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The essentials

  • It’s the law — In many states (and countries), dogs are required by law to wear collars even if they’re microchipped.
  • Collar type matters — Your dog’s fur length, size, breed, and activities will determine what type of collar is safest for them.
  • Harness vs. collar and leashWhen walking your dog, it’s safest to utilize a well-fitted harness to avoid neck injuries if they pull.

When deciding which collar to get for your dog, you’re faced with an overwhelming amount of options. To make this process easier, we’ve broken down each of the most common types of dog collars so you can make the best selection with your furry friend’s comfort and safety in mind.

Types of dog collars

1. Martingale collars

Martingale collars were primarily designed to prevent dogs from slipping out of their collar. While typically used for sighthounds who have long, thin necks like Greyhounds, Whippets, and Afghan hounds, Martingale collars are also useful for any breed that tends to slip out of normal collars and can be helpful for anxious or fearful dogs that have negative reactions on walks. These collars cost anywhere from $10-$35+ depending on pattern and size. 

To prevent dogs from slipping from them, these collars have a tightening function when pulled so never leave your dog unattended when wearing one to prevent accidents.

Pros and cons of a Martingale collar

Pros Cons
Available in many colors and designs May not be best for a dog that has a larger neck
Secure, relatively escape-proof Can cause neck damage if misused

2. Flat collars

The most common collar on the list, flat collars are the quintessential collar we all know. With a quick-release buckle or snap, and a metal ring for attaching your best friend’s identification, these collars are easy to find and use. For a well-trained dog that knows how to heel and stay in stride with their owner, it can be a great option.

These collars will typically run between $5-$30 and you can find this type of color in just about every fabric, pattern, and use-case possible:

  • Waterproof
  • Nylon
  • Velvet
  • Glow-in-the-dark
  • Neoprene
  • Sherpa
  • Denim

Pros and cons of flat collars

Pros Cons
Lots of colors, fabrics, and patterns available Depending on the fabric, can become frayed easily
Suits most dogs Quick-release clasps can come undone with stronger dogs
Great for calmer dogs Does not prevent pulling

3. Head collars

Head collars operate similarly to horse halter’s in that one strap of the collar fits around your dog’s neck, just behind their ears, while the other forms a loop over their snout. Since the halter is around your dog’s snout, the head collar is great for deterring dogs from jumping or pulling. These collars may look scary, but they don’t harm your dog or inhibit them from barking or eating.

A proper fit is extremely important with this collar, and many of these collars come with ample instructions for use. If you have any questions consult with your vet or animal trainer on how to ensure you’re using this collar safely. These collars cost around $15-$75 dollars.

Pros and cons of head collars

Pros Cons
Good for training purposes Dogs find them uncomfortable at first
Can help reduce pulling Can cause soft tissue damage if not handled correctly
Allows for the dog to pant, drink, and eat

4. Smart collars

Smart collars can be a smart choice for pet owners who want extra assurance of their pup’s location. All dogs can potentially benefit from the use of a smart collar, especially as they can track steps, sleep, and more. One particular downside is the upfront cost of the collar and the potential for monthly fees to access features. Some of these collars can cost upwards of $700

If you want a more affordable workaround, many pet parents are opting for collars that fit Apple Air Tags. It doesn’t offer health monitoring but can show you where your dog is at all times. 

In the chance your dog does run off, protect your pup with a network of people who can help bring them home through and sign up with FidoTabby Alert and PetScreening. Free and simple to use, both of these programs send missing pet alerts to their local network so they can help find them.

Pros and cons of smart collars

Pros Cons
Offers GPS tracking Not a substitute for proper training
Has health and activity monitoring capabilities Can’t replace microchipping your dog
Creates boundary reinforcement Can be expensive
Can break and fall off

5. Leather collars

Rolled leather or flat leather collars offer a level of durability that many nylon collars just can’t stand up to. These collars also ensure that pressure is evenly distributed around your dog’s neck, avoiding any undue stress on one area. Plus, dogs find it difficult to escape from leather collars due to their snug fit! 

Since leather is considered a luxury fabric, they range in price from $30-$350+.

