Dog collars may not technically be required by law, but they certainly are the most common and easiest way to comply with just about every law, ordinance, and HOA rules which do require that pets be under their owners control at all times. Plus, they make life easier for you if you need to grab them real quick and are a simple way to help get them home if they ever get loose or lost.
Like many other dog products you will find countless styles and variations of materials, colors, and designs. Whichever you choose, here are our thoughts on things to consider.
Size and Fit. The goal is to have the collar snug enough that your dog can’t slip out of it, but not so tight it restricts their airway. Also, if the collar is too loose there is the risk of it getting snagged on a branch, or fence, or even entangled in the jaws of another dog when rough-housing. The rule of thumb is you should be able to slip three fingers under their collar when fastened.
Collar Width. The larger and heavier your dog the wider you will want the collar to be. The reason for this is pressure distribution. If the collar is too narrow for a big, strong dog, when they pull on it it can begin to cut into their neck. We prefer to get as wide as possible without being cumbersome. For our large dogs we use a 1 inch collar. Tiny dogs can use something as narrow as 3/8 an inch and your average medium dog will likely be most comfortable in something in-between like ¾ – 5/8 of an inch.
Buckles and Hardware. This may sound contradictory, but we prefer dog collars with plastic safety buckles and metal hardware such as the D-ring for clasping the leash. Your traditional buckle, like you’ll mostly find on belts we all wear with pants, have the metal tongue into eyelets setup. For the function of staying clasped these are tried-and-true and have been around for centuries. For the function of a dog collar, however, they present two downsides. One, they can only be sized in the increments allowed by the spacing of the eyelets, usually at most half-inch spaces. This can likely end up with it being too snug or too loose. Two, whenever the collar needs to be removed, it must first be cinched tighter to get the eyelet over the tongue. In normal circumstances this may just be a moment of slight discomfort as the collar tightens around your dogs neck, in an emergency, where maybe your dogs neck has swollen or the collar and has been snagged on something and is effectively choking your dog, this may not even be an option and you’ll need to cut off the collar. This can be very challenging if you don’t have the right knife or scissors immediately available, and even then you still need to get the blade under the collar. For these reasons, we prefer collars with the safety-buckle. This sort of technology is very secure and you’ll find it in use with all sorts of outdoor equipment such as backpacking, rock-climbing, etc. Yes, it can break easier than anything metal, but we’ve only seen this happen if we step on them while laying on the ground, etc, and never in practical situations while being worn by a dog. The real benefit is their ease of release with a simple simultaneous squeeze on both sides and it does not require cinching the collar tighter. Plus, they can be sized down to every couple of millimeters with your standard nylon collar and if plastic, they won’t get too hot in the sun. And finally, the D-Ring should be metal. It will most likely be attached to a metal ID tag ring and leash clasp. We don’t worry about the sun making these too hot since the back side, the area closest to your dog’s neck, it usually covered by the fabric of the collar.
Materials. You really can’t go wrong with the standard nylon webbing. Again, this is the same type of material rock-climbers use to secure their belongings and their selves when perched on the side of a mountain. The weight-to-strength ratio is out of this world (a few ounces of nylon webbing can hold hundreds of pounds and ridiculous amounts of pressure) and they are exceptionally durable when it comes to the withstanding the elements such as water, snow, sand, and the sun. That said, we’ve also seen tons of fun stuff such as climbing rope, hemp, leather, canvas, etc, etc. Whichever you choose, just make sure to regularly inspect them for wear and tear, especially the stitching.
One final note: We also, of course, list ID tags as an essential dog supply, but we are super-fans of collars which can be customized with personalized stitching. We like to include our dogs name and one of our cell phone numbers on each of their collars. If you’ve ever come upon a lost and scared dog and tried to read their ID tags while they’re freaking out, you’ll understand why. Being able to simply see their name and a number, perhaps even before they let you get close enough to secure them, is a wonderful benefit and could mean the difference for your dog being rescued and returned safely home.