How Tight Should a Dog Collar Be? Finding the Right Fit for Your Canine Companion!

How Tight Should a Dog Collar be

Dog collars are useful tools, but they should never be too tight as they can not only cause discomfort but pose a choking hazard. However, you want the collar snug enough that it doesn’t just slip over your pet’s head.

I don’t know about you, but I love shopping for dog collars for my pup. Adding a pop of color to his dark fur and knowing it’s protecting him does me a world of good. When it comes to dog collars, though, they’re more than just fashionable; they serve a very real purpose. 

Plus, there are so many different kinds of collars on the market, it can be hard to know which ones are best. Should you go with the fabric collar that is reflective for night visibility or an electronic collar that can help you pinpoint its location or train it to be quiet, or follow specific yard boundaries? 

There’s no one right answer. The collar that works best for your pup and your needs is the one you should buy. Let’s take a deeper dive into the topic. 

What is a Dog Collar?

how tight should a dog collar be

A dog collar is a strap of material worn around a pup’s neck and serves multiple purposes. Most people put a collar on to take their pet for a walk as a containment method to keep it from running off. 

A dog collar should be properly fitted to your pet in order to be most effective. If it’s too tight and you risk the dog’s comfort and safety. On the contrary, a loose collar can easily slide over their heads and send you on a wild goose chase to get them back into the house. 

To make sure the collar fits, you should follow the two-finger rule. That means you can easily slide two fingers, but not more, underneath the fabric. That gives the collar enough room to shift and keeps your pet comfortable while still ensuring it doesn’t slip off. 

How Tight Should a Dog Collar Be?

fit dog collar

A dog collar should never be too tight. When you buy one, you might have to adjust it a few times to make sure it’s the proper fit. 

If you don’t take your pup with you to the store to pick out a new collar, or you decide to order one online, the best way to get the sizing down is to use a string or a flexible measuring tape to measure the neck circumference. Make sure you take the measurements closer to the shoulders, as this is where the collar will sit. 

It’s a good idea to measure twice, just to make sure. Always add a few inches to give yourself room to adjust, especially if you have a puppy who is constantly growing. 

Types of Dog Collars

There are many different types of dog collars on the market that serve many different purposes. It can be difficult to choose which one is right for you and, more importantly, for Rover. Knowledge is power when it comes to making your choice, and an educated decision will result in the best dog collar purchase.

Flat Collars

dog Collars

The most common type of pet collars are flat collars, typically referred to as fabric collars. These are made with various materials, ranging from durable nylon to leather. They also come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, so you can pick one that suits the personality of your furry friend.

In addition to coming in various colors and materials, they come in a wide range of thicknesses and lengths to fit any breed of dog.

Martingale Collars

Martingale collars are pretty popular, and for a good reason, they look like regular flat collars but give slightly more control. They tighten when the dog pulls, but not nearly as tight as a choke collar. People love these because they are notoriously difficult for a dog to slip out of.

Head Collars

space between dogs collar and neck

Head collars look a lot like muzzles, but they don’t have the same restrictions. Muzzles make it difficult for a dog to open its mouth, while head collars allow dogs to eat, catch toys, and bark. It is a useful training tool that helps teach canines not to pull when they’re being walked. 

Electronic Collars

how tight dog collar

Electronic collars, also referred to as e-collars, are those that deliver a shock to a dog as part of corrective behavior training. They’re remote controlled, so the user clicks a button to issue a stimulation to stop bad habits.

These collars, unlike a normal dog collar, are not meant for everyday use and should only be used by those who have extensive knowledge of how to use them properly with training.

Breakaway Collars

Breakaway Collars​

One of the most important safety features for me in a collar is that if Ranger gets caught on something, he can get free. This is why I’m a huge proponent of breakaway collars. Should he get snagged, the collar opens and releases him, safeguarding him from choking to death. If you like to leave your dog outside in a fenced-in yard, I highly recommend these.

GPS Collars

GPS Collars for dogs

Some dogs just like to run. Like, you open the door, and they’re gone. This can be dangerous, and it’s a good example of why training is so essential for a dog owner. However, GPS collars can help you track your dog no matter where it is, as long as you’re within cellular range — sadly, they’re not much help in very remote areas.

They harness the powers of satellites to pinpoint your pup’s location. Our Halo collar review can help provide more insight into how they work. 

Most GPS collars do require a tracking service that you pay a subscription for, either monthly or annually. Additionally, many GPS collars also come with invisible fencing systems as an add-on capability for extra safety. For more information about these, just look up the best underground dog fence for your pet. 

Bark Collars

dog collar tightness

If you have a noisy pup, and let’s face it, sometimes we don’t even know why they’re barking, a bark collar can help train them to be quieter. They are electronic and emit vibrations, sounds, or stimulations, or a combination thereof. 

Make sure you do your research into the different brands and how they’re used, for example, looking up reviews for the best bark collar for small dogs if you have a toy breed. This kind of collar should not be worn 24/7; save them for when you really need them. 

Choke Collars

I’m not a fan of choke collars, but for some people, they do have their place. Choke collars are typically chain collars, those that tighten around your dog’s neck when they pull. It’s meant to deter pulling so you’re not at risk of being walked, rather than walking your dog.

We’ve all seen those viral videos of dog owners returning sans dogs or covered in mud from being dragged. If this is a risk for you, because you have an unruly pup or a really big pup, I would recommend the aforementioned head and Martingale options. 

Pinch Collars

recommended space between dogs collar and neck

Pinch collars, also known as prong collars, still exist, though they’re not widely used like they used to be. These tighten around the neck but have added inward-facing prongs that poke when the dog pulls. Like choke collars, they shouldn’t be widely used and only under direct supervision, if at all.