Pros and cons of leather collars

Pros Cons
Offer a durable and strong collar option Doesn’t handle repeat moisture exposure well
Fashion-forward look Some dogs are allergic
More expensive than nylon or other fabric collars

6. Harnesses

While harnesses aren’t technically collars, they’re often used in tandem with collars and can be an important part of your walking routine. These don’t put pressure on your dog’s neck and are especially good for dogs that pull or get excited during outings. 

They can also be a great option for dogs with medical issues or dogs who are predisposed to chronic back and joint issues like Chihuahuas and Dachshunds

Harnesses come in a wide variety of colors and sizes, costing around $14-$50.

Pros and cons of harnesses

Pros Cons
Provides control over larger dogs A poor-fitting harness can be detrimental
Front-clip harnesses don’t reinforce pulling behavior Can cause mats and tangles in long hair
Tougher to escape Some dogs may find putting it on to be uncomfortable

7. Flea & tick collars

Worn in tandem with a regular collar, these collars hold chemicals that repel and kill fleas and ticks. You should replace these collars every 5-8 months, depending on the collar you choose and how often your dog swims and is bathed. These collars will run about $20-$50.

Pros and cons of flea & tick collars

Pros Cons
Remains effective for several months Can expose children and other animals to unsafe pesticides
Tend to cost less over time than other treatments Can be uncomfortable to wear

8. Vibrating collars

Vibrating collars are often used in training to help deter dogs from incessant barking or other undesirable behavior. Often these collars come with a remote for you to trigger the harmless vibration, but some collars work instantaneously to deliver vibrations as soon as your dog barks. 

These collars can be extremely helpful if your dog is hard of hearing or deaf and can’t hear verbal commands. However, refrain from using vibrations as a form of training with hearing-impaired dogs as it will confuse them. Instead, use it simply as a means to get their attention.

These collars cost anywhere from $25-$50+.

“These collars are great for training and warning without excessive force or stress to the pet. I personally have used this type of collar on many of my dogs in the past and presently on my curious RedBone hound that is partially deaf and tends to wander on our ranch. It keeps her safer.”

– Dr Bruce Armstrong

Pros and cons of vibrating collars

Pros Cons
Can help to quickly get your dog’s attention May be easy for your dog to ignore
Good training tool when used with desensitization and counterconditioning Can irritate the skin over time
Great for hearing-impaired dogs Long-haired dogs or heavier dogs may not feel the vibrations

 9. Elizabethan collars

You’ve heard them called the “cone of shame” but these collars are sometimes our best means of deterring animals from licking at wound sites excessively, thus preventing self-mutilation or secondary complications. 

Many dogs find these uncomfortable and will likely give you puppy eyes, but they don’t generally cause pain and interrupt their normal habits. These are very affordable costing as low as $3. 

If your dog continuously takes off their Elizabethan collar, try an inflatable collar, a dog onesie, or a fabric cone.

Pros and cons of Elizabethan collars

Pros Cons
Lightweight and sturdy Can cause anxiety and discomfort
Affordable and easy for pet parents to clean Potential for skin irritation or lesions if the plastic rubs into their necks
Provides full coverage to prevent your animal from reaching their wound Some dogs may try to remove them, causing them to get stuck or worse

Collars we advise against

Some collars rely on your dog’s discomfort or pain to get a point across, and we never recommend doing so. 

While the unwanted behavior usually stops, it’s usually at the cost of your dog’s trust and comfort and can create undue fear and anxiety. Instead, utilize other training methods to prevent your dog from barking, biting, soiling the house, etc.

Shock collars

These collars use an electric current that passes through metal prongs that touch your dog’s neck to deliver a shock. Shock collars can deliver shocks that range from dull to painful, and while usually sold as a training device, many vets and behaviorists don’t recommend their use as they can create aggression, fear, and anxiety, and the prongs on the units can gouge or irritate the neck skin, traumatizing the area. 

Instead, if you want your dog to stop one behavior and replace it with a new one, try counterconditioning, which helps your dog to learn new, positive behaviors.

