Last Updated/Info Checked on October 14, 2023 by Scott
Choosing the right collar for your dog may seem like a great deal, and it is.
Factors such as the dog’s temperament and breed, collar material, fur condition, training requirements, and age matter a lot in making a decision. Get these factors right, and you’ll have a happy dog.
Otherwise, problems such as aggression, irritation, allergies, and overall behavioral mess-up can result from either using a collar too tight or too loose.
To choose a collar for your dog, measure its neck where it joins the rest of the body, and then choose the right dog collar width to make the dog more comfortable.
I’m going to discuss these factors in detail and take you through the information surrounding the topic to understand the process in a better way for how to choose the right collar for your dog.
So, stick with me, fellow dog lovers, because we’re here to make their lives better.
What Is The Purpose Of A Dog Collar?
A dog collar isn’t just an ornamental piece. You use it to identify your pet, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Owners also use it to restrain their dogs, spice up their looks, add medical information for strangers, warn strangers about their temperaments, keep them calm, and use ID tags to let people know who owns them.
How to Choose The Right Collar for Your Dog? A Definitive Guide Based On 6 Factors
As you read, there’s a lot at stake and there’s no room for error when choosing the right collar.
Most owners choose flat-buckled ID collars for their dogs and for good reasons. But no matter which one you’re going to choose, here are some things to consider to buy the right one.
I want to save you time and money, so stick with me.
1. Types Of Dog Collars
What type you choose depends on what you want the collar to do. They could be training tools or identification markers. You could use them to control the dog when walking and so on!
This is the usual collar you see out there on every dog’s neck. They come in varying sizes and shapes, but their functions remain either ornamental or just a way to add tags.
You’ll find many different materials used in making them, from leather to fabric, and it entirely depends on how heavy your pocket is or what you prefer.
I haven’t come across dogs with allergies to leather, but here’s where you should be cautious of what you choose if your dog has sensitive skin. Some materials, such as leather, could cause chafing on such a skin type.
Quick-release buckle collar
I won’t say they come straight from Mars because they are equally available everywhere. The only difference between these and the first type is the clasp or buckle.
Here you’ll find quick-release buckles that close when you insert the piece into the she-piece (these are my names) and close when you press on the sides of the piece. Come on; you must have used them at some point in your life!
Mostly, you’ll find nylon collars with this kind of buckle because leather and plastic are kind of hard to close this way.
I like to think of collars as shoes for us. Each person has a different foot size. Likewise, each breed has a different neck size.
There are breeds whose necks are slender and long such as Greyhound and Dachshunds. Using normal collars on them is futile because you’ll either have to order a super tiny one or cut a bigger piece that may render a collar useless.
But you don’t need to do that in the first place. My clients, family, and friends who own long-neck dogs use martingale collars because they work.
This collar has a main body that wraps around the dog’s neck and then a small ring at the end where you add the leash. The wearer, when pulls on the leash, gets the main collar tight because the small ring gets pulled.
It saves the dog from choking if you’re wondering why the makers have to go to that length.
These collars come with a reinforced or protected tag area where you keep the dog’s identification for people to read or its medical information, such as allergies to certain foods.
One of the most efficient dog restraining devices, the choke collar, is used for big muscular breeds such as rottweilers or pit bulls.
They have a specific construction, much like martingale collars without the outer ring. A dog pulling on the leash causes it to get tighter around its neck to the point of choking.
Now it’s not too intense to kill the poor thing but significant enough to restrain it from pulling on the leash to run after a mocking squirrel.
Prong collar’s utility is the same as a choke collar. But this one is a step up from the latter for unrelenting dogs that don’t even care if they’re choked. They must get that mocking squirrel and teach it a lesson. Not so fast, says the prong collar.
It has fan-shaped blunt inward teeth that close in on the dog’s neck or “pinch it” to keep it from chasing anything.
Another restraining tool, the harness, is a collar for the neck and the body. Huge muscular dog owners use them to control their pets when a simple collar cannot do the job.
How, you ask? The harness has two parts: one tied around the neck and the other just above the front leg. Some models even have a third part that goes all the way down to retrain the hind legs.
When a dog pulls on a leash attached to the harness, you can better control it because you have the force points under control. This way, the pet understands that you have its command.
Mostly suitable for aggressive dogs, the head halter is tied around the head of a dog. As the name suggests, it secures that part and gives you its control.
It’s like having the dog’s steering wheel under your command. You pull on the head halter and move it anywhere you want or retrain it from places you don’t want it to go.
Shock collars are a relatively new addition to the pool of tech you could use to train your dog. They have a transmitter (the remote) and a receiver (the collar).
You use the remote to send signals to the collar for the stimulations to take place. Simulations are the corrections your dog receives.
Mostly, collars have three types of stimulations: Beep, vibration, and static shock with varying levels. They are all transmitted via prongs or contact points to the neck of your dog.
