Ultimate Dog Collar Guide: How to Choose the Right Dog Collar

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37 Minute Read
 | Amy Dyck
Updated March 24, 2021

You might think a collar is a collar is a collar, but that's not true! This ultimate dog collar guide will break down all the different uses for dog collars and help you find the best dog collars for your pooch.

A good dog collar is safe, properly sized, comfortable, and most of all can keep up with your dog’s lifestyle. While any old dog collar will probably do the trick, the right collar will last longer and be safer for you and your dog. As dog owners, it is our responsibility to make sure our pups are properly fitted with a reliable collar with or without a leash attachment.

Different colours, materials, widths, sizes, and designs make hundreds of choices, but which one is right for your pooch? Many pet owners make common mistakes with their dog collar selection simply because they just don’t know which collar is best for their dog, or how to size it properly and use it safely.

We'll also go over dog collar troubleshooting, as well as common mistakes that pet owners make when choosing and using a dog collar and how you can avoid them.

How to Size a Dog Collar

Before you begin looking for dog collars, it is important to know what size your dog's neck is. A poorly fitting collar can lead to your dog getting off-leash, which can be very dangerous if you are far from home or in a crowded or unfamiliar situation.

The wrong size collar can also reduce the effectiveness of your training efforts. Certain collars designed to stop pulling and give you more control are basically useless if they don’t fit right. 

You may see collars labeled small, medium, large, etc, but each brand will have a different measurement for each of those terms. So don’t rely solely on these vague sizing labels. Measure your dog’s neck and look at the size of the collar in inches to see if it will fit your dog. 

Some collars are labeled based on the length of the collar instead of the neck size that the collar is suited for. So a collar labeled 14” might only fit a dog with a 10-12” neck size. Don’t just look at the main label on the tag, look at the actual measurements. 

Most collars are adjustable, so the measurements will be a range of the smallest to largest size the collar can be fitted to. This range allows you to buy a collar that can grow or shrink a bit with your dog. 

This is great for growing puppies, dogs that are losing weight, and dogs with thick double coats that lose a layer of fur each season. This will save you money in the long run if your dog is still growing. 

Tips for Measuring Your Dog’s Neck

Knowing how to properly measure your dog’s neck will help you find the best dog collar for their needs and activities. There are 2 simple ways to measure your dog’s neck:

measuring_dog_neck
    • Flexible or Fabric Measuring Tape

    • A string and a ruler

The easiest way to measure your dog's neck size is with a flexible measuring tape. Wrap the tape around your dog’s neckwear the collar will sit. You want it to rest against his neck, but not tightly.

If you don’t have a flexible measuring tape, then a string and measuring tape or ruler works in a pinch. Wrap the string around your dog’s neck, just as you would a flexible measuring tape, then measure the length of the string with a ruler.

To make sure you have an accurate measurement, here are a few best practices to follow when measuring your dog’s neck:

1. Measure Twice

There’s a smart saying when it comes to any kind of handi-work - measure twice, cut once. This rule can be applied to your dog’s measurements as well. Take the measurements twice. If you get different measurements, then you should take them again to get the most accurate one. 

2. The Two Finger Rule

properly_sized_colla_tajbv

When you put your dog's flat collar on, you should be able to fit two fingers underneath, between your dog's body and the collar. Use this method when taking measurements. Hold the measuring tape or string around the neck with one hand and slide two fingers underneath, flat against your dog’s neck. 

The measuring tape or string should not feel tight against your fingers. If they do, then loosen the measuring tool a little bit until it’s gently pressing against your fingers. This will add anywhere from ½ inch to 2 inches to your initial measurement. 

3. Measure Where the Collar Will Sit

Not all collars are the same. Depending on the purpose and style of the collar, it may be designed to sit at certain positions on your dog’s neck.

Most standard collars sit in the lower part of the neck, near the base, just before the neck starts to widen, but others like the collar part of a face harness, or show leads are meant to sit up behind the ears on the upper part of the neck. 

Alternatively, a collar that is meant to slide over the head, like a martingale, will need to either be wide enough when it’s loose to go over the widest part of the head or will need to be adjustable so it can be loosened to remove it.

Measuring all three parts of their neck/head will ensure you have the right measurements to find the right size for any collar. Here’s a basic diagram of the measurements you can take from your dog.

Dog Collar Sizing Chart

Dog collar measurements

Not every collar will be available in the size you need. Some types of collars are designed with certain breeds or sizes of dogs in mind. Check out our dog collar selector to see which collars are best suited for your dog’s neck size.Dog Collar Selector

Types of Dog Collars

When choosing types of dog collars for your dog, consider what your dog's needs are and his daily activities. You may like to have a few different types of collars on hand for various uses. The Petsafe Gentle Leader for example is perfect for leisurely walks.  

