A collar must fit properly to be comfortable and functional. It should be snug, but not tight or slip off. For that, you need the two-finger test. The accepted way to check a collar for fit, is to be able to place two fingers between your dog’s neck and the inside of the collar.
An extremely vital factor to remember is to regularly check your dog’s collar. This is especially critical when they are puppies, if they are left outside or should they gain weight. Within weeks, your puppy or dog could be in horrifying discomfort, because their collar is too tight!
The second most important thing to remember is to have some sort of identification on your dog’s collar. Many a lost dog has ended up in a shelter, and euthanized only because they did not have any identification. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Something as simple as a plain tag, with their name and your phone number could be the difference between a happy reunion, and never seeing your pet again. If your dog has medical issues, it is a good idea to include that information on their tag.
Note that the higher a collar rides on the dog’s neck, preferably right under their ears, the more effective and less dangerous it is.
Types of collars
The most common collars used by dog owners are, flat, rolled leather, choke, pinch/prong, force, slip, martingale (modified choke), harness and head.
Flat collars are great for when you are not training your dog, or if you have a well-behaved animal that does not pull when walked.
Rolled leather collars are better for long-haired dogs, as they do not flatten the hair around the neck.
For training purposes, the most commonly used collars are choke chains, slip collars and martingales, which are modified choke collars. Martingales are flat collars with about 3 inches of material or chain loop, to which the leash is attached. They tighten, then immediately release, when a correction is made. They are also practically impossible to slip out of when fitted correctly. It works on the same principle as a martingale for a horse. Unlike a choke chain, with a martingale there is no uncertainty whether it is on correctly. It allows control, without the choking associated with choke or slip collars.
If a choke chain is not on properly, it is not only ineffective; it is dangerous! Many inexperienced dog owners are unaware; there is a right and a wrong way to place a choke chain on their pet. To be effective, the chain must release immediately after a correction is made. The free end of a choke chain, that which is attached to the leash, must be OVER, your dog’s head, not under their chin. If you do not do it correctly, you will continue to choke your dog, as the chain will “lock” into place.
The same rule is true for slip collars. Slip collars work like choke chains. They are frequently made of material such as nylon, cloth, leather or bungee cord material. Slip collars are a length of material, with rings at either end, so by slipping the material through a ring, it forms the loop, to be used as a collar.
Pinch/prong collars are a series of chain link with prongs turned toward the dog’s neck. This collar theoretically mimics the actions of a correction made by a mother or alpha dog’s teeth, against a dog’s neck. Some advocates of pinch/prong collars blunt the force of the prong, by placing rubber tips on them. It is important to learn the proper way to use a pinch collar, for it to be successful.
In extreme cases, and usually for the training of sport and hunting dogs, owners have been known to utilize shock remote collars and force collars. The shock collar is usually used when training for recall. Force collars are flat leather collars, with small “spikes” or rivets on the inside of the collar. When the dog pulls or when the owner makes a correction, the collar cinches to reinforce the correction.
For dogs with certain medical issues, toy and some small breeds, it is recommended to use a harness, as too much pressure on the trachea may cause excessive choking or collapsed trachea.
Finally, the head collar. Basically it is a horse halter designed for dogs. A head collar fastens around the back of a dog’s neck, just under their head. Underneath the attached piece that is slipped over the top and high on the dog’s muzzle is a ring. That is where the leash is connected. This controls the direction and intensity of pulling. The more pressure the dog applies, the closer their head turns toward the owner. Head collars are highly effective, especially when children or elderly are walking the dog.
Bottom line: Most dog owners have more than one kind of collar for their pet. Use the exact collar for the intended purpose and make sure it fits properly. Sign up for an obedience class to learn how to use the various collars. Learn how to painlessly make your dog “heel.” By doing that, you will find walking your dog will become a joy, and not a chore.