When you press a key on the remote, let’s say the static shock key is set to a benign level, and the transmitter shocks the neck via the prongs.
Now, I know what you think. Shock collars are the worst form of corrections there could be. That’s only true when the owners use them to punish their pets or let the children use their remotes without supervision.
They send shocks that exceed the dog’s capacity, and hence, they become aggressive, unkind, and eager to escape from your house.
Shock collars are tools of control, so if you don’t want the dog to go down the trajectory that I mentioned, you should use them only after educating yourself.
Throughout my time with dogs of all sorts and breeds, I’ve realized that using them within the bounds of dogs’ mental and physical health yields great results.
The stubborn dogs finally listen. Escape artists find peace at home. Couch rippers lure their interest in things you approve of. And so on.
The last type that I know of is the calming collar. These collars are made of fabric or other material and scented with a blend of aromatic herbs thought to calm your pet.
They are not dog-specific only, so you can count on them to calm your fussy feline.
Are they effective? In some cases, they are, especially when your feline pet has a catnip collar on.
2. Material of the collar
Collars are made of cloth, fiber, biomethane, plastic, leather, faux leather, steel, and nylon. These materials have their own pros and cons.
For example, the cloth or fiber collars will get dirty pretty soon, but they offer resistance to chewing.
Biothane is waterproof, but it’s a little hard. Plastic is durable but looks cheap. Leather is premium but costly. Faux leather is cheap but not durable. Steel is tough but could harm the dog if not properly used. Nylon is easy to put on but easily breakable.
You have to find out your sweet spot and hit it, especially in terms of choosing the material. I recommend biothane and nylon for shock collars, fabric or cloth for calming collars, and plastic, faux leather, and leather for the rest.
3. Temperaments or breed of the dog (different colored dog collars)
You should consider the temperament of your dog if it has a history of aggression with strangers or stranger dogs. Most owners use color codes for that and other temperaments or even conditions.
The red is for aggressive dogs, white for deaf or blind, orange indicates your dog isn’t good with other dogs, yellow shows that the dog’s nervous to please give him some space, green shows that he is friendly towards new people, and experiences, purple means he’s got allergies, so don’t feed him anything, and blue shows that he’s a working dog on a job and not here to play.
It’s not just the collar. You could also get leashes of the same color codes.
However, do keep in mind that not everyone understands these codes, so you may have to intervene to let them know what the dog’s like. Therefore, be ready always and in sight of your pet to stop some unpleasant things from happening.
4. Double-coated fur
You should also consider the length of your dog’s fur when buying them a collar. This becomes necessary when you’re using shock collars because long fur poses hurdles for the prongs to work in a better way.
Yes, most products do come with an extra pair of long prongs, and they are the ones to go for.
Besides length, there’s the question of single or double coats.
German Shepherds, for example, have double coats, one on the outside and the other one hidden beneath and used for insulation. It’s not advised to trim or shave the dog’s hair, so you better buy long prongs of the collar to work.
On the other hand, breeds such as the Dalmatians have single coats. They are good to go with short prongs.
The length or amount of fur of your pet will also dictate how tight you’ll be able to put on a collar.
I have seen some GSDs with pressed fur because the owners bought a tight collar. They looked as if someone was choking them. Not a good sight.
I have a written guide for German shepherd collars that I think you would like.
5. The dog’s training requirements
Dogs are like us when it comes to energy levels. Some are active, while others are couch potatoes.
As a trainer, I can vouch that it depends on the breed as well. German Shepherds are high-energy dogs. They require physical stimulation a lot. Then there are toy breeds, such as French Bulldogs, who aren’t too keen to go out and exercise.
But what has this got with the type of collar you should buy? Everything. A high-energy, active dog runs here and there, maybe into some bushes or thicket surrounding your house.
It may break the collar in the event and come back home like a stray needing love.
So, for that kind of dog, you should prefer buying leather, plastic, or biothane when going for a shock or ID collar. You could use other types when the dog’s sitting or when you aren’t training it.
6. Age or neck sizes
Age is another factor to consider. Collar manufacturers mostly produce collars that can fit every neck. They have a range to cater to by letting you snap the strap when needed.
This is true for shock collars, as not all manufacturers want to spend resources on producing a collar for each breed. So, look for a collar that stays true for a range of sizes or ages.
It’s important that you do so because the efficacy of some collars, such as the shock collar, depends on how snugly fit they are on the dogs’ necks. We use the two-finger rule to find that.
If the fingers fit in without much resistance or when more than two fingers fit, the collar’s not tight enough. But when the two fingers fit in between the collar and the neck just fine with little resistance, then it’s snug.
How Do I Choose a Collar for My Dog? Step By Step Guide
After choosing the right type and material based on your target use and age, here’s a step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Measure the dog’s neck.
The first thing to do is to measure the dog’s neck. You may have the previous collar at your disposal. Using it as a reference proves to make things easier.
- Place the collar and a measuring tape side by side on a table.
