If you have a dog, chances are you have at least a collar or two — or, if you’re like me, perhaps a dozen for each dog, depending on the season or celebration. Collars are a pet ownership staple, both for holding identification tags and having a secure way to move the dog when needed. Without even considering the design or color, just simply the collar type, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Read on to find the best collar for your pet, including those that prevent escape and strangulation and alternatives to corrective collars. 

Dog wearing flat collar

Flat Collars

Think of it as your white T-shirt, a wardrobe staple. The flat collar is simple: a piece of material adjustable for length that fits around your dog’s neck, often with a snap buckle. Though traditional, the flat collar holds tremendous value for its simplicity. ID tags can be secured to the collar, and it can be used as a walking tool for trained dogs. It’s also a security measure to hold or move a dog when needed.


  • Dogs usually adjust quickly and easily to wearing the collar. 
  • ID tags can safely be placed on the collar.

  • Most dogs pull on a flat collar unless trained otherwise. Dogs who consistently pull against their collars have an elevated risk of damage to the sensitive throat area.
  • There is a risk of strangulation if the collar catches on something when the dog is unsupervised. However, the flat collar is less likely to produce strangulation than most other collars, which tighten when pulled.
  • Escape-artist pooches can back out of the collar.
  • Redirecting your dog to face you is difficult with the flat collar, as the dog can still strain forward when you pull. For dogs who are difficult on walks, such as those who bark at other dogs, a front-clip harness or head halter may be a better choice. 
Breakaway collar

Breakaway Collars

The breakaway collar gives way when caught on something, such as a tree branch. The breakaway feature helps to safeguard against strangulation accidents. Dogs can still be walked on the collar without it snapping open by clipping the leash to both metal rings, located on either side of the breakaway feature. 


  • If the collar gets caught, it opens, reducing the risk of choking.
  • Dogs left together, such as in a pen or at a doggy day care, can benefit from the collar, which will open if caught on an enclosure or a dog’s paw.
  • The collar can protect farm dogs or active dogs in difficult terrain from getting caught on elements in the environment, such as fencing.

  • If you grab the collar without securing it by the two walking loops, it will open. Unfortunately, that fact could result in the collar coming off when needed, such as to prevent the dog from running into traffic.
  • On walks, the breakaway collar comes with the same drawbacks as the flat collar, including little control over pulling.
  • The collar can break open fairly easily, leaving a dog without proper identification. For that reason, it’s essential to microchip your dog.  
Dog wearing martingale collar

Martingale Collars

The martingale collar consists of a length of material whose two ends are attached to another piece, which the leash attaches to, so that the collar tightens when pulled. It has a limited choking effect, as it tightens only to a fixed degree, unlike a choke chain.


  • Escape artists skilled at backing out of collars have limited ability to do so in the collar, which tightens when pulled.
  • The limited tightening damages the neck less than a choke chain.
  • The collar fits loosely on the neck when the slip section isn’t pulled.
  • Some dogs may be less inclined to pull on a martingale than on a flat collar.
  • Sight hounds or dogs with necks the same size or larger than their heads can be walked safely without the collar slipping off.

  • The collar can be uncomfortable and can have some choking effect on a dog if he doesn’t understand to lessen pulling when it tightens.
  • Dogs should be supervised while wearing the collar, as it can have a choking effect if caught on something. 
There is another category of collars called corrective collars that include choke, slip and prong collars, which close in a choking motion when pulled. I didn’t go into detail here as I don’t recommend them. The collars can cause pain and physical harm, such as strangulation from a choke chain that gets caught on something, tracheal or neck injury from pulling on a leash attached to a choke chain, or welts from an improperly fitting prong collar. I’ve found that walking devices such as front-clip harnesses and head halters, combined with reward-based training, are more humane and effective than corrective collars. Stay tuned — these harnesses and halters will be covered in an upcoming article!

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