There's such a wide selection of dog collars available with fun designs, different widths and purposes. So, lets get down to it and discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly.
At Awesome Dog Academy we have a positive reinforcement philosophy, this blog post is going to be written with the viewpoints of a force-free trainer. We pride ourselves in keeping up to date with dog behavior studies and research, which is why we are ranking these collars the way we are.
These collars are the typical collar we see on 99.9% of our students. They are the easiest to shop for or find in stores. Flat collars have so many choices! You can get them made of nylon, leather, or cloth. They have patterns, designs, floral, solid colors, bling, glow in the dark, padding, holiday, embroidery, the list goes on and on! These collars often have snaps or buckles to keep them closed, some are adjustable and others have a limited amount of lengths. The great thing about these collars is the amount of variety! You can even get some with your dog's name and a phone number embroidered right onto them! This collar is great for use every day, for keeping your dog's id tags and rabies tags. We love good ol' flat collars! Make sure your flat collar is properly fitted! Make sure you can only fit two fingers under the collar.
These collars are also known as slip collars. Martingale collars have a loop which let the collar tighten a little, but isn't designed to be a choke collar. This collar is designed to prevent your dog from backing out of the collar, which is most common with dogs who have heads which are similar thickness to their necks, like greyhounds, bulldogs, or even some pitbulls. The loop allows the collar to fit relaxed and comfortably until the dog pulls back to slip out, when the dog pulls back, the loop tightens just enough to stop it from slipping off the head. A Martingale collar should fit so that when your dog pulls, it tightens just enough to prevent the dog from backing out of it, but not so tight that it could potentially choke your dog or restrict it's breathing. Because the loop can get caught on this, please only keep this collar on your dog while supervised.
Collars for Special Situations - Not for Every Dog
Slip lead / Loop lead
These are basically leashes with the collar built in. You often see these at vet clinics, doggy daycare, or shelters / rescues. We actually have one on our training cart, in case a collar breaks and a dog gets loose. Being able to gain control of a dog quickly is very important in those situations. These collars are mainly for convenience, which help dog workers handle the dog quickly and safely. A slip lead is made of a length of nylon most commonly with a handle at one end and an O shaped ring on the other. The leash is pulled through the ring to form a slip collar on the other end. This creates a choke like situation, as the collar portion of the slip lead can continue to tighten without any limits. These collars are fine for brief, quick moments, like for the professions mentioned above, as they do not keep dogs on these collars for more than a minute at most. However, we do not recommend an owner using this style of collar on their dog, because they have no limiting feature and can cause damage if it is allowed to continually tighten on the throat
We recommend you never use collars which are specifically designed to hurt your dog, or cause discomfort. These kind of collars include:
Shock Collars (training & no-bark)
Citronella spray collars
These collars are made desirable because they promise the "quick fix". They promise things like "a small tickle" or "light stimulation" which are words they use to describe the level of shock they provide. I don't know about you, but I've never started giggling because I was "tickled" by a static shock. These collars try to appeal to owners by providing different covers, or rubber tips, as if this will cause less pain to the dog. Recent studies support the position that old fashioned, force based training methods can come with a significant risk of causing injury (choke chains are known to damage the canine trachea) and they create behavioral problems, specifically, they can cause fear and aggression in dogs. These tools often cause the dog to shut down, which is something we really don't want to see in dogs.
As positive reinforcement dog trainers, we value dogs who are confident, happy to offer behaviors, and enjoy their training sessions.
Dog Collar Tips
1. Never leave dogs unattended while wearing their collars Collars left on unattended dogs can potentially catch on something. There have even been cases of dogs hanging themselves accidentally because the collar was left on and it snagged on something the dog could not escape from. We can also risk the dog getting their lower jaw caught in the collar, which I have seen especially in puppies.
2. Don't leave collars on playing dogs
Dogs can get tangled in each other's collars, especially if they play with their mouths often. If you absolutely have to leave collars on dogs while they're playing, make sure the dogs are supervised, or wearing collars with quick release buckles, or even better, a breakaway collar.
3. Watch out for those tags!
Tags which hang down from a collar can be caught in heater vents or even crate wires. This goes back to supervising your dogs while they wear collars and taking them off when you can't keep an eye out. Also, there are collars that can have your info embroidered onto them, or ID tags which slip onto the collar instead of dangling tags.
Good luck on finding the collar that works perfect for you and your dog!
P.S. If your dog is a jumper, don't use a spiked collar, because you're just giving your dog a weapon!