Knowing what each collar is best used for will help you find the right one or one for your dog and his regular activities. 

Standard Dog Collars

rcpets-collar-patterns

Standard dog collars are by far the most common. These collars are easy to put on and take off and can be as simple or as fashionable as you please, and are often some of the more comfortable dog collars. A standard collar is best used for dogs who don’t pull, can be off-leash, or just need something to hold their ID tags. 

Free Shipping - Pet ID Tags

Even when other walking accessories, like harnesses or backpacks, are used, a simple collar is still recommended to hold ID. Collars also give you something to grab quickly if you need to stop your dog from bolting, or if you need to safely remove him from an unsafe situation. 

Here are a few different types of standard collars you might want to have for your pooch. 

Basic Dog Collars

ruffwear-collarBasic collars are generally nylon or leather and come with plastic or metal buckles. They are available in a wide variety of styles, patterns, and even materials. A basic collar is typically worn all day and even at night. They should be a comfortable loose fit, lower on the neck. 

There isn’t anything particularly fancy about a basic collar and they are usually pretty cheap so that they can be easily replaced as your dog outgrows it or the collar wears out. 

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LED Dog Collars

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LED dog collars, such as the Nite Ize Nite Dawg Collar, are ideal for when you walk your dog early in the morning or in the evening when it is dark and can be especially if you are camping or hiking with your dog.

These collars provide either solid or flashing lights, as well as reflective materials so that cars and other pedestrians will be able to clearly see your dog when you are out for a walk.

Many standard nylon collars include reflective safety strips too. As an alternative, you can also find attachable lights or reflectors that fit most collars.

Nite Ize Accessories

Water Proof Dog Collars

kurgo-muck-collarWaterproof collars are highly sought after for pets in wetter climates, and for outdoor summer activities. The soft material of waterproof collars is comfortable enough to be worn all the time, or just for rainy days, and activities like water sports. 

This type of collar will be not only waterproof, but it will resist bacteria and be very easy to clean. Over time, bacteria in most materials will start to hold an odour, form mildew, and start to break down. If you have a dog that loves swimming, then you’re probably already familiar with that lovely lake smell that fabric collars emit. 

Waterproof collars are very durable and will not need to be washed or replaced as often as nylon or leather collars.

Like a standard collar, water-proof collars aren’t the ideal anti-pulling solution or particular geared for training, so use these like you would a standard collar. 

Shop All Kurgo Muck Collars

Training Collars for Dogs

Everyone has a standard collar for everyday use, but another type of collar that can be handy is a training collar. Training collars are used to teach dogs better walking behaviours, like loose leash walking, and to keep control of them in busy, stressful, and unfamiliar situations.

Not all training collars are the same, and their uses vary greatly. Training collars have the potential to be dangerous if used improperly, so if you aren’t sure how to safely use is, then you are better off doing some research, talking to your vet, or consulting a trainer before trying a training tool that could harm your pet. 

We’ll start with the safest options and work our way down the training collars that have the biggest potential for harm. 

Martingale Dog Collars

martingale-collar

Martingale collars are one of the most popular types of training collars because they are the most comfortable and the safest to use. This style of collar is designed to tighten or cinch up a little bit when your dog pulls, but then loosens comfortably when they are walking appropriately.

The most common martingale design uses nylon similar to a standard collar, and then a small section of a light chain is looped between two metal rings. 

Another version of a martingale collar uses a separate piece of fabric in place of the chain. They are desirable for dogs with long hair to prevent pulling any fur out. They are also lighter weight and are ideal for smaller breeds and dogs with skinnier necks. 

Most martingales don’t have a clip or buckle. They are designed to slide over your dog’s head. This means that they need to be loosened to fit over your dog’s head and then tightened to fit securely but comfortably around your dog’s neck. 

The Dangers of Martingale Collars

We did say that martingale collars are the safest training collar, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be misused. Because they do cinch when your dog pulls, training collars that are too tight can still cause harm to your dog’s neck. 

Using aggressive jerking motions with this type of collar is also dangerous. When used improperly, martingale collars can do more than just physical harm. Part of dog training is building trust and a sense of security, so if your dog is already very fearful by nature, a training collar may only cause more stress or anxiety. 

As force-free advocates, we know that using a punishment-based training approach isn’t the only effective training option, but that doesn’t mean that a training collar can’t be used safely and effectively. 

Martingale Safety Tips

Though this collar is the easiest training collar to figure out, these simple safety tips can help to make sure you are using it the safest way possible.

