Guide to Dog Collar Types
We use dog collars to walk our dogs, ensure our dogs’ safety, and to train our dogs for many purposes.
Learn the difference between collars, what’s good/bad about them and how to size each collar properly.
Standard Flat Collar
Most dog owners have this smooth, plain collar on their dog as normal practice.
The straps are made of different materials such as nylon, leather, plastic, rubber.
The buckles are made from metal, brass or plastic.
There are two main buckle styles.
The snap-in type is designed for quick release. This is usually for smaller size dogs as the attachment piece is more yielding.
The clasp with the pin and hole is better at holding the collar on a stronger dog.
Flat Collar Benefits
- It can stay on the dog with an identification tag.
- It’s fairly easy to put on.
- It’s pleasant for most dogs to wear.
- There are many material types to choose from.
Flat Collar Drawbacks
- Many dogs can pull out of this collar because the surface is even.
- The collar can put unnecessary pressure on your dog’s throat.
- The collar can actually teach your dog to pull through “opposition reflex”.
- Because the collar isn’t generally intrusive it can teach some dogs that it’s ok to not listen.
How to Fit Your Dog’s Flat Collar
Push two fingers in the collar sideways while on your dog. You may need to use a measuring tape then convert when ordering.
My Overall Opinion on the Flat Collar
Seeing that the Martingale can hold an I.D. tag and is safer, I don’t see a need for flat collars. I haven’t used them for awhile accept for the wide ones for protection work.
Martingale Dog Collar
This self-tightening collar is available in nylon or nylon and chain. I personally never use the chain version because I don’t see a need for it.
This collar, originally designed for a greyhound has two loops; the opening that goes around your dog’s head and the smaller circular area which presents the leash ring.
Pinch type collars such as these come with a plastic piece that fastens.
You can also get the same collar with a metal adjustable part. These are more reliable.
Martingale Collar Benefits
- This Collar can slide over the dog’s head perfectly if fitted right.
- It will tighten if your dog pulls so that it will not come off easily.
- It’s a humane alternative to the flat collar as it doesn’t put as much pressure on the trachea of the dog.
- You can add your dogs identification tags to this collar.
- When training a dog this safe collar can be attached to another for back up.
- The enclosed feeling of the collar can sometimes be enough to discourage pulling or other unwanted behaviors.
- It’s easier to grab the smaller nylon circle, gripping a dog, than a flat collar (otherwise accidentally pulling the flat collar off the dog)
Martingale Collar Drawbacks
- A dog with an elongated neck and too much slack within the tiny circumference of nylon can enable chewing. I know because it happened to an American Doberman I had!
How to Fit Your Dog’s Martingale Collar
Slide the collar just over the dog’s head.
Be mindful of the dogs head size vs neck. If the dog has a big head or a slim neck you can be a little liberal with sizing.
If his head is small in comparison to his body or has a thick neck make sure the collar is not too loose. However, in this case it should still be able to slide just over his head.
Lastly, avoid a Martingale make that is too wide of a collar. These slide on your dog’s hair easily, thus, coming off. I saw this happen.
My Overall Opinion on the Martingale Collar
The Martingale is the most versatile choice. It contracts, prevents escaping, takes pressure away from the throat, ties down securely in vehicles, accompanies other collars as a backup, and more. As a non-aversive it’s the best and my favorite.
Metal Prong Collar
Also known as the pinch collar, its appearance is something similar to what a dentist would use!
In actuality, it doesn’t pinch and is one of the most trustworthy collars when used correctly.
The engine behind the collar isn’t the barbaric looking part but is actually the smaller loop. This is the magic that pulls the device together, causing a shrinkage in size.
When using this aid to discourage a behavior, the dull tips of the tool makes contact with the side muscles of the dog.
Prong Collar Benefits
- The Prong Collar applies less pressure to the trachea and Larynx
- When administered, the collar closes in, motivating the dog psychologically, not physically.
