Ang’s quick primer to dog collars, their materials and their uses

Guest post by Ang

Ang recently schooled us on giant breed dogs, and now she’s back to talk collars with us in two parts: today we’re starting with the basics of collar qualities, materials, and types.

Hobo in a Paco collar

Collars are the primary dog fashion accessory; we actually have a “puppy closet” for the obscene number of collars that we have. There are so many types, and many of them have a specific purpose. The goal here is to break down the different types and materials so you can make the best choice for yourself.

The important basics of collar knowledge

  • The wider the collar, the less pressure is put on your dog’s trachea.
  • When buying a collar, every manufacturer uses different sizing techniques. Make sure you know their sizing policy before you buy.
  • The standard way to know if a collar fits is to put two fingers between your dog’s collar and neck. It should fit snugly, not too tight, and not too loose.
  • Plastic buckles can shatter in harsh winter conditions. If you live in an area that often goes below freezing, avoid plastic buckles.
  • While it is easy (and fun) to upcycle belts for dog collars, the type of leather used in belts is usually a softer porous type, which is more likely to stretch. Use these as special occasion pieces unless you know what kind of leather it is.
Nee models a Moxie and Oliver collar


Collars are made from many materials, including inner tubes, but the two most common materials are nylon and leather.


Leather breathes, it’s natural and organic, it holds up to a LOT of abuse, and as long as you get a good quality collar, there is minimal upkeep. Leather is NOT good for humid environments because it can rot, compromising the leather. My personal favorite place for leather collars is Paco Collars. They are more expensive than Petsmart, but they are sturdy as hell, cheaper in the long run, absolutely GORGEOUS, and their customer service is ridiculously good. My Chinook Hobo has worn a double layered Griffin collar for years. Nee, my Dane, had a gorgeous Gaelic one. He now has one from Moxie & Oliver.


The most common material used in collars. It’s cheap, good in water, and durable — but nylon can wear down over time, especially if the material is thin. It also can be a hazard if your dog has a habit of getting stuck, or you have more than one dog and they chew on each other’s collars. Since nylon doesn’t break, it’s easy for your dog to get stuck and choke. My favorite place for nylon collars is Blocky Dogs. They’re built to last and made from military grade materials, but they can weigh over a pound, so they aren’t a good choice for medium or smaller dogs.

Every day collars

Flat collars

Also known as buckle collars, these are the standard dog collars that come to mind. They consist of a strip of material, and a fastener of some type and usually a buckle made of metal or plastic.

Martingale collars

Also known as sighthound/greyhound collars, half check collars, and limited slip collars. They combine a flat collar with a slip collar. This means that the collar slightly closes, but not enough to choke the dog. This is great for pups who have a tendency to slip their collars, especially ones with big fat necks. Not so good for dogs with a lot of hair, since it can get tangled up. My English Setter Araby has a martingale from 2 Hounds Design. It’s a great choice for her because she has some throat problems, and the very nature of the Martingale means that the pressure is applied to her neck before her throat. We have it sized so even when it’s fully closed, it’s too big to choke her, but too small to go over her head. 2 Hounds collars are lined for comfort, and while I wouldn’t suggest getting one of their silk brocade options for playing in the mud, their construction is durable and guaranteed against flaws in workmanship.

Good start, guys! Read up now, and next week we’ll be back with Part II: Training collars.

Comments on Ang’s quick primer to dog collars, their materials and their uses

  1. We always used leather collars on our Berners because the breeder recommended it. One thing that she told us that you didn’t mention is that some collars (particularly nylon ones, I think) can mat the neck fur on really hairy dogs. We always stuck with a rolled leather collar which lasted forever, and never had any problems.

  2. I LOVE Paco Collars, my shiba inu/shepherd mix has had one of their collars for about 5 years and it is in just as good shape as the day I got it! AND he used to eat collars on a regular basis!

  3. I’ve been a fan of Lupine collars/harnesses/leashes ( for several years. Their guarantee is that if/when a product is damaged, they will replace it. This includes things like a harness that gets chewed off or a collar with a broken buckle. Their products are also adorable. 🙂

    • Love these collars. I used to work for a vet and saw many a mangled collar (though i’m not sure how those things are tough) and never had any problem getting them replaced.

  4. I use Lupine!!! I love Lupine. They have a lifetime guarantee… and that includes chewing! My dog, Sgt. Pepper has had their “Woofstock” collar for awhile now.