    1. Sizing is one of the most important factors in martingale safety. When sizing your dog’s martingale, fit it so that you can place 2 fingers underneath when the collar is slack. This will make it effective if your dog tries to pull.

    2. Martingale collars are designed to react to your dog’s motion. If your dog pulls, the collar tightens a bit. The collars were not designed for you to pull on the leash. Not only is this confusing for the dog, but it’s not always easy to tell how a quick tug on the leash could feel to your dog. 

    3. When your dog pulls, and the collar tightens, follow up with a verbal command, like heel, slow, or come to get your dog’s attention and ask him to return to a more acceptable stride. 

Check out How to Stop Your Dog From Pulling on Leash for more tips to safely correct your dog and teach better walking behaviours. 

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Dog Choke Chains

steel-choke-chain

Another very popular training collar for a dog trainer or pet owner is a choke chain. These full chain collars are designed to tighten when your dog pulls. Like the martingale, but there is no limit to how tight this collar can cinch. 

Choke chains are meant to fit loosely. They aren’t adjustable and they don’t have a buckle, so the collar needs to be big enough to easily slide over your dog’s head. This also means that when loose, the collar will hang down on their neck. 

Choke chains made of metal are heavy but can be found in different thicknesses and lengths to best suit your dog’s size. For an even lighter option, look for nylon chokes chains. These may be better suited to smaller breeds. 

Dangers of Choke Chains

Choke chains can be very damaging to your dog if not used properly, and they are rarely used properly. Unlike a martingale that can only tighten to a small extent, choke chains can tighten much further, leading to pain, neck and esophagus damage, and choking (hence the name). 

Some trainers still argue that they are effective for teaching stubborn dogs to walk well on a lead, but there are safer options out there, like the martingale collar. Many trainers have focused on force-free training techniques. This eliminates the need for choke chains, pinch collars, and remote or shock collars.

Choke Chain Safety Tips

Similar to martingales, choke chains need to be used correctly to be both effective and safe. Don’t pull back on your dog’s leash to stop him. Let him do the pulling and decide when to stop. 

Here are a few more safety tips for using a choke chain for your dog:

    1. Choke chains have a correct direction. When you drop the chain through the ring to make a loop, it’s designed to slide easier when pulled in one direction. This allows the chain to quickly slack when your dog stops pulling.

      If the choke chain stays tight even after your dog stops pulling, then it might be looped through backward. Before you put on the choke chain, hold it up and look at the shape it makes. It should look like a P. If it doesn’t, it’s backward. 

    2. Don’t leave a choke chain on your dog if you aren’t walking. Choke chains can easily get caught on fences, bushes, and even crate bars and could choke your dog. Unsupervised, this can quickly be a fatal oversight. 

    3. Consider the weather. Wearing a metal choke chain in a frigid prairie winter isn’t a good idea. Metal gets cold really quickly and even thick-coated breeds won’t want an ice necklace on their winter walk.

    4. The type of metal matters too. Cheap metals can stain oxidize and stain your pet’s fur. Look for higher-quality stainless steel or coated chains that will protect your pooches' beautiful coat. 

Prong or Pinch Dog Collars 

Pinch-Collar

A step further from the choke chain is the prong collar. Build similarly to a martingale collar, a prong collar will be a row of inward-facing dull prongs that rest flush against your dog’s neck, and a small loop of chain that tightens to pull the prongs together, and pinching the tough skin on your dog’s neck and scruff. This is a heavy-duty option for large dogs as well as small dogs who like to pull.

These are often preferred for bigger, sturdier breeds that have excess thick skin around their neck. Pinch collars are not a first step in the training process and are often an escalation for dogs that don’t respond to choke chains or other less invasive training methods. 

Dangers of Pinch Collars

The dangers of this type of collar seem a bit more obvious. The prongs are typically quite dull, but can still do significant damage if the dog is stubbornly pulling or if you pull back on the collar. Rubber tips are sold to further dull the prongs, but the risk of pain and damage is still very real. 

Pinch Collar Safety Tips

This one we’ll be quite blunt about - Unless you have the guidance of a professionally certified trainer, do not use a pinch collar. 

The risk is not worth the potential benefits. There are so many other training methods to stop your dog from pulling, so pinch collars should only be used if they are absolutely necessary and you are 100% sure you are using them correctly and safely.

A no-pull harness, and regular walking routine, and plenty of incentives are much more effective and safer in the long run than a pinch collar ever will be. 

Bark Collars (Shock-Free)

zeus-ranger-anti-bark-collarReactive and remote collars are becoming more popular too. These have more function than a typical training collar and are usually not used for correcting bad walking behaviour. They are mostly used to correct inappropriate barking. 

