How Tight Should a Dog Collar Be?

Learning how to measure a dog for a collar is a necessary safety precaution. Find out which size collar is best for your furry best friend.

When measuring a dog for a collar, there should be room to fit your thumb between the collar and the dog’s neck. ©Bread and Butter Productions / Getty Images

Properly size your dog’s collar to keep him comfortable and to avoid serious injury, which can happen if a dog collar is too tight or too loose.

If a dog collar is too tight, your dog could suffer from:

  • Strangulation
  • Neck and throat damage
  • Skin irritations from rubbing
  • General discomfort

If your dog’s collar is too loose, that can also cause problems like:

  • General discomfort
  • Limb injuries due to your dog’s foot getting stuck in the collar
  • Mouth injuries due to the collar slipping over his mouth
  • The dog collar getting caught on fences or dog crates
  • The dog collar getting caught on furniture

Even after ensuring your dog collar has the correct fit, experts agree that a dog collar should be used only for holding dog ID tags and that a harness is best for walks (unless your veterinarian or trainer has a compelling reason otherwise). A 2020 study revealed that even the slightest tug on a collar can cause harm to a dog’s neck.

How do you measure a dog for a collar?

Most companies provide a measurement chart to help you choose the right size collar for your dog. These guides typically reference your dog’s neck girth and his weight, with the suggested dog collar sizes. Dog collar sizes typically range from extra small (XS) to extra large (XL). When measuring your dog’s neck girth, use a cloth measuring tape to avoid injury.

Once you’ve picked the correct size, the collar will allow you to adjust to your dog’s specific neck girth. The rule is that you should be able to at least fit your thumb between your dog’s collar and his neck. Or at most, fit two fingers.

What are breakaway dog collars

Breakaway dog collars can help avoid any serious injury to your dog’s neck, throat or other parts of their body. A breakaway dog collar has a buckle on it that’s designed to “break away” or unbuckle when it senses too much pressure pulling at it. It’s a safety measure that can save lives when your dog is playing independently outside and his collar gets stuck on a fence or tree branch or he and another dog are playing together and the collar gets stuck in the other dog’s mouth. (Note: Take off the collar if two dogs or more are playing together.) The collar unbuckles before your dog chokes or get a limb stuck in his collar.

Although it’s recommended to use a harness for walks, there is a double ring feature on the breakaway collar that allows a leash to be attached without the collar unbuckling from the pressure during a walk.

Other than ensuring the dog collar is the right size, having up-to-date information on your dog’s ID tags is important. But in case they break away from their collar, it’s also a good idea to make sure your dog’s microchip is up to date.

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