skin and coat healthy, exploring alternatives for mild problems, and considering targeted training. But if your pooch does end up cone-clad again someday, remember these tips to smooth the transition and keep your dog comfortable until they’re back to their normal, cone-free self.