Collars: What You Need to Know 

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There are many kinds of collars available. No single product will work for every dog or every situation.   

Here’s a list of different kinds of collars, their specific recommendations, and the pros and cons of each: 

Buckle Collars

Like their name implies, these are fastened by a buckle. Usually made of nylon, buckle collars have no moving parts, so once adjusted, they will stay at whatever length you choose.  These are the most common collars since the dog can wear it every day. 

Fit:   The collar should sit low around the dog’s neck; the width should be relative to the size of the dog and no wider than 25% of the dog’s neck length. You should be able to insert two fingers between the dog’s neck and the collar. 


  • Affordable
  • Adjustable length relative to thickness of dog’s neck - simply choose different holes as your dog grows.   
  • Encourages willing compliance rather than forced compliance. 


  • Dogs can pull easier when going for a walk. 
  • If not fitted properly, can cause permanent neck damage.   
  • Some dogs can slip out.   

Head Collars

These are often used on larger dogs who pull on the leash.  Because head collars wrap around the dog’s head, they make controlling the canine much easier as dogs tend to travel in the direction of their nose.  Different brands of head collars include: 

Halti – Fitted by placing the nose band over the muzzle and then fastening the strap of the collar around the back of the neck, this collar does not restrict mouth movement.  The nose band should lie halfway between the eyes and nose, but should not restrict panting. 

Gentle Leader – When fitted properly, the dog can open its mouth to eat, drink, bark, pant, etc., except when pulling on the leash.  The neck strap should be positioned high on the neck and behind the ears.  The nose band should be fitted around the muzzle. 

Control Ease – This brand allows the dog to eat, drink, pant, etc.  It provides a comfortable fit by offering a padded nose band and offers a locking mechanism to prevent slipping off the dog’s head.  It can also be used with dogs who have short noses. 


  • Usually provides immediate control over dogs who pull.   
  • Many trainers view this as the most humane and safest of all collars. 
  • Provides self-correction. 


  • It takes a long time for many dogs to get used to a head collar; some dogs may be able to slip out of them.  (You can use positive reinforcement and desensitization to help the dog get accustomed to it.) 


Pinch or Prong Collars

These collars are made up of interlocking metal links with blunt prongs designed to pinch and constrict the dog’s skin any time the leash is pulled. The pinch collar should fit snugly, high on the dog’s neck right behind its ears.   


  • The smallest correction will usually provide immediate results.   
  • If fitted properly, it constricts just enough to allow the collar to pinch. 
  • It provides self-correction. 


  • Can be painful to a dog if not fitted properly.  This pain can cause aggression or make dogs who are already fearful even more so. 
  • Promotes the idea that force is needed when training.  
  • If corrections are not given properly, a dog can form negative associations to people and dogs encountered while wearing this collar.  


Slip Collars

Also known as a choke collar, the slip collar consists of a strip of metal, nylon, or leather with a large ring at the end. Insert the material through the ring to form a loop to slip over the dog’s head.  When you pull on the ring, the collar will tighten, making the loop smaller. Releasing tension will make the loop bigger. 

Fit – Measure the circumference of the dog’s neck and add two inches.  For dogs with skulls larger than their neck, add an extra inch.  It should slip easily over the dog’s head. 

Usage – Slip collars are mostly used for training. Trainers can use a sharp correction by quickly tugging it or by keeping tension on the collar until the dog provides the desired behavior.  Slip collars should only be used during the actual training session. 


  • Usually provides immediate results   
  • Many different types of materials to choose from 


  • Can cause neck damage or change in temperament
  • No safety device to prevent strangulation 

Electronic Collars (e-collars) 

Electronic collars are controversial.  An e-collar is operated remotely to either cue or correct a dog.  Most contain a receiver and a hand-held transmitter.  When activated, the collar will send a sonic sound (which everyone can hear), an ultrasonic sound (which only dogs or cats can hear), a scented spray like lemon or citronella, a vibration, or a static electronic stimulation.  Some brands allow you to adjust the intensity of the stimulus and the distance required to activate the e-collar. Check to make sure the device delay is in milliseconds and has a safety mode that will turn off stimulation if the transmitter is held down too long. 

Fit – the e-collar must fit snugly around the dog’s neck with only enough free space to put one finger between the neck and the collar.  The receiver box should be positioned on the front of the dog’s neck with the contact points in direct contact with the skin. 


  • Usually provides immediate results
  • Can be effective for obtaining off-leash control  
  • Different warning tones available 


  • Timing is critical when associating the e-collar delivery with the dog’s behavior. 
  • If you are only using e-collars for corrections, your dog may be obedient only when he sees the collar. 
  • With time, dogs may become desensitized. 
  • If an e-collar is used on an aggressive or fearful dog, it could amplify the behavior. 

Electronic Bark Collar and Control Devices – The e-bark collar detects barks via a microphone or vibration sensor, and delivers a correction – a startling sound or a scented spray of lemon or citronella – any time your dog barks. 


  • Can be effective in curbing excessive barking when other tools haven’t worked   
  • A wide variety of choices and fits available. 
  • E-collars that offer a combination of detecting both sound and vibration will most likely eliminate false corrections. 
  • Some collars will automatically deliver the correction when the dog is barking, and then increase the level of intensity if the dog continues to bark. 


  • If a dog has separation anxiety, it could cause additional stress without providing help for the barking. 
  • If your dog is aggressive, it could increase the intensity of the aggression. 
  • Some dogs can become desensitized to the collar. 
  • If using the e-collar without supplementing it with training, the dog could continue to bark when the collar is removed. 
  • False correction can occur if a collar only senses sound or only senses vibration. 
  • If a dog is hearing impaired, collars which use sound will not be effective. 

Citronella Collar – These collars provide a spray of citronella whenever the dog barks.  The device will be placed on the front of the neck, and the spray will be directed toward the muzzle. 


  • You don’t have to be present for the collar to work. 
  • Quick results after a few applications. 
  • Safer and more humane than other options


  • It doesn’t work on all dogs. 
  • The smell of the citronella will linger even after the dog stops barking. 
  • The dog could resume barking as soon as the collar is removed.