Remoteless collars have sensors that rest snuggly on your dog’s neck to detect barking and movement from the vocal cords. Remote collars can be controlled by you and can be used for behaviours other than just inappropriate barking. 

There are many variations of this type of collar. Spray collars are the most invasive and annoying of the three but are often quite effective for serial barkers. An unscented or strong-smelling citronella spray is used to break your dog’s attention and prevent unwanted behaviour from continuing. 

Vibration and ultrasonic collars work similarly, but instead of a spray, they either gently vibrate (like a cellphone vibration), or a sound that isn’t detectable for us, but your dog can hear it. 

Dangers of Bark Collars

The unique thing about these types of collars is that the chances of physical harm are much smaller. There is of course a risk of the collar being too tight and prongs being uncomfortable or chafing over long periods of time. 

The real concern with this training tool is the anxiety it can cause. These types of training tools are often used for more anxious barkers, and the spray, vibration, or ultrasonic trigger can be alarming. This collar can create more anxiety.

In the long-term, it may solve the initial behaviour problem, but has the potential to create more anxious, fearful, or even aggressive behaviours. 

Bark Collar Safety Tips

This is less about safety and more about best practices. These collars are typically safer when used properly, but can be ineffective if you don’t understand how to use them. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

    1. Bark control collars need to be properly sized to work effectively. If they don’t sit in place on their neck, then they can’t detect vocal cord movements. Most bark collars and remote collars are designed to comfortably or effectively fit dogs under 8 lbs or those with very skinny necks. 

    2. Don’t overdo it with a remote collar. You need to give your dog time to process and understand what the correct behaviour is, so if you are hammering the remote, they will not have time to associate the correction with their actions. 

    3. They should never be left on your dog if they don’t need it. Bark collars are often used when dogs are home alone, so when you are home to follow up with verbal commands or distract them with activities, then there is no need for the collar. 

    4. Because these collars have a milder effect, some dogs eventually learn to expect and ignore the response. Continuing to use the collar at this point is pointless. 

Shock Collars

petafe-100-yard-lite (1)

This is the most controversial training collar on our list. While some people see these as cruel punishment, others see them as an effective training tool for more extreme cases. Like any training tool, it’s up to you to decide which training tools are right for your pet, but this is one that we rarely recommend because of how rarely they are used correctly. 

Shock collars are built similar to other remote and bark control collars in that they have prongs that need to sit snuggly against your dog’s neck. These connection points detect vocal cord movement in non-remote-controlled collars and give an electric impulse through those same nodes for both remote and non-remote-controlled collars. 

Dangers of Shock Collars

If you are wondering if this shock hurts, the answer is yes and no. At the most basic level, think of a static shock., because that’s what these collars produce. You touch a doorknob or a metal chair and you get a small zap. It makes you flinch because it’s shocking, but did it hurt? Not really. 

But as the levels increase, that alarming shock can become painful. These collars aren’t designed to hurt, but rather to send a response to the brain signaling pain. 

Most collars have several levels of electric stimulation. Automatic collars may be set up to change the level of stimulation depending on how many times the collar is triggered in a row. 

So if your dog continues to display the behaviour, the shock may increase in intensity, up to a limited point, of course. With remote collars, you can set the level manually. 

Shock Collar Safety

When it comes to shock collar safety, knowing how it works and how to use it is key. Read the instructions, contact the manufacturer, and speak with your vet to make sure the collar is safe to use with your pet. 

    1. This is one collar that we only recommend as a last resort and with the guidance of a professional trainer. These devices are so easily misused that we almost never recommend them ourselves.

      Try other less dangerous training methods before you try a shock collar. And if you aren’t confident that you can use it safely, please don’t
    2. This, like other remote and automatic collars, need to be sized appropriately for them to be effective. They are not designed and should never be used on dogs under 8 lbs. 

    3. Shock collars are meant to be a short-term solution. They are used to stop a specific behaviour and help replace it with a better one. If the collar isn’t effective after a month or two, then you are either using it wrong, or it’s not the right type of training tool for your dog. 

Dog Training Collar Wrap Up

Many of these collars are popular because they tend to give quick results, and this is ideal for anyone that isn’t a professional dog trainer, but the short-term results are often fleeting. Worse, they could lead to behavioural issues in the long term. 

There are two things to keep in mind if you are considering a training collar for your dog:

  1. Learn how to use it appropriately. Do your research. Talk to your vet. And make sure you understand how dangerous a training collar can be if not used appropriately.

  2. All training takes time, but most training tools should produce results within a few weeks. If they don’t, then that’s a clue to move on. If your dog is not taking the hint, or if he stops responding to the collar, then it’s time to stop using it and try a different method. There is no sense in using a potentially harmful tool if it isn’t working.  

