This article is from the Dog Supplies FAQ, by Cindy Tittle Moore with numerous contributions by others.
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.
A partial listing:
* 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
* 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
its mouth. Halter-style collars are especially useful in helping
train a dog away from constantly pulling on the leash. Owners 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
* 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 it will fall on its face
when it 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.
* If you like to ride bicycles, consider getting a Springer and
training your dog to run alongside of you. A Springer will keep
the dog from pulling you over while it's learning to follow you
and is breakaway in case of emergency. Available in mail order
catalogs. There are several manufacturers of these type of
products, all fairly similar and similarly priced.
* 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.