- Immediately after a correction, the larger hoop of points open up again. This is if you release the tension right away.
- The collar reduces the chance of a dog becoming loose, which is owed to the bigger ring that tightens when pulled.
- Ideal beginner tool for new dog trainers and dog owners alike. This is if the dog isn’t sensitive, the human-dog relationship is solid, and the handler knows what they’re doing.
- Directional pressure governs this collar. For example, imagine that I’m pulling your arm. What am I communicating to you? Come here, right? Right, and I can do this without saying a word.
- Easier to walk multiple dogs.
Prong Collar Drawbacks
- If a dog is ”soft” he may respond negatively to a prong collar. This is especially true of the handler had no relationship with the dog.
- Over time the links will come loose, and if you don’t have an extra collar attached to this one, your dog could get loose.
- Most people wouldn’t consider the quick-release prong collars reliable. For the recommended type you would need to pinch a link to put the collar on and take it off. Inconvenient at first.
- Keeping in step with the last point of inconvenience, the prong collar isn’t a collar you should leave on all the time.
How to Fit Your Dogs Prong Collar
There’s more than one opinion on how to fit a prong collar.
If you are struggling just to take your dog for a walk make the collar a little snug and high on the neck. This will guide the head. Be sure to remove the collar after the walk.
If you are doing formal training (always recommended) the collar should be looser. Not only should it be able to rotate around the neck, but it should also be just loose enough to prevent pressure sores.
My Overall Opinion on the Prong Collar
The most humane aversive collar for hard dogs (dogs that bounce back quickly from Punishment) and dogs that became desensitized to the starmark, is the prong collar.
It tells a dog where to go without having to say a word to him. Scientifically, this is called escape conditioning. It safely teaches a dog how to make something unpleasant go away.
If we could only have one collar on the planet for dog training I’d probably pick this one.
Starmark/Triple Crown/Good-Dog Collar
A very misunderstood collar in dog training. And then there’s some that get it.
This plastic collar is extremely similar to the previous one in this article. And because of that some people will write it off as barbaric. Still others would say it’s ineffective because it’s made of a different material.
The potential in this collar is the yielding qualities themselves. This is literally the answer for dogs that are too sensitive to prong collars.
I’ve trained sensitive dogs that began on martingales, became desensitized, transitioned to a starmark, then a metal one outside, later on.
- A more gentle method and less likely to get side effects in training. Other than that, most of the same advantages of the prong collar are also at your disposal here.
- One last thing about this mechanism is that it’s lighter in weight than its metal counterpart. This means if its loose enough, it can be left on a dog for a little longer without being unpleasant.
- The plastic links are not fun to remove or add.
How to Fit The Starmark
Sizing should be loose enough to rotate around the neck of the dog and up and down the neck.
When I use these, it’s during a transitional stage in a dogs obedience training. Also for a gentle ”out” command while in an intermediate level of protection work.
If you need this collar to be tighter to prevent leash pulling, for example, you’re using the wrong collar anyway.
My Overall Opinion on the Starmark Collar
This device is unique. In one sense it could be used on almost all dogs. Then on the other hand, it’s usefulness is specific and limited.
I highly recommend and often use this collar. It definitely has its place in dog training.
The choke chain has two rings; one on each end. The actual chain goes through one of the rings to form the letter “P.” This way, when you’re not applying pressure the chain is able to come loose again. Otherwise it would get snared, to some degree.
Used properly, if that were possible, the handler would administer a quick snap as a correction. The direction if the leash would pull from the dogs neck, on the side, not against the throat.
Unfortunately though, this chain still has a very high chance of hurting a dog simply because of the design.
Choke Chain Benefits
- They make an intimidating image for American Bullies and Dobermans
- They make for good show dog jewelry
- If someone’s trying to take your life and your dog won’t protect you, the chain can become a self defense weapon.
- That’s pretty much it.
Choke Chain Drawbacks
- Too much force can cause damage to a dogs trachea, neck, eyes and many more injuries.