  3. If training collars are effective, or if you aren’t sure how to use them appropriately, then you are better off sticking to a different less invasive training technique. Harnesses are a great alternative tool to training collars. 

All of these training collars can be used safely, but they rarely are. This is in part because they don’t come with a set of instructions or a rule book. They are just labeled as a training tool with some idealistic claims of the benefits. 

dog-walking-loose-leash

Martingales are the most intuitive training collar, and there are safe options and best practices for most training tools, but if you don’t know how to use them, don’t. At least not unless you are willing to really research proper use, and if possible connect with a professional trainer who can work with you on how to use these tools safely. 

Training your dog is about building a bond of trust and loyalty. When improperly used, they can do both physical and psychological damage. 

At the end, how you train your dog is up to you. You need to choose the methods that are best suited for your dog and for you. Talk to your vet about your options, especially if you are dealing with behavioural issues, as they may be able to lay out more options for managing your dog training struggles. 

We love a good force-free training method, and we always recommend this path, but different strokes for different folks. Just make sure you know all your options before you invest in a potentially dangerous training tool.

Choosing the Right Material

Ok, it’s time to get more granular. Once you have determined the type of collar that would work best for your dog, you can look at what the collar is made of. Most dog collar types come in a variety of different materials, each with unique benefits and drawbacks. 

To help you understand the differences between the materials used in dog collars, here are some of the pros and cons of each.

Nylon

ultimate-dog-collar-guide-article-feature

Nylon dog collars are the most prevalent types of collars. There are a huge variety of patterns, colours, widths, and qualities within this dog collar category. Ideal for dogs to wear around the house, on walks, and for attaching ID tags, nylon collars are the multi-purpose, standard collar. Fashion-forward pets (and people!) can have fun with the myriad of styles and designs of the most common, but certainly not the most boring, of canine accessories. Better yet, this is great if you want a personalized dog collar.

Pros of Nylon

      • Inexpensive
      • Unlimited variety of patterns & designs
      • Easy to use, put on, and take off
      • Used in both standard and training collar designs

Nylon is the most common material for dog collars. It’s cheap and allows brands to offer a huge variety of styles, colours, and patterns. Nylon is a great choice for a basic everyday collar, especially for growing puppies. They are nice and light, so they are comfortable for dogs of all sizes. 

Cons of Nylon

      • Can become smelly over time
      • Less durable
      • Difficult to clean
      • Dogs can have an allergy or sensitivity to nylon

Cheap and convenient don’t always scream quality. Nylon collars are the least durable material on the list. Your dog can easily chew through this fabric collar and over time, the fabric will start to fray. It’s a good thing they are cheap because they will need to be replaced more frequently than other collars. 

They are also better at holding bacteria, and therefore they get really stinky. You can wash them, but the smell will return. 

Neoprene

neoprene_collar

Neoprene is a soft rubbery material that is used in wet suits, and it's reinforced with nylon webbing for added strength, stretch, and durability. Neoprene makes for excellent dog collars for dogs that spend a lot of time in the water.

While they aren’t completely waterproof, they are going to stay cleaner and hold less odour than a standard nylon collar. Check out the pros and cons of neoprene. 

Pros of Neoprene

      • Comfortable
      • Perfect for dogs that like to swim 
      • Fast drying (moisture-wicking)
      • Good for pets with skin allergies

Like a nylon collar, neoprene is a soft and flexible material, so they are comfortable to wear all day. The softer fabric is good for dogs with long, dense fur that can mat easily or get caught on other fabrics. 

Better than a nylon collar, they are ideal for avid swimmers and dogs that live in wetter climates, like BC. The moisture-wicking material dries quickly and stays clean. 

Cons of Neoprene

      • More expensive 
      • Bulkier than nylon
      • Limited designs

Though this is a common material for basic collars, it tends to be pricier than standard nylon, but for many, the perks are worth the extra cost. They can also be a bit bulkier than nylon, but that can also increase durability to some extent. 

Neoprene is not as widely available either, so you find fewer styles and patterns in the neoprene category, which is a downside for more fashionable pooches. 

Chain 

chain_collars

Chain collars also called choke chains, are metal, usually stainless steel. They are a heavier, and very sturdy collar material, and can stand up to dogs that play rough. These collars are also very easy to keep clean as they can be washed in warm soapy water. 

Poorer quality metals can tarnish or rust, so make sure you look for high-quality stainless steel. Some chain collars even come in fun colours. These are done with a chrome coating. While this looks nice, it may fade or rub off over time. 

