Updated: Jul 25
To say there is a plethora of dog collars to pick from would be an understatement. But while the selection is vast, there are a handful that you are most common to see when you enter a pet store. Here, we'll cover the most common varieties and try to provide you with a bit of information to help you make your selection.
The Flat Collar
We’ve all seen them. They are the most widely used type of collar today. They come in a variety of iterations including snap buckle and prong-and-hole buckle, a huge array of widths, and they can be made of materials such as leather, vinyl, nylon, etc.
This particular collar does not provide any additional control or training aides over the other collars, but every dog should be able to wear one and be walked safely on one. One of the most important aspects of the flat collar is proper fit, and improper fit is typically why these collars may fail. When fitting a flat collar, you should position the collar in line with the dog’s nape (upper neck area) and you should be able to comfortably slip two fingers between the collar and the dog’s neck. If fitting isn’t done properly, you could experience the potentially dangerous situation of the dog backing out of the collar when on a leash and thereby being potentially uncontrollable in a public setting. This can lead to the dog’s injury, and/or injury to other dogs or people. So proper fit is incredibly important! This collar is generally considered safe for 24/7 wear.
The Martingale Collar
Several breeds exist which have very narrow skulls, such as Greyhounds and Borzoi. And then there are breeds with extra wide skulls, such as English Bulldogs. These breeds can be especially prone to backing out of flat collars even when the collar is properly fitted, because the skull and neck are of similar widths. To prevent this, there is the Martingale. The Martingale is an ingenious collar which has two metal loops which can slide along a fabric loop to loosen or tighten depending on the tension on the lead. They can be used for virtually any breed, but are most commonly useful for sighthounds (Greyhounds, Borzoi, Afghan Hounds, etc.).
The main thing to keep in mind with a Martingale is that it is typically advised NOT to leave the collar on the dog 24/7, and only utilize it when you need to use a lead. This is because the tightening feature can prove dangerous if the dog is unsupervised and playing if it catches on something and the dog finds itself stuck and in a panic.
The Slip Collar
These are again relatively common for sighthounds, but can be utilized for many breeds. While not particularly common in collar-only form, these are frequently used in the form of a slip lead. The collar-only slips are great for any dog that you need to be able to quickly add or remove the collar, and when attached to a lead will tighten with tension. This can be especially useful when training dogs to not pull or preventing a dog from pulling out of the collar.
The Head Collar
Many people consider these to be training aides, and they are, but they can also be used on an ongoing basis as a primary collar. These collars, sometimes referred to as head halters or Gentle Leaders, often make controlling a dog on a lead very easy. It completely stops a dog from pulling, generally speaking, thanks to it being on the head and/or around the muzzle. It allows complete and natural movement of the jaws, even though many people confuse them with muzzles which are designed to restrict a dog from biting. Head Collars should not be left on a dog when it is unattended, and is only for walking them on a leash. With that said, there isn’t typically a risk of choking due to it not being around the neck and for any dogs with collapsed tracheas this can be a fabulous option!
An option so popular it nearly rivals the Flat Collar; the harness carries with it many misconceptions. Many people think a harness will fix the unwanted behavior of dogs pulling when they are on a lead. Unfortunately, the harness often has the opposite effect. Harnesses tend to put the main point of tension on the chest of the dog, which is actually ideal for pulling, and it can therefore contribute to the issue. There are harnesses with a special design to correct this, but they are less common.
Harnesses can be a wonderful option, however. This is especially true for any dogs who experiences mobility issues, and you can even get harnesses that are equipped with handles on the top so you can help stabilize your dog or lift them slightly to decrease the amount of weight they need to put on their legs. For dogs without mobility issues, it is generally advised to remove the harness when not walking the dog.
Collars to Avoid
There are a handful of collars that it may be wise to stay away from when looking for a daily walker. These would include aesthetic chain collars, rubber collars, citronella collars, prong collars, and choke collars. That isn't to say that some of these may have their place, but even those are by no means for novices or the average dog. As disturbing as this is, we also need to specifically state that unconventional items should not be utilized as collars/leashes. This would include, but is certainly not limited to, [TW: animal ab*se] drop cords, clothing lines, rope, hardware chains, wire of any kind (this includes hangers), the strings from blinds, shoe laces, etc. If it is not intended to be used as a collar or leash, then DO NOT use it as a collar or leash.
This only scratches the surface. There are many other variations of the above-mentioned collars, and some types that haven’t been touched on here. But these are definitely the most common, and are usually the most applicable.
Feel free to check out our other post about leashes!