How Tight Should a Dog Collar Be? (What You Need to Know)

Having a dog collar can benefit your furry friend in many ways. It ensures safety, provides identification, and is essential for walks and adventures. It not only adds to their overall well-being, but shows your love and commitment as a responsible pet owner. That is why choosing the right collar for your dog and making sure it fits them right is just as important. As dog lovers ourselves, we share a quick guide on how you can set the right balance of function and comfort for your dog's collar.

Quick Summary:

  • If a dog collar is too tight, it can restrict their movement and cut off their circulation.
  • The perfect collar size is when you can fit two fingers between your dog's collar and neck.
  • Coughing, shortness of breath, chafing are signs that a dog's collar is tighter than it should be.

How Tight Should a Dog Collar Be?

When choosing a dog collar, comfort and safety should be at the top of your list. So how tight should a dog collar be? The perfect fit is being able to fit two fingers comfortably between the collar and your dog's neck. This way, the collar is snug enough to stay in place, but not too tight to cut off their circulation. This will cause discomfort or restrict your dog's breathing or movement.

Make it a habit to regularly check the fit of the collar, especially as puppies and younger dogs may grow rapidly and require adjustments. Remember, a collar that is too loose can result in your dog slipping out, however when too tight can lead to potential injuries. Always lean towards snug, not constricting. Find that sweet spot where your furry friend feels secure and comfortable.

Types of Dog Collar

Dog collars today come in so many colours, designs, and sizes. With several options in the market, we know how confusing it can be to choose what might suit your dog best. While we leave the colours and designs to your taste, we go back to basics by sharing a list of different dog collars by material, and weigh in the pros and cons for you to decide better.

Fabric Collar

Lightweight and comfortable for most dogs of many sizes, fabric dog collars are available in most stores because of their affordability and low maintenance.2 However, they may not be durable enough for heavy-duty use and can be easily gnawed on by teething pups. Should you decide on fabric collars, it is mostly recommended for dog owners to go for cotton as a safer, more breathable option.3 Some fabrics like nylon can feel stiff for dogs especially around the edges and irritate the skin around their neck.2

Metal Collars

Metal collars or chain collars are sturdy and durable options ideally for long term use versus other collars. They are suitable for more active and strong dogs that tend to pull on their leashes. They may be on the heavier side, so it is important to consider the weight and size of the chain especially for smaller or more delicate dogs. Typically made of stainless steel or other durable metals, it is also important to note that some metals may cause irritation or chafing around your dog's neck if fitted too tightly or if the dog may have sensitive skin.7

Certain metal dog collars come with padded or cushioned sections to add comfort and prevent skin irritation. Checking for any signs of discomfort or skin issues are crucial when using metal collars.

Leather Collars

dog with leather collar

Leather collars are a popular choice for their durability and stylish appearance. These are less likely to irritate the skin compared to other collars. While they make for a classic accessory, leather collars require more maintenance such as regular cleaning and conditioning to keep them at their best. They are also not suitable for water or prolonged sunlight exposure as well as excessive pulling or friction which can lead to damage.6

Lighted Collars

dog wearing a lighted collar

Also known as LED collars, lighted collars are great for night time walks, providing extra safety and visibility. It is a fitting collar to spot your dog in the dark especially in low-light conditions.5 They feature a built-in LED light that emits a bright glow to keep your dog safe from potential accidents or hazards.

While they are a right fit for dogs with dark coats, it is worth noting that they might nor be as durable as other types of collars. Their electronic components and LED lights are more susceptible to damage from rough play or water exposure. Always choose a high-quality lighted collar that is specifically designed to withstand the wear and tear of daily use.5

Martingale Collars

If you find your dog always slipping away, then martingale collars might just be a good fit. These collars are designed for dogs with narrower heads or necks compared to their body size that make it easier for them to break free. The limited-slip feature prevents the collar from choking the dog, while providing owners a certain degree of control.1

While they can be effective for preventing escape, they might not be suitable for all breeds, especially for dogs with thick necks and broad heads. Some dogs may even find the martingale collar uncomfortable or restrictive. In such cases, there are alternative options such as harnesses and other types of collars that can still provide a secure fit without causing discomfort.

Electronic Collars

Electronic collars, also known as shock collars or e-collars, can be effective training tools, but should be used with caution under the guidance of a professional trainer. These devices deliver an electrical 'shock' or static stimulus to a dog's neck when activated.4 They help provide clear and immediate feedback to dogs while teaching them specific commands or correcting unwanted behaviours.

However, it is crucial for owners to understand that e-collars should not be used as a sole training method. They should be part of a comprehensive training program with positive reinforcement techniques to help you build a stronger bond with your dog.4 Using these without proper guidance can lead to negative outcomes. Your professional trainer will guide you how to use this correctly while considering your dog's temperament, age, and previous experiences.

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How to Measure for a Dog Collar?

If a collar is too loose or too tight, then it is likely time to consider giving your dog or puppy a new collar. Because collars come in a variety of sizes, finding out what size fits best for your dog can go a long way in choosing what's best. All you need is a soft measuring tape or a piece of string and a ruler.9

  1. Make sure your dog is in a calm state. This will make measuring easier for you and your dog.
  2. Bring the string or measuring tape around the base of your dog's neck, just behind the ears. The rule of thumb is that you should be able to comfortably fit two fingers between the collar and your dog's neck.
  3. If you are using a string, mark the spot where it meets and then measure it against a ruler. This will give you the right measurement.
  4. When in doubt, consult with a professional or reference a breed-specific sizing chart if needed. Remember, it's better to get the right size to give you and your dog the right balance of comfort and function you both will appreciate.

3 Signs That Your Dog’s Collar Is Too Tight

dog displaying signs of a tight collar

If a dog collar is too tight, it can cause discomfort and potentially harm your furry friend. From coughing to panting and even hair loss, it is important to always check these 3 signs to ensure your dog's comfort and well-being.


Coughing shows a dog collar is tighter than it should be. Tightness can put pressure on the windpipe, making it difficult to breathe properly and even choke in severe cases.8

Shortness of Breath

Be sure to check for any signs that show any shortness of breath. Panting excessively or struggling to catch their breath could mean that the collar is restricting their airflow.8

Chafing and Loss of Fur

Chafing and loss of fur around the neck area indicate that a collar is too tight and rubs against the dog’s skin.8


Getting the right fit for your dog’s collar is not only important for your dog’s safety and well-being but also for the safety of your own peace of mind as well. Learning how to regularly check for signs of a tight collar is essential to make your walks and adventures a positive bonding experience.

We’ve covered the basics. Now the next step is to decide which collar fits your dog and your lifestyle best. Whether you’re going for classic or fun collar choices, exploring modern collars like the bark control collar can also do wonders for your dog’s safety and training. If you’re curious to know more, you can learn about it here.