Pros of Chain

      • Durable
      • Will not stink
      • Can be helpful for training stubborn dogs

Metal is definitely more durable than any other type of collar. They are thicker and heavier, but it’s unlikely that you’ll ever need to replace this collar unless your dog outgrows it. These collars are geared towards stubborn dogs that are struggling with their training, so they can be a useful training aid if used correctly. 

Being easy to clean, these collars can go just about anywhere and just get hosed off with your dog. No mess, no smell, no damage. 

Cons of Chain

      • Should not be left on unattended dogs
      • Not for extremely cold temperatures
      • Can be harmful if not used properly
      • Incompatible with certain leashes

The potential for harm with this collar is big, so chain collars should always be used safely. Never leave a chain collar on your dog unattended or in a crate, as it could become a choking hazard. 

Metal adjusts quickly with the outside temperature. Chain collars, whether they are for training purposes or not are, can get very cold in the winter, and very hot in the summer heat. Be aware of the temperature before letting your dog walk around with a metal collar.

Here is a quick video to help you make sure that you know how to use choke chains properly:

Leather

leather_collars

Leather dog collars are a classic, durable style of collar that provides a great balance of both looks and practicality. While more expensive than most collars, quality leather collars can be expected to last for years.

Make sure when you are buying your dog's leather collar that you choose a collar made from genuine leather. Bonded leather, while made from real leather, is a conglomerate of scrap leathers with a bonding agent to bind them.

This type of leather may look and feel like genuine leather, but it is not as durable and is an inferior product. While bonded leather would still be suitable for a dog collar, it won't have the same durability.

Leather collars can be found in both flat and rolled designs to best suit the animal. Rolled leather collars are generally recommended for dogs who have thick hair that easily mats around their collar. 

Pros of Leather

      • Durable
      • Good for pets with allergies or skin sensitivities
      • Natural material
      • Breathable (can help with the smell)
      • Easy to wipe clean

Leather is considered more of a luxury collar style. It’s pricy but for those that are looking for a durable but sleek design, then leather is the way to go. High-quality leather is also quite comfortable and is good for dogs that may have skin reactions to more common fabric materials. 

It’s also easy to keep clean. You can spot clean and wipe off mud and dirt, keeping the collar in good condition and free of that wet dog smell that collars tend to get. 

Shop Angel Dog Collars

Cons of Leather

      • Limited designs
      • Expensive
      • Can still become smelly over time
      • Coloured dyes can stain fur or bleed when wet

Cost is definitely a factor when it comes to leather. Real leather isn’t cheap, nor would you want it to be. Cheap leathers aren’t as durable and will come apart quicker. Stick to real bonded leather. 

Some leathers are dyed for fashion reasons, but in poorer quality products, those dyes can bleed and stain your dog’s fur. 

Faux Leather

Faux leather, also called vegan leather or pleather, is an inexpensive material that makes up a lot of cheap dog collars that are on the market. While collars made from this material may be less expensive and fashionable, they won't last as long or be as durable as standard leather. Avoid this material for everyday use, only using it for fashion collars (if you so desire).

Pros of Faux Leather

      • Inexpensive
      • Comes in many colours and styles
      • Can be a viable vegan option (not all artificial leathers are vegan, however)

Faux leather has one main purpose - Fashion! You’ll find lots of fun colours and styles in the faux leather category. Best of all, they are much, much cheaper than real leather. If you are looking to accessorize your pooch on a budget, then faux leather is the way to go. 

Cons of Faux Leather

      • Breaks down quickly; not durable
      • Cheap materials
      • Man-made materials
      • Coloured dies can stain fur or bleed when wet

If something seems too good to be true, it just might be. These cost-effective decorative collars aren’t without fault. They often use cheaper quality materials that aren’t as durable. You may see cracking and splitting in the leather much sooner than you’d like. 

Worst, the fancy designs and colours are much more likely to bleed when they get wet. This could lead to your dog’s fur being temporarily dyed in some funky colours for a while. 

Biothane

biothane collar (1)

Biothane collars are the ideal collar for dogs that love water. Biothane is made from a polyester webbing that is powder-coated with either polyurethane or polyvinyl materials and is 100% non-toxic. They are a great alternative to neoprene and leather, as they are softer, more flexible, and less expensive.

Biothane material is comfortable enough for everyday use, durable enough for any activity, and will not break down as other materials will. For dogs that are rough with their stuff, play rough with other dogs, or just manage to find ways to chew their collars, Biothane will hold up better than any nylon, neoprene or leather product. 

