Choosing A Dog Collar: The Ultimate Guide

February 8th, 2019. Last Updated January 4th, 2021

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A dog looking toward the upper right, smiling and showing off her collar.

Table of Contents

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links for various pet products. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase

Choosing a dog collar doesn’t seem like something you’d need to think twice about.

Sure, compared to some of the other dog essentials, a collar should be a pretty quick and easy purchase.

Regardless, there are still some things we want you to look out for in a dog collar. In this article, we’ll look at types of dog collars, as well as sizing and other considerations you’ll want to make.

Types Of Dog Collars: Nylon vs. Leather

Traditionally, dog collars usually come in one of two flavors: nylon or leather.

Since these two make up the majority of dog collars on the market, they are what we’ll focus on in this section.

Specifically, we’ll be considering five tradeoffs you’ll need to make: cost, appearance, functionality, comfort, and ease of care. Let’s take a detailed look at each of them.

Cost

Nylon collars are generally more wallet-friendly.

However, it is also a less durable material. As such, you may find yourself needing to replace nylon collars that wear out over time.

For leather collars, don’t forget that you might also need to invest in a special cleaning solution, in order to keep the collar well-maintained.

Appearance

Leather appears more luxurious and gives off a sense of class and personality. If you’re going for suave and elegant, a leather collar is clearly the choice!

While nylon collars may not be as grand, they offer a lot more variety. It’s much easier to customize a nylon collar to fully capture your dog’s fun personality.

This shows with the wide range of selection of nylon collars out there–they truly come in all colors and designs.

Functionality/Buckle Method

Leather collars usually come with a belt buckle similar to what you’d find on a human belt. There are holes punched in along the collar to allow for loosening or tightening.

Nylon collars will come with a quick release buckle, making it easier to put on and take off. They will have adjustable straps for dynamic resizing.

While it’s easier to slip on a nylon collar, it could loosen up over time (due to things like leash pulling). It’s much tougher for a leather collar to accidentally slip off due to the hole design.

If your dog is known for being an escape artist, consider the more durable belt buckle system.

Comfort

Usually, both nylon and leather collars are comfortable fits for your dog, provided you purchase the correct size.

In the off chance your dog finds a collar uncomfortable, they will show signs after trying them on. Check if your dog constantly tries to paw at it or scratch their neck area.

Ease of Care

Nylon collars are pretty easy to care for. Every so often, just apply some water and soap and hang it up to dry.

Nylon collars have no problem getting wet. They’re the right choice for an afternoon swim.

Leather collars are a bit more involved care-wise: you’ll need a special cleaning solution to maintain their condition. Leather collars should never touch water!

A Note on Special Collars

Before moving on, let’s touch a bit on special collars. We talked about traditional nylon and leather collars, but other special collars exist, such as martingales, prong collars, e-collars, and head collars.

Personally, we will only ever advocate getting a traditional collar. We think this is the best, modern, most humane way to handle your dog.

Some of these collars have their place, but they require you to be educated on how to use them safely and effectively. If you choose to go this route, consult a professional trainer for guidance.

That being said, our dogs were born with incredible cognitive abilities, and they can learn. I believe that most dogs will be able to learn on a flat collar with the right mindset and patience.

A special collar can accelerate your results, but building a strong relationship with your dog free of physical negative corrections is how we think you’ll best enjoy a happy, healthy life with them.

A dog wearing her best Minnie Mouse bow.

Choosing The Right Size Collar

Hopefully by now, you’ve got a collar in mind. Here comes your next point of consideration: sizing.

Especially if you’re ordering a collar online, you better get the sizing right. Save yourself the unnecessary hassle of having to return a collar.

One big reason why people get the sizing wrong is that they aren’t sure how tight-fitting a collar is supposed to be.

Remember the golden Two Finger Rule: your dog’s collar should be loose enough such that you can comfortably fit two fingers under it. But it should also be tight enough such that you can’t fully rotate your two fingers.

People are usually more prone to making their dog’s collar too loose, for fear of choking their dog. While they have good intentions, this can end up being dangerous in other ways, especially if your dog manages to slip out.

