Should You Get a Collar for Your Dog?

Have dog collar questions? We have answers in this dog collar guide that addresses types, choosing and use.

If you walk down the aisle of dog collars at your local pet store you are likely to be overwhelmed by all the choices. What size do you need? What about the material? Should you even use a collar?

To help demystify your dog collar shopping process and use, this guide will discuss correct sizing, features to be aware of and more.

Is It Safe for Dogs to Wear Collars?

The short answer is yes, it is safe for dogs to wear collars — as long it fits your dog properly. Ill-fitting collars, however, can pose some dangers. A collar that’s too tight may choke or strangle your dog. On the other hand, a collar that’s too loose can easily slip off or get snagged on fences or furniture.

When your dog’s collar fits properly, you should be able to fit two fingers in between the collar and your dog’s neck.

A properly fitting dog collar can keep your dog safe, too. If your dog escapes, a collar with a tag can let people know your dog is microchipped so they can be returned to you. You can also list your phone number on a tag or the collar itself.

Types of Dog Collars

There are three common choices of dog collars.


These are your most basic collars, made of a narrow piece of nylon, leather or other sturdy material outfitted with a loop or loops to attach an ID tag and a leash. They usually close with a secure buckle or clip.

Chain (i.e. Choke Collar)

Chain collars are made of metal and are often lined with prongs, which dig into your dog’s skin when there’s tension on an attached leash. Some owners use these collars for training purposes, but unless you’re an expert dog trainer they’re not recommended.

Martingale (i.e. Limited-Slip Collar)

Martingale collars are similar to chain collars but feature a fabric loop which shrinks when pulled on. They are safer than choke collars and are specifically designed for dogs who might slip out of traditional collars (e.g. sight hounds). When your dog pulls, the collar will tighten — not to the point of discomfort, but enough to be secure and prevent slips.

How to Choose the Best Dog Collar?

Before you head to the pet store, wrap measuring tape or a piece of string around your dog’s neck to measure the size of collar you need. Many collars are adjustable, but this will give you a general idea of what length you need.

Collars come in all sorts of materials — nylon (the most common), leather, faux-leather, neoprene and more. When selecting the material, think about how your dog will use it:

  • If they love to swim and play in the hose, a waterproof neoprene collar will be perfect;
  • Leather collars are durable, natural and stylish, but come in at a higher price point;
  • Nylon collars come in nearly every size, color and style imaginable. Their downside is that they are more difficult to clean.

If you walk your dog at night, consider a LED or high-visibility collar. That way they can be easily spotted.

Some brands have lights or reflective strips built into the material. You can also purchase separate lights that can attach to most nylon collars.

When to Use a Dog Collar

Many people keep collars on their dogs at all times. It can be reassuring to know that your dog can be easily identified if they escape from the house.

Definitely use a collar during walks and any time your dog is outside. If your dog pulls on their leash, consider using a harness instead of a choke or a chain collar. Harnesses allow you to safely control your rowdy dog on walks. They are also a great tool for when you need to transport your dog.

Some owners remove their dog’s collar at night to let the skin on their neck air out. It really is a matter of personal preference. If your dog seems itchy or uncomfortable, remove the collar and take extra precautions to prevent your dog from getting out.

John Woods
John Woods is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and has been a dog lover since he was 13 years old. He is also graduate in animal welfare and behavior and a recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America.