How to Choose a Dog Collar

black and white terrer dog wearing a red dog collar and lying down

Your dog’s collar is more than just an accessory they wear. Sure, it can look nice, but it should be comfortable and functional above all. Here’s how to choose a dog collar:

1. Measure Your Dog to Get the Right Size

Getting the right measurements for your dog’s collar is important to make sure you get the right size. For most dogs, you want a dog collar to be snug, but not too tight. You should be able to fit at least two fingers under the collar easily without causing your dog to have trouble breathing. You should also be able to slide the collar around with no painful tugs or snags on their fur or skin.

A collar that is poorly fitted can make your dog uncomfortable. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why dogs rub their faces. A poorly-fitted collar could even injure them. If it’s too tight, it can restrict breathing and make exercise difficult and uncomfortable. It can also cause chafing over time. On the other hand, a collar that is too loose can easily get caught on things. Your dog can also slip out of it easily, which could put them in dangerous situations and does not offer easy identification if they get lost.

How to Measure Your Dog for a Dog Collar

A great way to make sure you get the right-sized collar for your dog is to measure them. There are adjustable dog collars that help you get the right fit. But, they’re sorted by size, so you still need to know your dog’s measurements to find the right one. Here are three different ways to measure your dog for a dog collar:

1. Measure a Current Collar

If your dog has a current collar that is the perfect fit and you’re just replacing it, you can use a ruler or tape measure to get an accurate measurement of it. Lay your dog’s collar flat next to a ruler or a tape measure and measure where the material starts to the current adjustment for the collar.

So, if you are using a traditional buckle collar, you would start measuring where the fabric starts, not at the end of the buckle, and end at the hole where you usually buckle the collar. If you are using a quick release buckle dog collar, or a snap buckle, you would start measuring at the end of the buckle and stop just before the “prongs” start.

2. Use a Soft Tape Measure

Use a soft tape measure to gently measure the circumference of your dog’s neck. You’ll get the most accurate measurement when your dog is in a relaxed standing position. Gently wrap the tape measure snugly around your dog’s neck in the area the collar will sit and then loosen it slightly to allow a little extra breathing room.

This will give you a good measurement you can use for choosing a dog collar. If your dog is a little fidgety or you’re not sure you have the right measurement, you can measure your dog’s neck multiple times. If you get a similar measurement each time, then you probably have the right one.

3. Measure with a String

If you don’t have a soft tape measure on hand, you can cut a piece of string or use a shoelace to measure your dog. Then, do the same as you would with a soft tape measure – wrap it snugly around the neck where the dog collar will sit and loosen a little for breathing room. Pinch the area where the string overlaps between your fingers and use a tape measure or a ruler to measure the string and get your dog’s measurement.

Think About Your Dog’s Fur and Fluff

You also want to think about the volume of your dog’s fur and their general fluffiness. A thicker-coated dog will need a little more room in their collar than a thin-coated dog. The fluffier and denser your dog’s coat is, the more likely you will need to account for a little extra space under their collar.

An adjustable collar will usually give you the flexibility you need to allow for your dog’s fur. You also need to consider the coat length and type when choosing a dog collar. Longer coats and curly coats are more likely to get caught or tangled in fancy dog collars with extra design elements, like spikes or rhinestones. So, for these dogs, a simple collar with flat design elements is usually a better choice.

Consider the Width of the Dog Collar

The length of your dog’s collar is important to getting the right fit for your dog. The width of your dog’s collar also important to how comfortable the collar is for your dog to wear and can also affect how much control you have on walks.

Narrow collars tend to be lighter and can be more comfortable for your dog to wear, but they also tend to break more easily. They can also wear down faster over time. Plus, if your dog is an escape artist, they may be able to slip out of a narrow collar more easily.

On the other hand, a wider collar tends to be a little heavier and may be a better fit for larger dogs and dogs that tend to slip their collars. Wider dog collars tend to be more durable and may last longer, but they may also not be as comfortable for your dog.

2. Choose the Right Dog Collar Material for Your Dog

In addition to the sizing of your dog’s collar, you need to consider the material of it as well. Dog collars are made from a variety of materials and each has their pros and cons.

5 Types of Dog Collar Materials

1. Nylon

Nylon is one of the most popular dog collar materials and is also one of the most affordable. These tend to come in a wide variety of colors, designs, widths, sizes, and styles. Because they’re so popular, they’re also easy to find, so busy dog owners can usually find what they need at their closest pet supply store.

Nylon is also a great dog collar material for smaller dogs or for dogs with sensitive skin or coats. However, they do tend to absorb moisture and odor, so if your dog spends a lot of time outside, nylon collars can pretty gross over time. They are sturdy, but do not tend to be as durable as waterproof biothane collars or leather collars.

2. Waterproof Biothane

A waterproof biothane dog collar is made up of vinyl-coated polyester and urethane. It acts and feels like a synthetic leather collar, which means it is very durable. It also is resistant to water, doesn’t tend to pick up odors, and stands up against extreme temperature changes.

Plus, it comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns. You can even get them with reflective strips or glow-in-the-dark properties to help your dog stay safe when they’re walking with you in the dark.

3. Fabric

If you think your dog might have nylon allergies, a fabric dog collar could be a good alternative. Usually, fabric collars are made from cotton and only the core is nylon, so it doesn’t touch your dog’s skin to cause a reaction.

It does tend to be a weaker dog collar, so will likely deteriorate quicker and need to be replaced more often than other types of collars. Much like Nylon, this type of collar also absorbs moisture and odor, so will start to get smelly and gross over time if your dog likes the water. This type of collar is also generally not a good fit for dogs that love chewing on leather and fabric.

