How to Make a Dog Cone More Comfortable

Dr. Joe Alcorn, M.S., D.V.M.

Dr. Joe Alcorn is founder of Care Animal Hospital in Temecula, California. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and his advice has been featured in large publications like Bustle and Martha Stewart.

Home » Blog » How to Make a Dog Cone More Comfortable

If you don’t know how to make an e-collar more comfortable, your dog will struggle with it. This can reopen their wound or stitch from constant scratching or licking. With years of experience in post-surgical care, we’ve created this guide for all dog owners to help their pups get accustomed to the cone and have a comfortable recovery.

How to Make An E-Collar More Comfortable for Dogs

The first step to making the e-collar more comfortable for your dog is to make sure it’s not too tight and make it softer by adding a cushion. You may want to add a calming component for them and make food bowls more accessible

A long-haired dog wearing a cone

Clear routes by removing obstacles and keep your dog busy with food puzzles. We highly recommend showing some extra love through treats and physical affection to help comfort them even more.

Most importantly, stay calm and patient as your dog adjusts to the e-collar. While some dogs can adjust quickly, other dogs still need assistance.

How The E-Collars Affects Your Dog

While the cone, or “cone of shame”, is meant to protect dogs during recovery, traditional cones can hinder their ability to move comfortably. Plastic cones are the most common type used by a veterinarian. Their rigid design often bumps into objects, walls, or even your dog’s back legs, causing frustration and potential injury.

A distressed pup or agitated dog may attempt to remove the cone by biting or pawing at it. Dogs who are uncomfortable in their cone may refuse to eat or drink properly. This may result in dehydration and nutritional deficiencies that hinder their ability to heal and regain strength.

How To Help Your Dog Get Comfortable With The E-Collar

As a pet parent, you can help your dog adjust to wearing a cone and make them as comfortable as possible during this challenging time. This is important to help them recover faster and to not cause any further damage. Consider these tips to help them get comfortable:

1. Keep the Cone On

The first step to making cones comfortable for pets is to keep them on. It prevents them from using their head or mouth to scratch or lick the affected area, which could further irritate the wound and undo the treatment from a vet.

2. Keep Them Busy

Keeping your dog preoccupied is another way to protect your dog during recovery. Try focused activities, like food puzzles and mind games, to take their mind off the cone.

3. Extra Cuddles

Recovery can be a stressful time for pets as they won’t be able to move or do things they usually do. They may try to lean on you for security, so make time for extra cuddles and let them find physical comfort.

A black puppy wearing an Elizabethan collar

4. Clear Route and Remove Obstacles

One of the best ways to make a dog cone more comfortable is to remove obstacles the cone can hit. Push chairs in and clear a space at home. Guide your dog when walking through a door frame or hallway.

5. Provide a Comfortable Bed and Better Access to a Feeding Bowl

Place the bedding at ground level and make it extra comfortable using a pillow or rolled blanket to prop your pet’s head. Switch to a shallow bowl in the meantime, as the cone will make it tough to eat from a deep bowl.

6. Use a Calming Component

A study shows that 77% of pets experienced bad mood and behavioral issues when they had to wear an e-collar. My vet clinic offers calming components, like gel, patches, balms, and anti-itching sprays to prevent your dog from scratching the neck area. These items provide aromatherapy to reduce stress-related behaviors like restlessness, barking, or jumping.

7. Give Rewards and Positive Reinforcement

Use tasty treats as rewards for your dog for keeping the cone. Make sure to include praises, as these simple actions would show dogs they’re doing the right thing.

8. Stay Patient

A calm demeanor and patience can put your dog at ease while wearing the cone, as pets may feed off their owners’ energy. Approach the situation with a positive attitude to help your dog feel more comfortable and heal quicker.

Why Does Your Dog Have to Wear a Cone or an Elizabethan Collar?

After surgery, your dog’s instinct is to lick or bite at the fresh incision site. This behavior can pull out stitches, reopen the wound, develop infections, and introduce bacteria into the surgical area. It may potentially cause infections that delay healing or even require additional surgery from a veterinarian.

Wearing a dog cone serves as a barrier, keeping your dog’s mouth away from the wound, and allowing it to heal properly without further damage or infection.

Most Common Procedures that Warrant A Dog Cone

Whether you have a pup or an adult dog, they need to be diligent about wearing a cone after these common procedures:

Dog with a dog cone
  • Spay or neuter surgery: The most common operation for a dog or cat, where preventing licking is critical to avoid reopening the incision and causing infection.
  • Orthopedic surgeries: Ligament repairs or hip surgeries, where the cone prevents your dog from chewing stitches or licking the large incision.
  • Dermatological procedures: Like tumor removals or skin grafts, the cone stops your dog from irritating the sensitive, healing skin.
  • Dental care and tooth extractions: To keep your dog from pawing at the mouth or rubbing it on surfaces.

Alternatives to the E-Collar

A plastic cone is the most common type of cone a dog or cat wears after major treatments, especially surgery. Recovering from surgery can be distressing, so as a pet parent, this is when you have to go the extra mile to keep your pet comfortable and happy. As a veterinarian, I also consider using these softer alternatives to the e-collar.

Inflatable Collars

An inflatable e-collar resembles soft, donut-shaped neck pillows that are less intrusive alternatives to conventional plastic hard cones.

  • Pros: Less bulky, more freedom of movement
  • Cons: Can deflate over time, more expensive

Soft Cones

Soft cones often contain inner padding and are not as bulky as inflatable ones.

  • Pros: More lightweight, affordable option
  • Cons: Less sturdy, increased risk of accessing wound

Surgical Suits

Surgical suits offer full-body protection without restricting your dog’s ability to move, eat, or drink normally.

  • Pros: Unrestricted eating/drinking, fun patterns
  • Cons: More difficult for bathroom breaks, needs constant washing

Recovery Sleeves

Recovery sleeves cover an injury, making it easily accessible for cleaning or applying medication.

  • Pros: Targeted protection, easy to remove for treatment
  • Cons: Short-term use only, less effective for determined chewers

DIY Cone

For a budget-friendly option, you can create a homemade dog cone by modifying an old t-shirt or top to use instead of a cone.

Dog sitting on a lawn while wearing a white cone
  • Pros: Inexpensive, comfortable fit
  • Cons: Less effective than professional products, requires sewing skills

Related Questions

What Can I Use Instead of a Dog Cone?

Popular dog cone alternatives include inflatable collars that resemble neck pillows. You may also consider recovery suits or onesies that cover a dog’s entire body.

How Long Does It Take for a Dog to Get Used to a Cone?

Typically, most dogs adapt to wearing the cone within 24 to 48 hours, though some may take up to a week, especially if it’s their first time. The adaptation period while wearing the dog cone can be significantly shortened using comfort-enhancing techniques.

How Do I Get My Dog to Like the E-Collar?

To help your dog feel more comfortable with the cone, associate it with positive experiences by offering treats, gentle praise, and affection as they wear it. Additionally, make the Elizabethan collar more pleasant by adding soft cushions or calming components, such as balms or sprays for aromatherapy, so your dog feels less anxious and more at ease.


Gone are the days when the “cone of shame” had to be a traumatic experience for your dog. As long as you follow the recommendations of your veterinarian on how to make recovery with an e-collar more comfortable, you can lift your dog’s spirits while also setting them on the path to a quick recovery.