Dog Collar Features

There are a number of features you can compare on a dog collar as well. For example: 

  • Material – this is important not only for your dog’s comfort but also for durability. For example, if you have a chewer, you’ll want a really strong material that your pup can’t easily gnaw through. 

  • Adjustability – the ability to adjust your collar is critical, especially during the first two years of their lives, when they’re still growing. Many collars have a sliding buckle that lets you loosen or tighten as necessary. Leather collars will have a series of holes, like a belt. 

  • Closure type – the closure type is really a matter of choice. Buckles are easy to do and undo, but many people, including myself, appreciate the convenience of a quick-release snap. 

  • Hardware – if you’re using your dog’s collar to attach its ID and vaccination tags, you’ll want a D ring. Ideally, you should have two. One for the dog tag and one to attach the leash to. 

  • Safety features – some collars have built-in safety features such as reflective strips that make them easy to see at night and a breakaway closure that allows them to escape if they’re trapped. There are even lighted collars that work when there’s no light available. 

  • Water resistance – If you have a pup that sees any body of water and needs to be in it now, you’ll appreciate having a waterproof or water-resistant collar. Some, like nylon and polyester collars, are machine washable for convenience. 

It’s up to you which features are must-haves and which ones you can live without. 

Tips and Tricks to Use Dog Collar

how tight dog collar

Whether you have had dogs all your life, like me, and just need a refresher, or you are soon becoming a new dog parent (congrats!), there are tips and tricks to using a pet collar that can make your life so much easier. 

The first and most important thing to mention is that proper measurements are essential. You don’t want to put your pet’s safety at risk by having a tight collar that’s too small and chokes them. Additionally, one that’s too big is also a safety hazard because they can slide out of them and end up running away, which could result in getting lost or injured. 

In order to pick out the proper size collar, make sure you refer to the manufacturer’s sizing chart. This will tell you what size necks a specific collar size is designed to fit. Remember that sizing charts can vary by manufacturer and by collar type. 

Additionally, bear in mind that collars are not meant to be worn around the clock. Take them off at night or when you put your pet in a crate if you’re crate training. This will give you peace of mind that it’s not getting snagged and causing a health hazard while you’re sleeping or away.

Signs of a Collar That is Too Tight 

There are several signs that will alert you to whether your dog’s collar is too tight. This is why it’s important to regularly check the fit.

  • Chafing and hair loss 

  • Swelling 

  • Gagging

  • Coughing

  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing

  • Redness

  • Constant scratching

  • Visible discomfort

If you notice any of the above, the first thing to check is how the collar fits. The two-finger test is a good indicator. If it is too tight, just adjust it, if possible. If you can no longer adjust it because you’ve reached its maximum size or it’s damaged in some way, it’s time to buy a new one. 

Importance of Using Dog Collar

how tight should a dog collar be

While it’s not necessary to use a dog collar all the time, they do have their purposes. They help identify a lost pet if you added their tags on properly and they help contain your pet while you’re out on a walk. Many people even use them to tie their pets out in a yard. 

However, like all pet products, they do come with several advantages and disadvantages. Here are just a few.


Collars come with several advantages, the first being that it makes it much easier to identify your pet if they happen to escape your yard or get off a leash. This ensures whoever finds your pet can return them to you. In addition to a collar, it’s always a good idea to have your dog microchipped, too. Collars can fall off, and so can tags. 

Another advantage to keep in mind is that they are very effective as training aids. You can use them to teach how to walk properly on a leash, teach them boundaries in your yard with the best GPS dog fence on the market, or even to quiet loud, consistent barking. 

Collars are a great way to gain quick control over your pet in an emergency situation. You can grab it to keep them from running out of a house or to stop aggressive behavior. They also clip well into seatbelts for safe travel in a car. Reflective collars enhance your dog’s safety during low-light conditions.


There are some slight disadvantages to a dog collar as well. For example, they can put a strain on a dog’s neck, particularly if you use the wrong type on a dog who likes to pull while you’re out walking. 

In some instances, such as if the dog is allergic to one or more of the materials the collar is made of, they can cause skin irritation. Some dogs also associate the collars with negative behaviors, such as if they were abused with a specific type of restraint in the past.


Yes. If you’re looking to keep your pet safe but are adamantly against collars, you’re not alone. The good news is there are other products you can consider. A dog harness, a constraint system that fits over the dog’s body rather than its head or neck, is the most popular option.

If they like to run, we have an insight into the best escape-proof dog harness available. Others prefer to use a slip lead, one that slides over the head at the time of a walk or transport rather than for regular wear. 

You can also check out our guide on dog harness vs dog collars to know more about the difference between them.

You should regularly check your dog’s collar fit. I typically make sure Ranger’s is perfect whenever I put it on him. It takes just a few seconds, but it can make all the difference in the world and, in some cases, mean the difference between life and death. Slide your pointer and middle fingers inside your dog’s existing collar, if fingers slide easily, they’re good to go!

Measuring your dog’s neck for a collar is easy enough. The best way to do it is to use a flexible measuring tape and add an inch or two. Then, you can find a collar within a size range that fits that figure.

If you don’t have a flexible measuring tape, you can use a piece of string, then measure that along a hard ruler, or take the string itself to a pet store and compare it to the collars for sale. 

Final Thought

Dog collars are extremely useful tools, both for pet containment and as training aids. However, it’s imperative that you use them as outlined. Failure to do so could result in the risk of injury or, in extreme cases, death.

Make sure you follow all manufacturer directions for specialty collars and take them off at night so they have a break from the weight around their neck. If you plan to use one with an invisible fencing system, check out the best electric dog fences available. 

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