How to Choose a Dog Collar

Reviewed by Vanessa Farner, DVM on July 07, 2021

Choosing the right dog collar for your new pup can make all the difference when it comes to training. With all the options available, stepping into the collar aisle at the pet store might even be a little overwhelming. A standard collar that displays ID tags is always recommended for your pup, but is it good enough to train and walk your dog with? 

Types of Dog Collars

There are many options out there for choosing a dog collar. It’s important to understand the choices and the main purposes for each collar before deciding on one. Making the right choice will ensure that your dog gets the support they need and will also help assist you while you train the newest member of your family. 

Flat-buckle collar. Flat-buckle collars, which are simple collars that buckle or snap closed, are the most popular choice by far when it comes to dog collars. They’re available in a range of sizes and materials and can be very fashion-forward. Some also come with light-reflective strips, which can be useful when walking your dog at night. A flat-buckle collar is a great choice for securing tags to your dog.  

Martingale collar. These collars are recommended for dogs with slender necks or smaller heads. Martingale collars offer the comfort of a regular flat-buckle collar, but with a catch. There’s a small chain linked to rings at the ends of the collar that cause the collar to become tighter when pulled. 

Choke collar/chain. Choke collars work by tightening around the neck when the control loop is pulled. Unfortunately, there’s nothing on the collar that safeguards how tightly it can be pulled. This can result in possible throat damage and other injuries to your dog. They’re not recommended as a safe collar option. 

Prong/pinch collar. Prong collars have a similar function to choke collars, except for the small, blunt, metal prongs on the inside of the collar. These prongs are meant to dig into the dog’s skin when the leash is pulled. Because they’re easy to misuse, they’re also not recommended as a safe option.  

Body harness. The body harness is a popular choice for small dogs or dogs with a delicate throat area. A body harness might make your dog more prone to pulling on the leash because they don’t feel tension around the neck. In this case, front-hook harnesses come in handy. Because the leash is fastened in the front, it gives more leverage to the handler and requires less strength. 

Head halter. A head halter, or head collar, is mostly used as a training tool for big dogs. The harness loops around your dog’s head and sits on the neck, while the other strap loops around the muzzle, where it attaches to the leash. It’s very similar to a horse’s harness. This setup gives you more leverage than the average collar and can be a great training tool when used correctly. 

Things to Consider When Choosing a Collar

The right collar can be a useful tool in training your dog. There are a few other factors to consider when buying your dog a collar.

Breed and temperament of your dog. Dogs with smaller heads and slender necks, like greyhounds, might benefit from the support of a martingale collar, while a head halter would be a better fit for a big, energetic German shepherd. Take your dog’s build and walking etiquette into account when making your choice. 

How much training does your dog need? Does your pup behave on a leash or does he struggle and pull to get his way? Dogs who pull usually need a collar meant for training, like a harness or martingale. Consider your training goals and struggles before you buy. Training collars and harnesses should never be left on your dog when they’re unattended or left home alone, or they could cause injury. 

Take your dog’s growth into account. If you’re buying a collar for your puppy, make sure to periodically check the tightness of it as your dog grows. You should be able to slip two fingers under the collar. This ensures that it’s not too tight around your pup’s neck but is snug enough so they can’t slip away if they spot a squirrel. 

Show Sources


American Humane: “Choosing a Dog Collar.” 

American Kennel Club: “Choosing the Right Collar or Harness for Your Dog,” “The Ultimate Dog Apparel Measuring Guide.”

The Humane Society of the United States: “Dog collars.”

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