Pinch collars

Also known as prong collars, pinch collars are similar to Martingale collars by tightening when your dog pulls. The difference is that pinch collars use a metal collar around your dog’s neck that is outfitted with metal prongs that drive into your dog’s neck when the control loop is pulled. These can easily be misused and can cause lasting damage to your dog’s neck.

Instead, try to get to the root cause of your dog’s pulling. Do they have too much energy? Should you take them on a different route away from other dogs and people? If you find that you feel a pinch collar is the only way to handle your dog, consider consulting with a trainer or behaviorist who can help.

Choke chain collars

Also similar to the Martingale collar, the choke collar (aka choker or choke chain) has one massive difference: you can’t control how much the choke chain tightens. 

This makes it possible to choke or even strangle your dog when they wear this collar. Not only that, but these collars can create lasting health problems like nerve damage, throat issues, paralysis, and even death. 

Opt instead for a Martingale collar or harness.

Bark control collars

Bark collars have two means to reduce barking: a spray of citronella, air, or water and an ultrasonic blast of a sound only dogs can hear. Neither of these addresses the root cause of why your dog was barking in the first place. Barking is natural and in excess, can be caused by stress, an underlying medical issue, or territorial marking. 

As grating as constant barking can be, spraying your dog or blasting a noise only they can hear won’t fix the problem long term. 

Instead, learn how to stop your dog from barking and what to avoid.

How to choose the right collar for your pup

It’s important to make sure that you’re choosing the right collar for your dog and their needs. Let’s check out what factors should be considered in your choice:

  • Collar size. Measure your pup’s neck to ensure that you select the proper collar size. They should fit snugly, but you should be able to fit a finger underneath.
  • Material. Do you have a long-haired dog? Opt for leather, which helps prevent matting. If you have a big dog, make sure you get them a collar that is made with sturdy, durable materials and is wider to avoid strangulation from a narrow collar. Nylon may not be up to the task for these guys.
  • Leash attachment. Some harnesses have leash attachments in the chest area or on the back. If you want to prevent pulling, the front attachment may be best.
  • Clasp. If you worry your dog may get their collar caught on things in your absence, get a breakaway collar to help prevent accidents. 
  • Training. Is your dog in training? Martingales and head collars offer gentle control of their behavior without hurting your pup. 
  • Collar thickness. To avoid any issues with strangulation or cutting into the neck, opt for a wider collar.
  • Escaping. If your dog is an escape artist, check out the Martingales collar and get a wide Martingale for your pup with a thinner neck. (We’re looking at you Sighthounds!)

There are endless options for dog collars, but what matters is choosing the right one for your dog and their lifestyle. Whether used as training methods or simply to protect your dog and follow the law, collars let your pup live happily, healthily, and in style.

Frequently asked questions

What are the best types of dog collars?

What collar your dog wears should depend on several factors like their size, hair length, behavior, activities, etc. You usually can’t go wrong with a flat collar, the most common type of collar, to start. If you feel your dog has needs that a flat collar can’t help with, such as pulling on walks, consult with your vet to determine the best possible option.

What kind of collar does Cesar Millan use?

The world’s resident “dog whisperer” is a co-founder of a type of smart collar called Halo. This collar is paired with a type of invisible fence, but instead of delivering a shock when your dog is close to crossing the boundary, it delivers a customizable warning to jog their memory that they shouldn’t repeat the behavior. 

Cesar also created a training collar, which uses a double flat collar to help slip leads stay in the proper position on your dog’s neck. 

Do vets recommend prong collars?

While there isn’t an official consensus amongst vets regarding prong collars, many advise against their use. The potential risks involved with the use of these collars is far too high.

What are the different types of training collars for dogs?

We recommend using Martingale or head collars for training. You should always consult with a vet or animal trainer when deciding what collar would be best suited to your dog and their training needs.

How do I properly measure my dog’s neck for a collar?

If you don’t have a cloth tape measure handy, use a piece of string and wrap it lightly around their neck, a few inches down from their head. Pull the tape or string snug around their neck, but not tight. Measure your string against a ruler. All collars should have sizing somewhere on their packaging for easy decision-making.