The Right Collar for Your Dog
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
Every dog should wear a collar with an ID tag. But with the hundreds of collars available today, what collar is right for your dog?
First, your dog’s collar should be size appropriate. It may seem cute to put a great big studded collar on your little Yorkie, but it is generally unhealthy to require a small pooch to carry around a heavy, cumbersome collar all day. This can lead to back and neck problems, and a very unhappy pup.
When sizing your pooch for a collar, measure while your dog is standing. Measure the circumference of the dog’s neck where a collar would naturally lie. Insert 2 fingers between the dog’s neck and the measuring tape. This is the length of collar your pup needs. Remember that most collars are adjustable, so when in doubt, go a size up. Puppies grow faster than seems imaginable. Check your puppy’s collar every day to make sure it has not grown too tight.
Nylon collars are washable and durable. They are available in tons of colors and styles. They usually feature a D ring and a quick release buckle. Nylon collars are perfect for dogs who like to get dirty, or dogs who spend a lot of time in the water. They are also one of the most affordable collar options, which is helpful if you cant seem to keep your dog from eating his collar.
Leather collars are probably the most durable and classic style of collar. They are very strong and great for big, strong dogs. If you have an especially big, especially strong dog, try a braided leather collar; they are one of the strongest varieties of collar available.
Rolled leather collars are made especially for long-haired breeds. This kind of collar settles into long hair and prevents the matting that can result from a flat collar. Rolled collars are not preferable for short-haired, or flat coated breeds, as they usually leave a line on your dog’s neck.
Choke collars are for training purposes only. They should not be your dog’s everyday collar, he should never be left unattended in a choke collar, and he should never be put on a tie-out in a choke collar. This kind of collar can be hugely beneficial to stop pulling when you walk and for other corrective measures, but they should be used with care. To size your dog for a choke collar, measure his neck as described above, and add two and a half to three inches.
When you put a choke collar on your dog, it should form a P when you look at it head on. If it looks like a 9 instead, it is on backwards and will not release properly. This can lead to choking and tracheal damage.
Another form of temporary training collar is the pronged collar. These collars have blunt metal prongs that face in towards the dog’s neck. These are used to prevent pulling in large, strong dogs. Pronged collars should be used carefully. If you are considering purchasing a pronged collar for your dog, talk to a dog trainer or your vet about the proper way to use it so you do not hurt your dog.
Harnesses are perfect for dogs who pull, small dogs, puppies, and dogs with delicate necks. Instead of pulling back on the dog’s neck, the pull is distributed across the dog’s chest, which is much safer. Many vets recommend that puppy owners use only harnesses until their munchkins get older.
Halter-style head collars like the Gentle Leader and the Halti are engineered to place your dog’s attention on you. Rather than pulling back on the neck of the dog like most collars, which causes them to instinctively pull back, these collars pull the dog’s entire head in your direction with even the slightest correction. Instead of a power struggle, your dog’s attention is placed on you.
Although this style of harness goes across your dog’s nose, head collars are not muzzles, and do not serve the purpose of muzzles in any way. In a head collar, your dog will still be able to eat, drink, pant, bark, and bite.
Don't be disturbed if your dog looks miserable in a head collar. Many dogs will struggle dramatically to remove it, but in time they get used to it and begin to recognize the head collar as an indication that it is time for a fun walk.
Reflective and Light-up Collars
If you often walk your dog in the dark, or like to take your dog camping, reflective collars and light up collars are extremely helpful. Some collars have strips of reflective tape sewn on, and others have LED lights installed. This is a fantastic safety feature, which will also help protect you when you are walking at night with your dog.
Basically, as long as your dog has a durable, safe, and properly sized collar, he has what he needs. The rest is a matter of style, taste, and preference.