- Measure the collar starting from the place where the actual material starts. Avoid taking measurements from the buckle.
- Repeat the same on the farther end.
Considering the possibility that it’s your first purchase of a collar, here’s how to measure the dog’s neck.
- Take a reference material such as a phone cable to measure later with a measuring tape or use the tape itself.
- Gently wrap it around the dog’s neck at the place slightly above where it joins the rest of the body.
- Join the two strands to encircle the whole neck but keep two fingers between the material and the neck.
- The fingers shouldn’t feel too tight or too loose.
- Take the measurement.
Step 2: Choose the right width for the collar – Are Wide Collars Better For Dogs?
Besides the length, getting the right width is also paramount for the dog to feel comfortable with a collar around its neck.
It’s not hard to imagine that a wide collar will pinch or prod the neck of a toy dog, or a thin collar will barely be noticeable on a large breed.
Most collars come with the right length for the right breed, but you should still factor in your dog’s weight and the recommended widths. Small collars should have 0.5” to 1” width for up to 40 lbs.
Medium collars are 1” to 1.5” for 40 to 95 lbs dogs. Large and extra-large ones have 1.5” to 2” or greater widths for 90 to 250 lbs. These are recommendations. You could go beyond them by considering your dog’s weight that’s not given here.
What is the Best Collar for a Puppy That Pulls?
Puppies may develop a habit of pulling because they are little scientists, and they want to discover their surroundings without any intervention or hurdle.
You could manage that in a better way by using the right collar or harness.
I personally prefer a harness because it gives you greater control over a pup’s movements.
However, I do not prefer or recommend using force with the puppy in his years of play. Before buying any collar to stop it from pulling, I suggest you find the reasons for its pulling.
The harness or collar could be hard on its neck. The puppy may be pulling it as a reaction to you tugging on the leash, or it may not be used to the collar at all.
Getting a Puppy Used to a Collar
You should consider the following steps to get used to a collar.
- Step 1: Keep the collar and the leash in your hands at all times when you’re interacting with the dog.
- Step 2: Let it sniff and play with it but not to the point of chewing.
- Step 3: Introduce the collar along with its favorite toys.
- Step 4: Put it on the dog for a period of time until it shows signs of agitation.
- Step 5: Gradually extend the time to about 3 or 4 hours.
- Step 6: Keep motivating the dog on each step with treats. Dogs learn by association, so whatever you want them to do may have something in return in the end. In this case, they’ll hope for the treat.
How Long Does it Take for a Dog to Get Used to a Collar?
Most dogs get used to a collar in two weeks. However, the time frame depends on the dog’s intelligence and temperament. Stubborn dogs may take more time than that, while docile ones will accept it happily in mere hours.
But no matter how ruthless the dog is, you can get used to the collar by following the steps I shared.
The process has to be slow and methodological. Be patient with your pet, do not punish or force it, and it will learn to love the leash and the collar as it loves the toys.
Should You Leave a Dog Collar on All the Time?
You shouldn’t leave a dog collar on all the time because it may hurt the dog without you knowing. Collars keep the skin under them under shadow for a long time.
If the dog has a habit of getting wet a lot, even a small wound may get infected as a result. Then there’s the case of a super snug or tight collar that may chafe the dog’s skin with its hard surface.
The best time period to leave a collar on a dog is 4 hours. I have kept this as a rule of thumb for my clients and myself. Here’s how it goes:
- Leave the collar on for 4 hours and then check the area underneath it.
- Let the skin breathe for an hour or two.
- Use the collar again for 4 hours.
- Take it off for the night.
Follow this practice for all collars except shock collars. They should be only used for 4 hours per day and not more than that. Prolonged use may lead the prongs to dig into the flesh without warning.
Also, no matter which one you’re going to use, always listen to your dog’s complaints or signs that show something’s wrong.
Do Dogs Feel Uncomfortable with a Collar?
Dogs generally have no problem with a collar, but their continued use could damage the nerve endings that lead to their front paws.
That’s the reason why you should give at least an hour or two of relief between each 4-hour wearing session.
To check whether your pooch’s condition has worsened because of leaving the collar on for a long time, look out for a change in their behavior, such as licking their paws too often, howling, barking, trying to get your attention, or trying to get the collar off.
Should a Dog Wear a Collar in a Crate?
A dog shouldn’t wear a collar in a crate because the tags may get stuck between the bars leading to suffocation or injury.
Dogs don’t need collars in a crate because it is meant to calm them down or give them some space when they are suffering from anxieties or when you’re treating their anxieties.
Choose the right collar for your dog by keeping the 6 factors in mind I shared a personal guide for how to choose the right collar for your dog above.
See what type you need based on the material, your dog’s neck size, temperament, and activity. Then, follow the step-by-step guide to make the dog accustomed to the collar.
However, do not leave the collar on for the night, and keep a regular check on the dog’s skin.
That being said, have a nice day!