  5. I always get our dogs’ leather collars made at tack shops (stuff for horseback riding). A lot of the saddlers will make collars out of the same material they make reins, and they’ll engrave a piece of brass (matches the hardware on the collars) and tack it to the collar for you as well. For example, ours has the dog’s name, and our phone number so just in case either dog gets lost, someone can call us. They hold up great, and only need a little saddle soap every once in a while to stay strong and pretty.

  6. I never knew that about plastic buckles. We just moved to DC from a pretty warm place. Would it be wise for me to invest in a metal buckled collar to use on my heeler just in case we get serious winter weather?

    • We moved to Connecticut 2 years ago, and we haven’t had problems with plastic buckles. Granted, we don’t do serious winter sports, and the dogs are inside most of the time, but they play in the snow and we take them on walks as well. Maybe it would be different if we had really arctic conditions, cheaper plastic buckles, and/or the dogs spent a good bit more time outdoors, though.

    • We live in the DC area too and I can assure you plastic buckles should not be a problem. My small dog plays in snow until his feet freeze, but hasn’t broken a collar. Remember that the collar is positioned close to your dogs neck (a toasty 99.5-102.5 degrees) so it shouldn’t ever get to a freezing temp. I’m also a vet, and have never had a client report this problem. Hope this helps!

      • Thanks that helps a lot! This will be our first real winter so we’re trying to get the quadruped as prepared as possible, especially since he’s an older gentleman.

  7. It would be great if there could be a similar post on cat collars. I can never get my cats to wear them.

    They either refuse to eat or drink while they are on, or try to chew them off and get the collar stuck in their mouths. I clearly can’t leave them unsupervised with collars if that’s what they are going to do with them. Any advice on getting cats to wear collars would be appreciated.

    • In my experience, if a cat decides it doesn’t want to wear a collar, there’s not much you can do to persuade it otherwise. You could try a harness. If you do put a collar on your kitty though, make sure it’s a break-away one so it doesn’t get strangled! And, it shouldn’t be loose enough that they can get their mouths stuck in there. Hope that’s helpful.

  8. I just made my girl a nylon collar using climbing-equipment grade nylon, hardware from a farm-equipment store and decorative ribbon. It’s adorable and certainly strong enough. Since we use a halty for walks anyways, the pressure is not on her neck so we were a bit more willing to attempt this, though we did decide that the collar was on trial for a little bit before we used it permanently. You certainly have to be confidant in your own sewing abilities before taking this route, but I feel like she’s both safe and stylish in my home-made collar.

    This is the tutorial I followed:

  9. Our pit bull wears a hemp collar with a plastic buckle, but it’s primary purpose is to look pretty and hold her tags. For walks we use a training collar that’s chain. Since her neck is as big as her head a regular collar would just slip off if she wanted it to. Since she’s well trained and non-aggressive the chain rarely gets tight and never has “choked” her, and it keeps her safe near traffic and other dogs.

  10. Plastic buckles can be safer with multiple dogs too – I worked in a vet office and have heard several stories of dogs getting tangled up in collars, and the plastic buckles are much quicker and easier to release than the metal belt-type buckles. Many doggy day care places will require plastic buckles for that very reason!

  11. Great timing of this article for me, as we’re welcoming home our adopted greyhound/great dane cross in a couple of weeks, and I’m constantly keeping an eye out for different makers of martingale collars.

    Anyone with sighthounds here who can speak to whether it’s necessary to find a lined collar? Some sources I’ve read claim that with a greyhound’s thin skin, unlined nylon could irritate, but other sources say no. Betty’s a little more sturdy with the great dane in her, but I don’t want to take chances.

  12. Fabulous timing! We brought home our first dog last Friday, a sweet border collie from the shelter. We’re completely in love and I want to do everything perfectly for her – perhaps a leather collar would be better with the long double coat!

  13. Does anyone have any suggestions on what to do with one of those dogs with a bigger neck than head (a stubborn beagle/shiba inu mix)? We’ve tried every type of collar, including the collar/chain mix, and he can still slip out of it (we’ve even tried a harness, and to this day have no idea how he manages to get it off of himself). The only thing we’ve found that works is a chain, and I hate to use it on him.

  14. We have an Akita, and use a nylon martingale collar on him, but I hate what it does to the fur around his neck (it makes it break off and get all weird), and I never realized it could be fixed with a different type of collar – I figured they’d all do that. I’ll have to try a leather one. Thanks!

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