- The chain is not that effective even when used the right way.
- Implemented for temporary use can be confusing to a dog. This is because the snap is more physical than a prong collar, for example, but less motivational. The prong, on the other hand, is more safe and psychologically motivating. It can be applied lightly with continuous pressure and yield excellent results.
- If the loop is loose around a dog’s neck and he backs out of it he could get loose.
- It’s more difficult to break up a dog fight with only one of these as the only collar on a dog.
- If it gets caught on something it could pose an asphyxiation hazard.
How to Fit a Choke Chain
This doggie necklace goes just over the dog’s head. If two different sizes fit a dog the larger of the two should be used. The smaller size won’t give the desired snap effect.
My Overall Opinion on The Choke Chain
I don’t use these at all. There’s simply too many other not effective, safer tools on the market today.
Gentle Leader/Head Collar
The halti Collar has a design similar to a horse type. It goes around the back of a dog’s head and around the muzzle.
Some of these collar types are an individual piece, including a ring. Others are part of a leash.
- It can be formed from the leash you already have. There are several ways to create this bridle style strap.
- It can be used as a great intermediate level training tool to shape behaviors such as “heel.”
- If a dog will wear it being pulled down the street will stop.
- You won’t have to do corrections with it. But rather have awareness and sensitive pressure sometimes.
- Jerking on this leash can cause injury to your dog’s spine since it guides the head so well. If you need to make any emergency movements with the leash it’s best to pull to the side.
- Many dogs don’t like the head collar. Reasons for this are that dog’s noses are sensitive, they probably need to be conditioned to it, or they may not want to be told what to do.
- You need to add a 7 inch thin rope with either loops or connectors on each end. This attaches the leash to a flat buckle or martingale collar in case the halti collar should come off on the walk.
- This choice is only a temporary fix. The dogs not truly learning to walk behind you. However, in another sense they are but just for a time-and you may be just fine with that!
- If you’re walking more than one dog using this style collar it gets tricky. Not only because of them lunging and hurting themselves but proper leash technique becomes compromised.
How to Fit a Halti-Collar
There’s a couple different options to find the right size for a head collar.
If you have the adjustable buckles, size then accordingly and slide the component over the dog’s muzzle and around the head. Then attach a leash to the little metal loop on the head piece.
If you have a purchased head part and leash all in one, you will have something like a slip lead.
In this case, make a loop with the lead and ring. Where the two meet, place that on the back of the head, high on the neck.
Take the remaining slack, and bringing it over the dog’s head and under the neck, turn your wrist and make a figure eight with it.
Bring that smaller loop you just created as part of figure eight, up over the dog’s muzzle.
Remember to attach a double-ended clip to the lower leash and backup collar in case the halti comes off.
My Overall Opinion on The Halti Collar
It’s not a collar I would use on a pooch as a substitute for training. I rather use them for intermediate level training; mostly shaping since there’s no technical corrections.
I don’t use them often but I’m glad they exist. When I do use them the results are obvious that they came from this resource.
Another invention including a figure eight in design and one of many harness types is the Lupi. Made for Snoopy.
It comes with a ring that sits on the dogs chest, also a figure eight in appearance. This double eyepiece gives stability and sizing to each side of the device.
On top is another metal element that allows material to go through, rendering leverage as you pull up. Think of this as a slip lead but under and around the arms and legs instead of the neck of the dog.
Lupi Harness Benefits
- This harness Can work as an alternative to take the pressure off her dogs throat that has a weak trachea or other issues.
Lupi Harness Drawbacks
- The effectiveness of the harness is in the straps that dig under the dog’s arms. Obviously this could cause issues with a dog that pulls too much.
How to Fit a Lupi Harness
There’s more than one figure eight in this multi-loop gizmo. Simply put your dog’s head through the top loop then his arms in the sides. It will make sense which direction every loop should face because of where the leash attaches; at the highest point.
