A wide variety of collars exist. Leather collars are nice, strong and sturdy, but they do pick up smells and if they get wet, may become brittle or start to rot.
Nylon stays much cleaner, but may fade, especially with the brighter colors. Sometimes nylon rips unexpectedly when encountering something sharp.
Here are some pros and cons of different types of collars — plus a few notes on leashes.
- Flat buckle collars. These may come in either nylon, leather, or sometimes cloth-covered nylon. These are the buckle type, with holes along part of the collar for some adjustment.
- Flat quick-release collars. Like above, but with a quick release snap rather than the buckle. Nylon only. These are very convenient for easy removal of the collar. Some kinds are adjustable as well, to a greater degree than the above-mentioned collars, without the extra collar hanging at the end in smaller sizes. This is very useful with a growing puppy. Some of these quick release snaps will break more easily than you might expect.
- Rolled leather collars. These usually have a buckle. These avoid the chafing or hair breakage that flat collars sometimes do to dogs.
- Braided nylon collars. These very thin collars are often used in the show ring. Most people do not use these collars. They are not very sturdy. Many of them tighten in the same way a choke collar does. Unless you are showing your dog, don’t bother with them.
- Halter-style collars. These are marketed under a wide variety of names and are really a training tool, although they may be used in place of a collar. There are several variations, but the principle is that the collar goes around the nose and is anchored on the neck. The leash is snapped on under the chin. The leash action is thus on the nose, much like a halter on a horse. The dog cannot pull when the restraint is on the nose. These should NOT be confused with a muzzle — the dog is not prevented from opening their mouth. Halter-style collars are especially useful in helping train a dog away from constantly pulling on the leash. People with back problems will use these as “insurance.” You do not leave these collars on unattended dogs.
- Choke chains. Sometimes called training collars or slip collars. A wide variety, from large links to small links, usually metal. In longer haired breeds, may pull hair out around neck. Generally used for “corrections,” hence the sliding action. Be sure to have the collar on properly, check pictures for correct placement. The longer and heavier the chain is, the less effective the correction is (the collar should loosen the instant you release pressure). Do not leave this type of collar on an unattended dog, as it might catch on something and choke the dog. Don’t use them on a puppy. Don’t put your dog’s tags on them; that will interfere with their action. For a good fit, buy one that barely fits over the dogs ears when you put it on and is the smallest/lightest possible in that length. A very heavy chain will not give a good correction. A “curb-link” type of chain is very good and minimizes catching of hair.
- Pinch or prong collars. These are a corrective tool. They are not intended to be a “normal” collar, but are to be used while training. They have a prong arrangement on the inside of the collar that tightens around the neck in a correction. A properly fitting collar rides high on the neck just under the ears. It cannot be slid over the head, you have to take one link out and fasten it closed around the dog’s neck. Never leave on unsupervised. These collars should never be used on a puppy.
- Harnesses. If your dog is small or delicate, using a harness instead of a collar when walking will avoid neck injuries. Be sure the harness fits comfortably and will not chafe the arm pits. You will probably want to use the harness for walking and still have a normal collar for the tags. If you have a big dog that likes to pull, getting a harness will only improve pulling power. There are some harnesses that are “no pull” harnesses. They work on the principle that the dog feels like they will fall on their face when the dog pulls. They don’t work on every dog, but work quite well when they do. Tip: Test them in the pet store before you buy them to be sure it works for you.
Electronic collars are strictly for training and should never, ever be used without the help and advice from a professional. Improperly used, these collars can destroy a dog’s self confidence, desire to work and general good will. In general, electronic collars are not recommended for most dog owners.
Next, in Part 2 of this article, we offer some tips on buying a leash.