A dog collar is more than just a place to hang a dog tag or attach a leash. Choosing the wrong collar can mean an injured dog or one on the loose. The right collar can make a stroll in the park enjoyable for both you and your pooch.
The Basic Snap Collar
The most common collar is the basic snap collar. These collars are available in several sizes and usually are adjustable within each size. The plastic snap has a built-in safety feature, which releases quickly if the collar becomes caught on something. Snap collars usually are made with nylon webbing, and sometimes include decorative ribbons, patches or rhinestones. Many companies that make snap collars also make matching leashes and harnesses, so your pup can have a matching set. Basic snap collars generally are the most affordable collars, although designer or one-of-a-kind snap collars can cost $40 or more. While snap collars are safe for most dogs, large or very strong dogs may be able to pull with enough strength to open the snap. If your pup is a strong puller, you might want to consider a different type of collar or a harness.
Buckle collars provide a step up in security from the snap collars. While many buckle collars usually are made of similar materials as snap collars, they also can be made of leather, canvas or other durable materials. The buckles usually are made of metal and a clasp much like a belt is. Unlike snap collars with a wide adjustment range, buckle collars are limited to the number of holes punched in the collar. As a result, it may be more difficult to find a perfect fit for your pooch with a buckle collar. But, if you have a large dog or a strong puller, a buckle collar may be a more safe bet for your canine companion.
If your pup is an escape artist, a martingale collar might be a good choice. Martingale collars originally were designed for greyhounds, Afghan hounds, whippets and other sight hounds with long, narrow heads, which allow basic collars to slip off. Martingales are designed to be loose around a pup's neck most of the time. If a dog pulls or tries to back out of the collar, it will tighten to prevent it from slipping off. Martingales provide good protection against escape on a walk, but these collars should never be left on an unattended or crated dog. Because they tighten with tension, they can be dangerous if they get caught. It's also a good idea to take the collar off when your pup is playing with his doggy friends.
Head collars aren't really collars, but are training tools. These collars are good to use for dogs who get distracted easily on walks or are difficult to control. The head collar works much like a halter on a horse. If your pup is walking too far ahead and gets distracted, the pressure from the head collar turns his head and his focus back to you. There is a lot of debate whether or not head collars are effective, safe and humane. Renowned dog trainer Pat Miller cautions owners using the head collars to be aware that spinal injuries can happen if your pooch lunges ahead and you turn his head too sharply. If you choose to try a head collar with your dog, be sure to work with a trainer familiar with how to use them safely.
Corrective collars, also known as aversive collars, are used for training purposes, and include choke chains, shock collars and prong collars. When your pup makes a mistake in training, the collars cause pain or discomfort as a punishment. The Humane Society of the United States discourages the use of these collars, as they can cause serious pain and permanent damage to your dog.