Choosing a dog collar

A quick visit to the pet supply store will reveal a vast array of choices in collars. With so many sizes, materials, and colors, how do you choose a dog collar that’s right for your pet? What follows is a list of the types of collars and their uses, how to properly size a standard or slip collar, and safety tips.

Types of collars

Generally speaking, there are five types of dog collars with many variations on each. Not all of them are appropriate for every dog or for every stage of obedience training. You’ll probably use different collars as your training relationship with your dog progresses.

Standard Leather, Nylon, or Cotton

This is the traditional dog collar. They come in various sizes and materials with different clasping mechanisms. Buckle collars use a buckle as a fastener. Quick-release collars are flat and made of nylon with a plastic clasp. Breakaway collars are a variation of the quick-release type. They have a safety clip that allows the collar to come off if it’s caught on something to keep your dog from choking.

Slip Collars or Choke Chains

These are usually made of nylon, leather, or metal chain and have rings at either end. When a slip collar is put on properly, pulling on the leash causes the collar to cinch up like a noose and then release after a correction is given. These are generally used for training purposes only.

Head Halters and Harnesses

A halter is similar to what you’d find used on a horse. It wraps around the dog’s mouth just in front of his eyes like a muzzle. However, the dog is still able to drink water, bark, and bite; it doesn’t keep his mouth closed. A dog harness wraps around the body rather than the neck. Some people consider this to be a more humane dog collar, however, you should consider how well it’ll work to train your particular dog.

Prong or Pinch Dog Collars

These are made of interlocking metal links that have prongs turned toward the inside of the collar. The prongs put pressure on a dog’s neck when the collar is pulled. Trainers sometimes use them to stop leash pulling or for dogs that don’t respond to other types of collars.


Standard Non-Slip Collars: For non-slip collars, there should be enough room to fit two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck without choking him.

Slip Collar or Choke Chain: For the proper length of a slip collar, measure the distance around your dog’s neck and add 2-1/2″ to 3″. Ask someone experienced with these dog collars how to put one on your dog. If it’s not on correctly, it won’t release after a correction, which reduces its training effectiveness.

Buying recommendations

Ideally, your dog should have two collars: an adjustable nylon or leather collar (the quick-release type are usually inexpensive and easy to adjust for puppies as they grow) and a slip collar for obedience training (use a nylon version for puppies). If your dog is around water a lot, stick with nylon collars. Leather can stretch when wet and won’t last long if it’s constantly damp.

These are only guidelines since a dog collar isn’t “one size fits all”. Ask a competent trainer about the type of training collar best suited for your dog.

Safety tips

You should check the fit of a puppy collar often, at least every couple of weeks, and keep the following safety points in mind when choosing a dog collar:

Never use a choke chain or prong collar on a puppy

They can seriously damage to your puppy’s throat and spine. This is also true for smaller dogs and those with delicate tracheas.

Never leave a slip collar on a dog or puppy

A slip collar is a training tool and should not be used as a standard collar. Remove it whenever your puppy or dog is in his crate or he’s left alone in order to avoid the risk of choking. has more information to help you choose a dog leash to go along with your dog’s new collar.


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