The Beginner’s Guide To Choosing A Dog Collar

A collar is the only thing your dog is wearing 24/7. In addition to picking one they find comfortable, you get bonus points for finding a collar that matches your dog’s personality.

February 8th, 2019

Choosing a collar hardly seems like something you’d need to think twice about. And indeed, compared to other things you need to buy for your dog, a collar is a pretty quick and easy purchase.

Regardless, there are still a few things to watch out for, and we want you to get your purchase right.

In this article, we’ll look at types of dog collars, as well as sizing and other considerations you may want to make.

First, A Word About “Special Collars”

There are a few types of dog collars you’ll find. There are traditional collars (usually made of either nylon or leather), and other “special” collars such as shock collars, pinch collars, and choke chains.

Personally, I will only ever advocate getting a traditional collar. They are in line with more modern, humane ways to train your dog.

This is not to say that the special collars don’t have their uses. In fact, many professional trainers use them as core tools, and time and time again they have shown to be effective in delivering results and correcting bad behavior.

The bottom line is, every dog is different. Some are docile, and others just won’t calm down. Some need these tools to learn proper behavior.

However, please do your research and learn how to use them properly if you choose that route. In the wrong hands, they can be dangerous.

After all, these collars do deliver a negative, and potentially painful correction each time your dog misbehaves.

If you’ve ever been advised by anyone to use one of these collars, stop first. Sit down, do your research, and evaluate whether you truly need such a tool.

As contentious as this subject is in the dog training realm, I think we can all agree that your goal in dog training is to build a strong bond with your dog. Positive reinforcement techniques without these special collars will allow you to communicate with your dog and teach them how to think.

Our dogs were born with incredible cognitive abilities, and they CAN learn. They are more than willing to learn if you reciprocate by being willing to teach. 

That is a quality that you as a dog owner should exhibit. At its core, it is independent of what type of collar you use–it is merely just a training tool.

That being said, 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 I believe that building a purely positive relationship, free of these physical negative corrections is how you’ll be able to live a happy, healthy life with your dog.

And that begins with a proper collar. We’ll give an overview of them in the next section.

Types of Traditional Dog Collars

Traditional dog collars usually come in one of two flavors—nylon or leather.

The pros and cons of these two materials are really similar to those we listed in The Beginner’s Guide To Picking A Leash.

Specifically, you’ll be considering a tradeoff between five things: cost, appearance, functionality, comfort, and ease of care. Let’s take a quick look at each of them.

Nylon vs. Leather Collars: Cost

Just as with their leash counterparts, nylon collars are generally cheaper.

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

Don’t forget that you also need factor in the maintenance cost of a leather collar—this includes special cleaning solutions.

Nylon vs. Leather Collars: Appearance

Leather appears more luxurious and gives off a sense of class and personality. A dog in a leather collar and a brilliant sunset is one of the best combos for a photo you could ask for.

Leather collars usually come in darker colors.

Nylon collars have more variety. It’s much easier to customize a nylon collar and this shows with the wide range of selection on the market—they truly come in all colors and designs.

Nylon vs. Leather Collars: Functionality

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 usually come with a quick release buckle, making it easy to put on and take off.

While it’s easier to slip on a nylon collar, it’s much tougher for a leather collar to accidentally slip off because of its design.

If your dog is known for being an escape artist, you might want to consider a more durable buckle system!

Nylon vs. Leather Collars: Comfort

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

Both materials breathe well and seem to mold with your dog’s neck over time.

In the off chance your dog finds a collar uncomfortable, you can really only tell after trying it out on them. Check if your dog constantly tries to paw at or remove the collar.

Nylon vs. Leather Collars: Ease of Care

Nylon collars are pretty easy to care for. Every so often (couple of weeks or so), just apply some water and soap and hang it up to dry.

Nylon collars have no problem getting wet. If your dog loves swimming, definitely make sure he’s wearing a nylon collar.

Leather collars are more involved—you’ll need a special cleaning solution to maintain its condition. And they should never touch water!

Choosing The Right Size Collar

Hopefully by now you’ve got a collar in mind. Now here comes the more complicated part—sizing.

Especially if you order a collar online, you better get the size right. It’s always a hassle and very costly (time-wise) to return.

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 fit two fingers under it. Yet it should be tight enough such that you can’t rotate your two fingers under the collar.

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

Pro tip! More on our Instagram.

Finding The Ideal Collar Length

If you’re testing out a collar in store, just follow the Two Finger Rule to determine size.

If ordering online, begin by tightly measuring the circumference around your dog’s neck. Your ideal collar length 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 measurement.

Of course, not every collar length thresholds will fit perfectly with your dog’s neck.

If your dog is fully grown and his neck measurement is 14 inches, and you see a collar 11 to 15 inches and another 14 to 18 inches, my recommendation is always to go for the smaller size.

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

Finding The Ideal Collar Width

Collar width is not something I personally considered with my 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 force put is 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 without putting unnecessary strain on their neck.

The width of the collar should scale with the size of the dog. The small dogs should have collar widths around 0.5’’ to 0.75’’ while larger dogs should use at least 0.75’’, preferably 1’’.

And Finally… Personality

I’ve mentioned this many times in my articles and I’ll mention it again here. A dog collar is one of the rare opportunities you get to attach a personality to your dog!

A collar is the only thing your dog is wearing 24/7. In addition to picking one they find comfortable, you get bonus points for finding a collar that matches your dog’s personality.

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

Yuna is always a happy dog when she’s outside, so I make sure her collars all match that. It makes her unique while walking the streets of Seattle.

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

Be sure to follow Yuna’s Instagram for a peek into her daily life! We post new dog care tips every other day.