If you’re in the market for a collar and leash for your puppy or dog, you may find walking into a pet store or scrolling through a dog-supply website a bit overwhelming. Options abound!
To help you make the best decision for your pet, we highlight some of the most common types of dog collars below. If you are not sure which model is right for you, speak to a veterinarian or a dog trainer, who can make a recommendation based on your individual dog.
Puppies grow quickly, so it is extremely important to adjust the size of his collar as he gets bigger. Check the collar’s fit frequently during your dog’s first year of life and periodically after that. You should be able to slip two fingers comfortably underneath of the collar.
It’s recommended that your dog wear a collar with his identification, but because the collar can become stuck and potentially choke your pet, some experts, including Adrienne Freyer of the Komondor Club of America, advise taking it off while you’re not supervising him or selecting a breakaway collar. Freyer recommends two types of breakaway collars: the Keep Safe and the Tazlab.
Collar tags often play an important role in reuniting you with your dog if he ever gets lost. AKC Reunite has collar tags linked to all of your contact information, as well as your emergency backup contacts. Check out their tags with different designs and colors here.
Recommended Types of Collars for Pet Dogs
- Standard flat collar: This type of collar is what you’ll see at most stores, most commonly made of nylon or leather. One issue with standard collars is that some dogs can slip out of them, especially sighthounds, like the Greyhound and the Whippet, whose necks are often larger than their heads (for those dogs, a Martingale collar described below may be a better option).
- Back-clip harness: Another common design, this harness fits on the dog's chest and clips on the back. It’s beneficial for short-nosed dogs, such as Pugs or Boston Terriers, small breeds, and dogs prone to tracheal collapse (when the dog’s trachea becomes damaged, restricting the airway and sometimes requiring surgery). The con to a back-clip harness is that it can encourage pulling in dogs who haven’t mastered the loose-leash walk.
- Front-clip harness: This harness design clips over the dog’s chest area, which helps prevent minor pulling and allows the owner to steer the dog. It’s recommended for pets who need a little work on their loose-leash walking, but who don’t demonstrate aggression issues or other behavior problems while on the leash.
- Head halter: In this design, a piece of nylon loops around the dog’s muzzle, which prevents the dog from keeping his nose close to the ground and makes it easier for the owner to keep the dog's attention. It shouldn’t be mistaken for a restrictive muzzle device. The most common brand of this type of harness is the Gentle Leader by Petsafe—and a version called SnootLoop is available for short-nosed dogs. According to the late training expert Sophia Yin, head halters work for speeding the leash-training process because, she explains, “Dogs can best pay attention to their owners if they are actually focusing on their owners, which they can do best if they are looking at their owners.” This types of collar may take time (and treats) for your dog to get used to it. Once your dog is trained to walk politely on a leash, you can switch to a standard collar and leash.
- Martingale collar: This popular type of collar comprises a larger loop and a smaller loop. The dog’s head fits into the larger loop and the leash is attached to the smaller loop. When the dog pulls, the larger loop tightens enough to prevent the dog from slipping out of the collar but not so much that it would choke the dog. Many trainers recommend this collar as a safer alternative to a standard collar or a choke-chain collar. It’s not recommended that a dog wear one of these while not supervised.
Other Types of Collars that May be Useful
Choke-chain collar: According to the AKC’s New Puppy Handbook, some trainers suggest a "choke chain" collar for training, but you must know the proper way to use one for it to be safe. When used under the guidance of a reputable dog trainer some breeds respond very well to a chain-link training collar, but others, especially short-nosed dogs, should never wear a choke chain. The options listed above, especially the head halter, is a safer, more effective way to prevent pulling on a walk.
Prong/pinch collar: The American Kennel Club recognizes that special training collars may be an effective and useful management device, when properly used, for controlling dogs that might be extremely active, difficult to control on a neck collar, or dog aggressive. These collars are also recognized as possibly useful for gaining control at the start of basic obedience training, essential education that dogs deserve and need. Contact a qualified trainer or behaviorist for assistance with one of these devices, and note that they are not permitted for use while competing in AKC events. Also, with proper training (and assistance for a veterinary behaviorist, if necessary), your dog can learn to walk on a leash using one of the recommended devices above. Training for the Canine Good Citizen test includes loose-leash walking and can be a rewarding way to help your dog overcome minor issues during a walk. If your pet is showing leash aggression or other behavior issues, speak with your veterinarian, who can provide you with resources to solve the problem safely.
Types of Leashes for Pet Dogs
- Standard leash: Straight leashes are available in a variety of fabrics (including nylon and leather), widths, and lengths, and most feature a loop at the end for easy gripping. Some also feature reflective fabric for evening walks. Selecting which variety is right for you is mostly based on preference and budget, but it may be necessary to consider the size of your dog and the weight of the leash. (Smaller dogs don’t need a large, heavy leash, but larger dogs prone to pulling might require a heavier leash for better control.)
- Retractable leash: These leashes usually feature a thick plastic grip out of a which a thin nylon cord comes out when pulled and retracted when the pressure is released, similar to a measuring tape. These leashes can work against you when teaching loose-leash walking and are not permitted during Canine Good Citizen tests. For best results, we recommend a standard leash for pet dogs.