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At first glance, many dog collars seem like nothing more than cute and colorful accessories. But not all dog collars are created equally. For instance, some collars help with training your dog to walk on a leash and avoid pulling. Others could help with finding your dog if they get lost. But which collar is right for your dog?

Purposes of Different Dog Collars

Most dog owners are familiar with the tried and true flat-clip or buckle collars. These are the most widely available and for good reason: they’re convenient and hold a dog’s name tag. You may consider other options based on your dog’s lifestyle, age, and how active they are.

MaryPerry /

Calming Collars for Dogs

Calming dog collars have only been on the market for a short while, but many owners of anxious dogs swear by them. These fabric collars are generally filled with dried herbs and offer a soothing aroma. Be sure to check these collars’ ingredients and materials to ensure they’re safe for your dog. Some plants, like cloves, are toxic to dogs.

Flea and Tick Collars for Dogs

Another level of protection during flea and tick season could be your dog’s collar. Flea and tick collars slowly release active ingredients that provide topical protection from external parasites.

Martingale Collars for Dogs

Martingale collars have two loops; one that slides around the dog’s neck, and another that tightens when the dog pulls while on a leash. The loop doesn’t obstruct the dog’s airway, instead, the slight tightening discourages a dog from pulling while walking.

Personalized Collars for Dogs

Rather than get a dangling tag, you could get a personalized collar with your contact information and dog’s name embroidered on the fabric. This promotes your dog’s safety if they get lost.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier running outdoors.
©Kate -

Recovery Collars for Dogs

While not necessarily for everyday use, recovery collars are designed for dogs recuperating from surgery or dealing with an open wound, like a hot spot. Some recovery collars are made of soft, flexible fabric, while others are inflatable. Your veterinarian can advise you on what recovery collar promotes your dog’s healing after an injury or surgical procedure.

Reflective Collars for Dogs

Do you walk with your dog at night or live in an area with heavy traffic? A reflective dog collar helps both you and your pet remain visible in dim lighting.

Materials Used for Dog Collars

The best material for your dog’s collar depends on a few factors. For example, if you have a growing puppy, you may purchase a nylon collar due to their inexpensive price point. A puppy grows rapidly during their first year, and you may need to purchase multiple collars to keep up with growth spurts. It might not be worth it to invest in a pricier material, like leather, if you’re only going to use a collar for a few weeks.

Once your puppy has reached maturity (or remains relatively the same size), you may opt for a more durable material that can withstand water, heat, and scuffs from play sessions. As noted, leather is one such material, but lightweight aluminum is another great option. This material wipes off clean, and some models can withstand up to 350 pounds of pull force.

Italian Greyhound shaking hands with a new person.
©jtai -

You may also opt for a neoprene collar. Neoprene is the same material used in wetsuits and resists dirt and debris. These collars are ideal for dogs with longer hair that mats easily. Ultimately, the ideal material for your dog’s collar depends on their fur, size, and whether they have skin sensitivities or allergies.

Understanding the Features of Dog Collars

A basic dog collar is a circle of fabric that clips or buckles around your dog’s neck. For many owners, this meets their needs. There are many subtle “bells and whistles” of dog collars that offer unique benefits. Some include:

  • Pockets for tracking tags. Here, you could insert a GPS device to easily locate your dog if you get separated.
  • D-rings. D-rings are metal-shaped rings that resemble the letter. These have an advantage over O-rings in that they give the handler more control of their dog while on a leash.
  • Quick-release closure. If you regularly change your dog’s collar, a plastic snap-release can make this process fast and easy.
  • Reflective stripes or patterns. These elements promote both your and your dog’s safety while walking at night or in dark areas.
  • Padded or rolled leather. The shape and material of these collars prevents chafing on dogs with short fur or sensitive skin.
French bulldog puppy in a harness sitting in tall green grass on a leash for a walk.
©kozorog -

When considering collars with decorative elements, such as spikes or sewn-on bow ties, think about your dog’s safety. Some decorations could cause skin irritation or get snagged on something while your dog plays. Aim to choose a collar that’s safe first, and stylish second.

Making Sure Your Dog’s Collar Fits Correctly

Many dog collars come in standard sizes, such as small, medium, and large. You should rely on a dog’s exact measurements rather than estimations on product labels. The good news is that ensuring that “just right” fit is easy. Here are some tips.

First, wrap a soft measuring tape around your dog’s neck. Play around with how tight the tape is to get a measurement range. Once the tape is looped around your dog’s neck, see whether it could slip over their head. If it does, tighten the tape, and note the measurements.

Many pet stores allow owners to bring their dogs inside. Here, you can experiment with different lengths and sizes to get the right fit. During this process, attempt to slide two fingers underneath the collar. If you can’t, the collar is too tight – but if you can slide more fingers, it’s too loose.

Cleaning and Maintaining Your Dog’s Collar

As a rule of thumb, you should always wash your dog’s collar when they have a bath. If your dog is dirty, chances are, so is their collar. Keeping their collar clean does more than make it look nice; it can also prevent skin irritation, fur loss, and chafing.

How to clean and maintain your dog’s collar largely depends on the material. For example, use dish soap and warm water to clean a chain-link collar. You can simply use warm water to wipe off mud and dirt from smooth materials, such as neoprene and biothane (a polyester blend of polyvinyl or polyurethane).

Italian Greyhound standing in the grass.
©kwadrat70 -

Cleaning a leather dog collar is a bit more involved. Avoid using leather cleaners that you’d use on a piece of furniture or shoes, as the chemicals can be toxic for your dog. Instead, mix a solution of baking soda and vinegar, then, using a toothbrush, spot-clean the collar.

A dog collar’s packaging should offer the appropriate instructions for keeping the product clean. This information can be especially useful if you purchase a collar that comes with special care requirements.

Consider Your Dog’s Needs When Getting a Collar

Just like how there isn’t a breed for every person, there isn’t a collar for every dog. In the end, selecting the ideal dog collar comes down to your dog’s breed, size, and age. A small dog, like a Chihuahua, will have different collar requirements than a slightly larger Maltese. A rapidly growing Great Dane puppy could outgrow collars on a near-weekly basis.

Do your research, measure your dog’s proportions, and consider your own preferences when choosing that Goldilocks collar: not too loose, not too tight, but just right. Soon, you’ll be able to outfit your dog with a collar that’s fashionable, comfortable, and safe.