Pros of Biothane

      • Cheaper than neoprene and leather
      • Water-proof
      • Easy to clean and won't stink
      • Flexible and comfortable

Lots of people like biothane over leather products, because you get a tougher and cleaner collar for half the price. It stays dry, doesn’t hold an odour, and wipes clean. It’s the perfect colour for swimmers and dogs that love getting messy. 

The flexible material is comfortable for all fur types too, and it won't collect fur like nylon and other fabric will. 

Cons fo Biothane

      • Not as widely available as other collar materials
      • Cheap-looking

Though it has many benefits, Biothane might not be something you’ll find at your local pet store. Biothane materials are being used more commonly, but variety and availability might still be limited. While comparable to leather in durability and function, biothane tends to look like cheap plastic, so it’s not for everyone. 

Collar Features to Consider

To make sure you are choosing the best dog collar, consider some of the other features of the collar and how they may affect how effective your dog’s collar is. 

Buckles

buckle_type

Buckle style often comes down to personal preference, but there are some considerations to make. Plastic buckles are easier to put on and take off, but these can get brittle in cold temperatures and also lose integrity with weather exposure (sun and other elements), so plastic buckles may not be the best choice for outdoor pets.

Metal buckles are stronger and generally more secure. These durable buckles may be better for dogs who are prone to chewing their collars (or their housemates' collars) or larger, stronger dogs who pull more. 

Certain buckle designs, such as those in Rogz dog collars offer buckle locks to prevent colours from coming undone accidentally.

Colourfastness 

Every once in a while, collars will bleed the colours of the dyes into your dog's fur. This is most common with nylon and faux leather collars. This is particularly a problem with dogs who have sensitive skin or allergies. If this happens, consider a biothane or real leather collar.

Over time the colours of any collar will begin to fade, especially if they are washed routinely. Hand wash and avoid heavy detergents to prevent fading. Soaking nylon collars in a 5% vinegar and water solution to disinfect and break down dirt and grime.

Adjustability

For anyone with a growing dog, a dog losing weight, or dogs with thick undercoats that slim down during shedding season, having a collar with a range of adjustability can save you a ton of money. 

Nylon, neoprene and collars with plastic snap buckles will offer the largest range of sizes, sometimes as much as 6 or more inches. Leather and biothane are more likely to have a limited range of adjustability because they usually use a classic metal buckle. The adjustability will be limited by the number of notches in the collar. 

Decoration

Angel-athensIf you are looking for a collar that helps your dog show their style, then collars with studs, jewels, glitter, or even spikes might catch your eye. While these are pretty or fun, they can affect the durability and safety of the collar. 

Studs are often a sturdier decoration for collars as they are attached to the collar with rivets, but some cheaply made options are simply sewn or glued onto the collar. These poor-quality embellishments can easily fall off and could be ingested by a curious pooch. 

Spikes are a fun accessory to help your dog look tough, but the risk of harming themselves is high. The risk is especially high if you have multiple pets, or if your dog loves a good romp at the dog park. Keep this in mind when choosing a decorative collar. 

DIY Dog Collars

DIY-dog-collar

Photo Credit: K9ofmine.com

With the prevalence of Pinterest and pet blogs, DIY projects for pets have gained a surge in popularity, but there are a number of precautions that you should bear in mind when deciding to make or buy a homemade collar. Safety should always be your first concern when making a homemade project for your dog.

One of the worrying things about these types of collars is that they can contain inferior materials, including old leather belts (which are more porous than new leather used in commercial collars and prone to stretching), yarn, ribbons, nylon cord, T-shirt material, and more. 

While these collars may be cute, they may not offer the same strength and safety that a professionally made store-bought collar. The same goes for store-bought collars that are very cheaply made. Quality is always important.

Accessories Can Be Dangerous

It's also popular to add beads, feathers, sequins, bows, charms, treat holders, or other fashionable, decorative elements to dog collars, but these can be dangerous for dogs to ingest and should be avoided unless you are closely attending your dog.

Though you may choose to make a pretty collar for the holidays or a photo session, NEVER leave your dog unattended with a DIY collar or collar accessories. Homemade pet collars have not gone under any safety testing, contrary to most well-made collars. 

While DIY collars can be fun, only use these when the dog is under your supervision for their safety. It's not a good idea to attach leashes or ID tags to these types of collars, either.

Dog Collar Accessories

ruffwear-audible-beacon-adaptor-front-lightThere are a number of dog collar accessories, like the Ruffwear The Beacon (pictured above), that are made to complement your pet's collar for various reasons, including decoration, safety, storage, and more. Identification and city tags, charms, lights, and reflectors are very popular collar accessories, but avoid putting too many accessories on your dog's collar.