4. Leather

Leather is a traditional dog collar material and it’s still popular. Not only does a leather dog collar look great, but it’s also durable. When it’s used for dog collars, there are generally some extra protections built-in to help protect it from the sun and rain.

Over time, your dog’s natural oils and general use will soften the leather. These dog collars come in a wide variety of sizes, styles, and levels of padding. But, if your dog is a chewer, they may decide that their collar makes a good snack or toy, so leather may not be the best choice for them. Leather also does not tend to be as adjustable as other types of dog collar materials.

5. Chain

Chain is usually a last resort when it comes to dog collar materials. These collars are definitely not as comfortable as other materials, but they can be a good choice for larger, high-energy dog breeds, especially those who have already chewed through a few other collars. Chain collars are metal collars, which means they don’t tend to break if you need to grab onto them to keep your dog from taking off and your dog usually won’t chew on them. But, they are sometimes uncomfortable and often do not offer a secure place to hang license and ID tags.

What Material is Best for Dog Collars?

The best material for dog collars will depend heavily on your dog and what works best for them. For some dogs, a leather or nylon collar is best. For others, a waterproof biothane collar is best. In terms of balancing durability and comfort, waterproof biothane and leather dog collars tend to come out on top, followed closely by nylon.

3. Determine the Right Collar Style

Another consideration when choosing a dog collar is the style of the dog collar. In addition to materials, sizes, and more, dog collars also come in a variety of styles. Here are some of the most common dog collar styles:

5 Common Dog Collar Styles

1. Traditional Buckle Dog Collar

A traditional buckle dog collar is similar to belt in that it has a prong-style buckle on one end and holes punched in the other end for adjustment. These dog collars are adjustable to an extent, but are limited by the number of holes. Generally, when measuring for a traditional buckle collar, you want your dog’s measurement to hit around the middle hole. This gives you some flexibility to adjust up or down as needed.

This type of collar is usually used with more durable collar materials, like leather. They are also a little bit harder to undo and remove, so are usually a good option for dogs who wear their collars for a long time. They also generally have a place where you can secure ID and license tags.

2. Quick Release Buckle Dog Collar

A quick release buckle dog collar is also sometimes referred to as a snap buckle dog collar. This type of dog collar has a plastic or metal set of prongs and buckle that clips together. It can be removed relatively easily when the sides of the buckle are tightened. This type of buckle is commonly paired with nylon or fabric dog collars.

3. Center Ring Dog Collar

A center ring dog collar, or a safety ring collar, has a metal o-ring built into the collar. It’s usually built halfway between the ends of the collar and is meant to provide a pivot point. If your dog were to get their collar stuck on something, the collar can slide around to help them get free and help prevent them from choking. This tends to be a popular dog collar style for dogs that tend to roam or run in a large area, like hunting or herding dogs.

4. Martingale Dog Collar

A martingale dog collar is usually adjustable and is generally made with two loops. A larger loop to provide enough space for your dog and a smaller loop with sliders that will tighten slightly as your dog pulls. These are often made of nylon and can be personalized with embroidery right on the material of the collar.

It’s meant to be used as a training collar or two give an owner a little more control over their dog on a walk. However, this may not be a good choice for your dog if they tend to pull hard while on a leash or attempt to jerk off running. In these instances, a collar can exert too much pressure on a dog’s throat and cause damage.

5. Tag Dog Collar

A tag dog collar has a metal ID tag built into the collar. This allows you to personalize your dog’s collar and provide an ID tag without having to attach one somewhere on the collar. It keeps the important identification information flat against the back of your dog’s neck instead of dangling below their mouth like traditional tag attachments. You will still want to have an attachment for your dog’s license tags, but the identification will be covered. These collars typically come in a variety of collar styles and materials.

Which Collar is Best for a Dog That Pulls?

The best dog collar for pulling is a dog harness, not a collar. A dog collar can injure a dog’s throat if they pull too hard or attempt to jerk into a run to chase something. A dog harness extends across a wider area of your dog and spreads out the pressure so that pulling does not injure them.

Dog collars and some dog harnesses also still allow forward motion, which can reward a dog for their pulling behavior. A front-clip dog harness causes them to turn back towards you when they pull, which does not reward the behavior and allows you to leash train them more effectively.

4. Make Sure You Can Personalize and Secure Tags

Another consideration for choosing a dog collar is making sure you are able to personalize the collar to your dog and that it also has a place to secure their license tags and ID tags if you need them. This keeps important information with your dog in the event that they get out unsupervised, run off, or are lost. Dangling tags can sometimes get caught on things and tear off or get lost. By adding some extra personalization into the collar itself, you can make sure important information stays with your dog at all times.

5. Be Prepared to Replace Your Dog’s Collar Regularly

In general, you want to plan on replacing your dog’s collar once a year or more often as needed. A growing puppy can quickly outgrow their collars. You want to make sure you are checking your puppy’s collar to make sure it is not becoming too tight and that you are sizing up as you need to.

Fully-grown dogs also need to have their collars replaced regularly. Dog collars wear down over time, so will need to be replaced before they are too much at risk of falling apart or breaking. As dogs gain or lose weight over time, they may need to be re-measured for a collar. Fluffy dogs that get trims during warmer months may also need differently sized collars at different times of the year. By regularly checking your dog’s collar for damage and for proper fit, you’ll know when it’s time to get a replacement.

Your dog will likely spend a lot of time wearing their collar, so it’s important to get the right one for them. With these tips, you can be confident that you are choosing the right collar for your dog.