What is the Recommended Space Between a Dog’s Collar and its Neck?

By: Nathan Grant

It's an exciting time to welcome a new dog into the family and choosing a dog collar that fido will wear every day is one of the most important steps to a happy life for you and your new dog. Today, we're going to help you determine how much space you should have between the collar and your dog's neck.

When choosing a collar for your dog, it’s important to know what factors to consider to help keep your dog comfortable and safe. One of many questions you may ask is: “what is the recommended space between a dog’s collar and his neck?”

When picking out a collar for your dog there are a wide variety of styles and materials to choose from along with several factors that you may consider based on your needs – reflective strips best for nighttime walking, chain slip collars for training purposes, or harnesses for an alternative to traditional collars and breeds with neck sensitivity. Regardless of what collar you choose, the one thing that they all share in common is the need to ensure that they fit your dog correctly.

Why Does Collar Space Matter?

If a collar is too loose, then you may not be able to control your dog safely and effectively. While walking your dog, if they become spooked by a noise, they could back out of their collar easily and potentially put themselves in danger. It is simultaneously frustrating and frightening if your dog escapes the yard or house and when you finally catch them by the collar, they back right out of it. Another loose collar concern is that it increases the chances of them getting caught on tree limbs, fence corners, or bushes.

On the flip side, if a collar is too tight, it could lead to irritation on the dog’s neck along with difficulty breathing and limited neck mobility, which ultimately leads to pain internally and externally.

How Tight Should A Dog Collar Be Then? First Consider Your Dog Breed.

The general rule of thumb is that you should be able to comfortably fit two fingers in the space between the collar and their neck.

The collar should feel snug but not tight. In order to ensure you purchase the correct size collar for your dog, measure the circumference of their neck either with a string or soft measuring tape (this measuring tape is perfect and cheap too) and add approximately one to three inches depending on your dog’s size.

Wider collars are generally preferred for bigger dogs that pull on a leash versus a more narrow collar alternative that is generally preferred for smaller breeds.

As a starting point, if you are not able to measure the circumference on your dog’s neck, a popular pet store recommends the following sizes based on weight and breed:

  • XX Small (Up to 5lbs) is recommended for Chihuahuas and similar small breeds.
  • X Small (5-10lbs) is recommended for a miniature Dachshund, Pomeranian and similar sized dogs.
  • Small (10-25lbs) is recommended for Pekingese, Miniature Schnauzer and other similar sized dogs.
  • Medium (25-55lbs) is recommended for Beagle, Border Collie, Bulldog and other similar sized dogs.
  • Large (55 lbs-75lbs) is recommended for Boxer, Dalmatian, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever and similar sized dogs.
  • X-Large (75+lbs) is recommended for Great Dane, Mastiff, Rottweiler, Saint Bernard and similar sized dogs.

It is important to note that this is just a general guideline on how to get started on choosing a collar size for what works for a large majority of dogs of this breed and size and there may be some dogs that wear other sizes despite the breed guideline.

Check, Readjust And Rest

All collars are made differently, so it is important to check the space of every collar your dog wears and to continue to check the space even after a prolonged period of time, as well as any visible wear and tear on the collar.

It is important to note that a collar’s fitting should be checked and adjusted after any shaving or grooming has been done around the neck. If your dog’s fur is growing back from around the neck you may have to readjust it again.

It is not recommended that you leave your dog’s collar on indefinitely and some recommend for the safety of your dog that their collar not be left on when they are in a crate or home alone, however at the very least it is important to take your dog’s collar off occasionally to give their neck, skin and fur a chance to rest. However, when putting your dog’s collar on again, it’s important to re-check to ensure it is still fitting correctly.

What About Dog Harness vs Collar?

Harnesses are a great alternative to collars recommended by Bark Post because they allow more control, eliminate any potential neck pulling thus causing injury, and are especially good for breeds like pugs that have a greater sensitivity to putting pressure on their neck or have respiratory issues.

According to the American Kennel Club, harnesses are especially beneficial for puppies who have not learned to walk on a lead because it helps eliminate the possibility of them being caught in a leash and becoming injured. Harnesses allow owners to reduce the amount of pulling from the dog, which is an especially important leash behavior to teach when they are a puppy.

In addition to avoiding potential neck injuries and instilling positive leash behaviors at the puppy stage, harnesses do provide an additional peace of mind to owners that plan to walk their dog in public. Harnesses prevent dogs from having the ability to slip out of their collar and put themselves in danger.

In the end, the safety and well being of your dog is a top priority and ensuring that you choose something that is the right fit for you and your dog and as always, consult your vet with any concerns.

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