Accessories like treat compartments and poop bag holders are often available as leash accessories, and there are even dog backpacks for storage that you can get for your dog for hiking trips.

Avoid attaching anything unnecessary to your dog's collar as it can irritate or add stress to your dog's neck, or pose other risks such as ingestion. If you do attach something decorative or functional, only use it when you are with your dog and remove it when your dog is unattended.

Dog Harnesses Versus Dog Collar

Front-range-harness

Which is better a collar or a harness? To answer that you need to consider what you are using the gear for. 

Dog harnesses are an effective tool for walking, transporting, and handling your pet. With reduced stress on your dog's neck and increased control, harnesses provide better functionality than collars in many situations. They can be helpful for training and essential for dogs with slim necks, such as whippets or greyhounds, and brachycephalic or short-nosed dogs, such as pugs and bulldogs.

You don't have to choose between a collar and a harness. Collars are still more comfortable for pets to wear 24/7 and are recommended for almost all pets to wear with their ID tag at all times. Harnesses can be on hand for more controlled walks, easy trips to the vet, training, and more.

Like collars, dog harnesses come in many different materials and types, such as basic harnesses, car harnesses, and no-pull harnesses, and not every harness will fit every breed or body type. Choosing the right harness depends on your purpose for using it, how your dog walks, and the size and type of dog you are fitting the harness for. 

Find out more about dog harnesses in Best Dog Harness for Your Dog: Choosing the Right Gear.

Buying a Collar for your Puppy

Buying a puppy collar is a little different than buying a collar for an adult dog. Puppies experience quick and sporadic growth so you need to choose a collar that will grow with them.

puppy_collar

Here are a few tips to consider when buying a collar for a puppy:

  1. Buy a collar that fits well now. When buying your puppy a collar, you want to get the most for your money, but don't let a few pinched pennies put your dog at risk. Buy a collar that fits your puppy well at his current size.

    While you should keep the future in mind, the most important thing is that your dog's collar fits well at all times. A collar that is too big can fit over the dog's head, be chewed on, or even pose a strangulation risk. 
  2. Lay the one collar myth to rest. If you are fitting a collar for your puppy, you will buy another collar at some point in your dog's life. Very few dogs will fit the same collar from when they are a couple of months old through adulthood. Expect that you will need to buy another collar when your dog reaches adulthood (or perhaps before).
  3. Find a collar that leaves room for your puppy to grow. Puppies grow. Fast. While buying a cute and impossibly small collar might be tempting, it's better to choose a collar that will fit your dog in a couple of months.

    Puppies grow a lot, particularly in the first few months, so you want to make sure your puppy's collar is adjustable so that you can resize it as they grow. Usually, there is some overlap between sizing. If you can find a bigger collar that fits well, choose it over a smaller one that they will outgrow quickly.  
  4. Size your puppy regularly. 

Because of your puppy's rapid and unpredictable growth pattern, you should be sizing its neck at least every two weeks. You should be able to slip two fingers underneath your dog's collar at any time. 

Adjust your puppy's collar as needed or purchase a new one. Too small of a collar can choke your dog, cause skin irritation, or even obstruct breathing. If your dog seems like he is gasping for air or is having breathing issues, check to make sure his collar is not too tight.

Matching a Leash to Your Dog's Collar

leash

While the options for dog leashes can be as extensive as choosing your dog's collar, you should consider how your dog's collar choice might affect the type of leash that is appropriate for your dog. Conveniently, many leashes are designed to match perfectly with your dog's collar.

Most standard leashes are 6 ft long, but other styles of leashes like recall, retractable, and adjustable leashes are just a few of the many leash styles available. Choose the leash that best suits your and your dog's walking needs first, and look for fashion and style second.

Don’t Settle on Just One Collar

Ultimately, choosing the best dog collar for your pet comes down to five questions:

  1. What will your dog's collar primarily be used for everyday wear, fashion, swimming, walking at night, or training?
  2. What materials would be appropriate for your dog's collar function, your personal preference, and your dog's well-being?
  3. What, if any, considerations or accessories would enhance your dog's collar functionality?
  4. Is a dog harness appropriate?
  5. What kind of leash would work with my dog's collar?

If your dog has an active social life and participates in a variety of activities, then you shouldn’t settle on just one collar. A basic everyday collar is a staple, but training collars, light-up collars, or other styles are still good to have on hand too. 

Now you should be fully equipped to begin shopping for your dog's perfect collar with confidence, knowing that you have educated yourself, explored all the options out there, and weighed the pros and cons of each. You've been warned about common dog collar buying and using mistakes, putting your dog's safety and well-being first.

What type of collar works best for your dog? Let us know in the comments below.

Written by

Amy Dyck

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