Dog collars and harnesses

There are a variety of collars available on the market, each designed with a different purpose in mind.

Buckle collar

The most commonly used type of collar is what is known as a buckle collar. These types of collars usually come in leather or nylon, can be flat or rolled and have a buckle attachment to enable the owner to adjust the size.

Although a little more expensive, rolled leather collars seem to be a bit comfier for dogs that have grown into adulthood; whereas the flat nylon collars are recommended for growing pups.

There is an alternate version of this collar which comprises of a plastic fastener that is easily released by pinching the sides. This also allows for adjustments in tightness to be made by pulling the collar through the clasp for a good fit.

Breakaway collar

A breakaway collar is designed as a quick-release option so that should any excessive force be placed upon it, then it will break.

This is perfect for reducing the chance of a dog choking or injuring itself if the collar was to get caught up in something. Very useful for times when your dog may be playing without supervision or if you are out for a run in the country together and he/she gets herself caught without you realising.

These types of collars can sometimes be unsuitable for dogs that pull on the lead a lot due to the possibility of them breaking under pressure.

Slip collar

Slip collars are used by some to train their dogs and stop them from pulling on the lead so much or not at all.

They can come as either a nylon rope or chain that has a ring at each end so that the collar can be put just behind the ears and around the top of a dog’s neck, forming a loop. The ring that connects to the lead goes over the back of the dog’s neck so that when the lead is attached to the ‘live’ ring it adjusts tighter when pulled and slips looser when the pulling stops. When the lead is attached to the ‘dead’ ring the collar does tighten on the dog’s neck.

This type of collar should never be left on as a normal collar and should be removed when the lead is removed.

Limited slip collar

Limited-slip collars work in the same way as slip collars except that they are designed to stop tightening around a dog’s neck before they actually choke or constrict.

Martingale collars are very similar to limited-slip collars apart from the fact that they do not have a buckle or fastener. This collar has two loops; a smaller loop called the ‘control loop’ that tightens the larger loop when pulled in order to prevent the dog from slipping out of the collar. This kind of collar has limited pressure on the dog’s neck and applies even restriction.

Martingale collars are actually recommended for sighthounds as their heads are smaller than their necks and they can often slip out of normal collars.

Pros and cons of the different collar types

It goes without saying that a collar, or harness alternative, is an essential piece of equipment that every dog owner needs. It is a legal requirement in the UK that dogs must wear a collar with an ID tag attached when out in public.

Besides this, collars are a vital tool for training a dog how to behave appropriately when out walking. However, with the vast variety of collars and harnesses available, it can be difficult to know which one to choose.

Here at Animal Friends we have compiled a list of the most common types and outlined the pros and cons for each one.

Flat and rolled collars

These are the standard type of collar and the most commonly used.


The simple design with a buckle or clip makes flat and rolled collars easy to fasten and adjust around a dog’s neck. Attaching an ID tag and lead is also no problem. The large choice of colours and materials means there will be one to suit any dog regardless of size or breed, and it is a humane collar to use for training.


Having said that, this type of collar isn’t necessarily the most effective training tool. It won’t prevent a dog from pulling unless specific training techniques are employed, and it is possible for a dog to slip out of it. Also, they may not be suitable for dogs that enjoy rough play with others, as both animals could panic if one dog gets their teeth caught on the collar, which could lead to suffocation. Furthermore, issues can arise with brachycephalic breeds that have short snouts and bulging eyes because of the difficulty they have breathing through their tracheas, and the fact their eyes may pop out of their sockets if they pull too much whilst on the lead.

Martingale collar

This type is similar to flat or rolled collars, except another loop is attached to the main loop that goes around the dog’s neck. This then has a ring to attach the lead to. When the dog pulls, the second loop becomes taut so that the collar tightens around the dog’s neck.


This two-loop system prevents a dog from slipping out of the collar in the way that they are able to with others and is a humane method of training. It also doesn’t pull tightly or choke the dog in the way a choke collar does.


It isn’t much different from a flat or rolled collar, so there are still some potential dangers. It also needs to be correctly adjusted to prevent a dog from being strangled regardless of how tight the collar becomes. It can be difficult or even impossible to attach an ID tag on to a Martingale, as it may get caught and cause the collar to tighten. Also, it isn’t necessarily effective during training, as it won’t stop the dog from pulling unless certain techniques are used.

Choke collar

Although there is some controversy surrounding choke collars, many people still use them. Most commonly fashioned out of chain or rope, they are often used with larger dogs that can be difficult to train, as it is thought the sharp tug on the collar will help to control them more effectively. The idea is that the dog will then learn not to pull because they won’t want to feel the sharp tug.


It can be used to control large dogs that may be difficult to handle.


Some consider this type of collar to be an inhumane method of training because of the potential to cause pain and damage to a dog’s throat and neck. There is even the risk of neurological damage if the force of the tugs is large enough. Also, a dog can be strangled if the collar gets caught on something. Many people agree with only using a choke collar for training purposes, rather than walking on a daily basis. As with others, there are risks with using this type on breeds with short noses and bulging eyes.

The prong collar is a variation of the choke collar, with prongs inwardly facing the neck. It is designed not to choke but to apply pressure to a section of the dog’s neck. This type has been met with similar controversy, with many considering it to be an inhumane method of training.


Many people are using harnesses as alternatives to collars. Rather than focusing all of the strain on the neck area, they are fitted around the body. Some types can restrain a dog’s legs if they start to pull.


Harnesses can reduce injuries to the neck area because of their position around the body. They are beneficial for dogs with neck or spinal problems and are ideal for brachycephalic breeds. Harnesses can be used to train dogs as effectively as some collars.


Depending on the type of harness and where the lead is placed, some may actually encourage pulling. For instance, harnesses with attachments at the front are used to encourage dogs to pull sledges.


It is important to check with your vet that any new collar or harness you choose to use is safe for your dog. As outlined above, some may be unsuitable for certain breeds. If your dog gets into any difficulty when wearing a collar or harness, call your vet immediately.

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