A collar is much more than a piece of material put around your dog's neck. With so many types on the market nowadays, your head may be spinning by the variety of choices. You definitely don't need to spend a fortune on a collar nor should you purchase the very first collar you see. Making an informed choice is important to ensure your particular dog is safe and comfortable. That said, you may want to do some research on your dog's particular breed to see what type of collar would be most suitable. However, there are some general rules and tips all dog owners should follow.
If you are looking for a collar your dog can wear at all times, you must make sure it is both comfortable and safe. A lightweight leather or nylon buckle collar of the appropriate size and fit can be so comfortable your dog completely forgets he is wearing it. Look for break-away collars that release in case the collar gets snagged on something -- especially if your dog is allowed free rein of the yard and/or house. In order for traditional flat collars to be comfortable, though, they must be lightweight and snug enough that they won't slip off the head, but not too tight. A good rule to remember is that you should be able to easily fit both your index and middle ﬁngers between your pet’s neck and the collar, and your fingers should be touching both your dog's neck and the collar (no empty space). It's preferable to use the two-finger rule over measuring the circumference of your dog's neck and choosing a collar based on that.
While a flat buckle collar can work wonders for many dogs, some are better off with another type. For instance, many toy breeds are prone to a condition known as "tracheal collapse." In this case, switching from a collar to a chest harness is helpful, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Also, dogs with sensitive skin may develop irritation from certain materials or develop hair loss from the constant friction of the collar against the skin. In these cases a rolled rope or rolled leather collar with a smooth lining may be a better choice.
Certain collars are a far cry from being comfortable and may even cause pain. If you want a collar that is comfortable for your dog, avoid choke collars, prong collars, and (obviously) shock collars. These are gradually losing popularity because they are used for punishment-based training, which can cause dogs to become fearful and may negatively affect the relationship between dog and owner, according to J. Roley and C. M. Brady with Purdue's Department of Animal Sciences.
So what's the absolute best collar for your dog? Do some targeted, breed-specific research and find out. You know you hit the jackpot when a properly ﬁtted collar makes walking, training and interacting with your dog a pleasant experience. Pay close attention to your pooch to make sure that your buddy shows no signs of discomfort or pain. No collar should ever hurt a dog or interfere with her natural movement or normal activities. And of course, even the best collar can be misused, so make sure you not only find a collar that comfortably fits your dog but that you know how to use it properly.
By Adrienne Farricelli
About the Author
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.