A simple infographic describing the Two Finger Rule to show how tight a dog collar should be.
This is the Two Finger Rule--not too tight, not too loose.

Finding The Ideal Collar Length

If you’re testing out a collar in store, the Two Finger Rule is your best friend.

If you’re ordering online, begin by tightly measuring the circumference around your dog’s neck. The ideal collar to get should be plus minus 2 inches to that measurement.

For example, Yuna’s measurement is approximately 16 inches. So her ideal collar should range from 14 to 18 inches in length.

Of course, collars won’t always fit this threshold perfectly.

If your dog is fully grown and their neck measurement is 14 inches, and you see one that’s 11 to 15 and another that’s 14 to 18 inches, my recommendation is to go for the smaller size.

And if your puppy is still growing, go for the bigger size. Remember to retire collars as they become too small, or you could cause permanent throat damage.

Finding The Ideal Collar Width

Collar width is not something I even considered when I bought Yuna’s first collar, but it has an impact too.

Dogs come in all sizes, and thus you should make sure the collars you buy make sense for your dog.

The wider a collar is, the less pressure is put on your dog’s neck because any pulling will be distributed over a wider area.

However, this doesn’t mean to just buy the widest collar available. This simply means that a wider collar is able to control a larger dog more safely without unnecessary neck strain.

As you might expect, the width of the collar should scale with the size of the dog. Smaller pups should have collar widths around 0.5;; to 0.75;; while larger dogs should use at least 0.75’’, preferably 1’’.

Last But Not Least... Personality!

I’ve mentioned this before on this blog and I’ll mention it again here. A dog collar is one of the rare opportunities you have to let your dog’s personality show!

A collar is probably the only thing your dog wears 24/7. In addition to picking one they find comfortable, you get bonus points if it matches their personality.

There are seemingly an infinite amount of collar designs to choose from, so literally anything is possible.

Yuna is always the happiest, friendliest dog when she’s outside, so I try to have all her collars reflect that. It gives her extra flair while we walk the streets of Seattle.

Our Favorite Collars

Just a quick sampler of some of our favorite collars! Since we are Disney fans (and Yuna is pretty Disney-esque herself), our go-to collars are Mickey and Minnie themed.

A closeup of the Mickey Mouse dog collar from behind.
A dog looking off toward the side in front of the Seattle skyline, also showing off her special Minnie Mouse collar.

READ: Minnie Mouse Dog Outfit!

Both must haves for any Disney fan, we say. These and other Disney designs can be found at the official shopDisney store here. We’ve had one other recent obsession with this Monster’s Inc design.

Closeup of the Disney Tails Monsters, Inc. dog collar.

READ: Monster’s Inc. Themed Dog Collar & Bandanas!

But our collars are all over the place–not all of them are Disney themed. Yuna is also crazy about food (who doesn’t?), so she loves rocking this awesome collar by DukeAndAliCollars on Etsy.

A dog looking toward the upper right, smiling and showing off her collar.

Speaking of Etsy, it’s a great place to go for custom designs and to support small online businesses! Designs tend to not last for long, so if you see one you like, grab it quick.

Conclusion

All in all, we hope this article gave you some pointers on picking your next dog collar! Apart from a few basic rules, buying a collar should be fun, not complicated.

Be sure to follow Yuna’s Instagram and Pinterest for more tips on all things dog!

An infographic summarizing what to consider when choosing a dog collar.
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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Zachary Tomlinson

    My friend just got a beagle as a present, and she’s looking for advice regarding dog collars. I had no idea that there are multiple materials to choose from when it comes to dog collars and nylon collars is also a comfortable choice for your dog! I’ll share this with her so she could pick which one works for her.

    1. Alexander

      Hey Zachary, thanks for passing this along! I’m sure y’all will pick out a great collar for the lucky Beagle.

  2. Kate Hansen

    I like how you said to find one that matches the personality of your dog! My husband and I are planning on getting a dog for our family in a couple of weeks, and we want to make sure that we can find the right collar to get for him. We’ll make sure to keep these tips in mind as we search for a dog collar to get for our dog!

    1. Alexander

      Personality definitely plays a big role here!! That’s great to hear, congratulations on your upcoming puppy, I hope he fills your days with nothing but joy.

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