My Overall Opinion on the Lupi Harness
I personally would have no need for this device. I enjoy knowing that the dog understands what my intentions are in formal “heel” training.
However, if your dog is not overly dominant or if he works better with the harness, go for it!
Electronic Dog Collar
The e-collar, also known as a shock collar is made of a handheld transmitter and receiver.
The remote typically has a number dial, stimulation button, as well as vibrate, on/off and momentary/continuous. They also can come with led lights for night time use and other options.
The receiver is a strap attached to an electronic component via slits. This allows different straps to be added or removed. For example, if you plan to exercise your dog you can put in a bungee strap.
The receiver also has two contact points that are usually plastic with metal going through, resulting in metal tips. These spiky looking objects can also come in different sizes, all-metal, or with four points instead of two.
Electronic Collar Benefits
- The motivational level that comes from this device is whatever it needs to be. Even the most stubborn dogs can be trained with them.
- They can save a dog from going in the street or running away.
- Dog obedience will be more reliable with an e-collar. The digital aspect of the collar can quickly match the vacillating of a dog’s mind.
- Off-leash freedom gives dogs noticeably better lives.
- Aggressive dogs lives are saved because of control that otherwise would have to be put down.
- If used correctly, corrections to the dog can be minimal-to-none long term.
- Can correct a dog from a distance.
- The timing is impeccable when discouraging behaviors with the e-collar. You’re not required to quickly respond with a leash as you would be with the collar.
- Behavior modification is a breeze with this ”invisible leash.” It can prevent a dog from counter surfing; potentially stopping a dog from eating brownies.
Electronic Collar Drawbacks
- If not used properly it can give your dog side effects. The most obvious reason for this is someone who wants quick results and begins training with this collar.
- It can be too much of a correction for a dog that even began properly with food but unfortunately not with leadership. This can lead to excessive punishment perceptions from the dog.
- It can be used by people that are uneducated on how to create a new habit with the device. Thus a dog may be corrected more than necessary.
- If a dog owner is unaware of formal dog training it will most like be used incorrectly.
- If a dog owner has the wrong attitude (due to lack of knowledge) he may use higher than appropriate levels of the electric pulse. This often stems from someone thinking the dog’s mad at them or doing something out of spite.
How to Fit an Electronic Collar
To find a dogs working level (the lowest level that he feels it) the collar needs to be on pretty tight at first. It should not be able to rotate and the contact posts should be on the side muscles of the dog’s neck.
My Overall Opinion on the E-Collar
I train as positive as practically possible and specialize in the humane use of all tools.
That said, many other symptoms, side effects, and scary things are mentioned about e-collars but they arise from lack of knowledge about Collar use, genetics of a given dog, training, etc.
in short, there is always a reason some dog is messed up from e-collar training. Something dumb that could have been avoided but the trainer was too lazy or uneducated. It’s also why they’ll soon be banned in the U.S.
No Bark Collar
There’s a variety of collars within the anti-bark category. They’re all designed to stop dogs from yapping.
There’s the ultrasonic device that lets out a sound in response to a bark. Also, the gadget that sprays unpleasant citronella substance at your dog’s nose when he barks. But the most popular and effective choice is the electronic collar, which we’ll briefly discuss.
No Bark Collar Benefits
- If you have a loud dog and for whatever reason need him to be quiet this collar can help.
- Because it’s automatic, the timing shows your dog that the correction is a result of his barking.
No Bark Collar Drawbacks
- It can give your dog side effects by suppressing a behavior.
How to Fit the No Bark Collar
Simply put the collar on and make sure the contact points are touching his neck. It’s the same concept as the e-collar.
My Overall Opinion on the No Bark Collar
I feel that this collar should only be used on special occasions.
I ask, why not work on leadership instead? Get to the root of the problem?
Maybe the dogs under-exercised, anxious because he’s taking on a role that doesn’t belong to him.
However, if you live in a small apartment and tenants or landlord is complaining, you have to do what you have to do!