With the rise in harnesses, dog collars are no longer seen as an absolutely necessary piece of kit for your dog.
Yet, for some dogs who walk so well that they don’t need a harness, they obviously are essential. Plus, due to the law in dogs requiring ID tags to be worn when in public, most dogs will have to wear a collar anyway.
Because of the above, your collar will maybe have to be secure and suitable for attaching a lead, or just a bit more decorative. You may also want additional features from a dog collar, such as reflective stitching, easy buckle fastening or lights for walking in the dark.
Finding the right collar, however, should put fit and comfortability above all else.
A guide to finding the right collar for your dog
It is quite unbelievable to think that there are so many varieties of dog collars out there. Finding the correct one for your dog depends on:
- Their breed and neck shape/length
- Their activity levels and whether they pull
- Whether they will need to also wear a harness
- Their fur length/skin
There are two main materials in collars:
- Nylon – The most traditional soft fabric used. Many have extra features, such as battery-powered flashing lights or reflective stitching for nighttime walks. Most will be really easy to adjust and can come with metal buckles or plastic snap buckles. The majority are thin and they aren’t likely to rub on your dog’s skin
- Leather – These often cost a bit more than nylon but offer more strength and are more robust. They can last longer, too. Long-haired breeds can benefit from leather collars as it reduces the matting of the dog’s fur. They can also offer a tighter fit around thin, long neck shapes
Most dog collars are fastened by a buckle.
A plastic buckle is simply two parts, often plastic, which clip into each other and the length of the collar is adjusted using a slider or manually shortening it. It is most commonly found with nylon collars, but is rarer than a metal frame buckle.
A frame buckle is the traditional ‘prong and hole’ type of buckle found on most human belts. The length is adjusted by inserting the prong into a different hole. It can be found on all materials and is often seen as being a bit more reliable, especially if you will be using a lead on the collar. But they can wear away easier and the material could tear around the holes, so extra caution is needed.
You can also buy a slip collar, which simply goes over their head with no need for adjustment or fastening. They can either be measured perfectly and more for decoration (such as light-up collars) or can be a martingale design that gets tighter if the dog pulls on the lead.
Types of dog collar
There are four main types of dog collars available to purchase. Some others you may see talked about, such as chain slip collars or metal prong collars, are not recommended as they can hurt your dog:
- Everyday collar – These are your standard, non-specialised dog collars. They usually have a buckle fastening, a D-ring for a lead and an ID tag and come on and off your dog’s head by fastening and unfastening
- Martingale collar – Sometimes known as safety slip collars or greyhound collars. The collar tightens slightly with the tug of the lead, such as if the dog pulls or if you need to pull to stop them. It doesn’t tighten enough to cause pain or discomfort, though. It simply prevents their head from being able to slip out of the collar. Despite being great for sighthounds, they can be used on most breeds
- Headcollar – Also known as halters. They look like a similar piece of equipment to a muzzle but have a very different aim. They act more like a harness, preventing a dog from pulling and training it to heel. For a trainer, having control of the dog’s head is important as they are more likely to be able to redirect the dog to the desired behaviour. They do need to be used correctly, though, and don’t offer as much security as other types
- Greyhound/Tapered collar – As well as Martingale collars, greyhounds and other sighthounds can also wear tapered collars. These are thicker at one side, making them less likely to easily slip off your dog’s head. Most are leather, but you can also buy nylon models. You just need to ensure they don’t rub against the skin of your dog, as they have a more sculpted fit. Other breeds with narrow necks and small heads may also benefit from these, too – a wider collar can reduce targetted pressure on the trachea
How do I measure my dog for a collar?
Grab a cloth tape measure (like those used for sewing and crafts) and measure the circumference of your dog’s neck. Add two inches to this and you have your exact ideal measurement.
Why two inches? Well, you’re meant to be able to fit two fingers in between your dog’s neck and collar. Two inches is seen as a good standard measurement for this gap.
Don’t have a fabric tape measure? A piece of string is fine. Just measure it against a ruler or tape measure afterwards, before adding the additional inches.
Does my dog need to wear a collar and a harness?
Since 2016, all dogs in the UK must be microchipped by law. But they also still must wear an ID tag when out in public.
An ID tag is commonly worn on a dog’s collar. This way, they can also be wearing it when in the house or garden, in case they run away. If a dog’s lead is attached to their harness and the lead or harness malfunction and come off, it also means their ID tag is still in place on a collar.
Harnesses are also better for most dogs in the training stage of walking, who may pull. Collars can cause a choking risk if you pull on them.
Can both a harness and collar fit on my dog?
If your dog will be wearing both a harness and a collar, these two items sit in very different places. Harnesses should not go as far upwards as a collar would. So, they shouldn’t disturb each other.