What is the Recommended Space Between a Dog’s Collar and its Neck? How Tight Should It Be?

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. Plus Learn How Tight The Collar Should Be And How To Fit It.

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 the 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?

A Dog Collar Is So Much More Than Just An Accessory For Your Four-Legged Friend. Your Dog’s Safety Ultimately Depends On A Well-Fitted Collar. Many people may just grab a collar, that appears to look like the right size, and put it on their dog. This is a huge mistake. A collar that is too loose or too tight can easily affect the wellbeing of your dog.

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.

How To Measure Your Dog’s Neck

Obtaining an accurate measurement of your dog’s neck is the first step to finding a collar with the proper fit. For best control, the collar should sit slightly above the bottom of your dog’s neck. This is going to be the area you want to measure.

The easiest way to measure is to use a soft tape measure. If you don’t happen to have a soft tape measure, you can also use a string or ribbon and then measure that on a traditional tape measure. The key is to get something that is similar in flexibility to that of a collar.

You’ll want to add an inch or two to the measurement, which ensures that the collar fits comfortably and is secure.

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.

Purchasing The Correct Sized Collar

Collars are sold based on their size: XS, S, M, L, XL etc. These sizes are roughly correlated to the size of the dog that they would best fit. The collars will also specify the length ranges that the collar will fit. That’s why it’s really important to measure the neck circumference before purchasing your dog’s collar.

While the length specifications are a huge help when finding the correct sized collar, it is also very important to consider the width of the collar. A wider collar can help with dogs that are strong and tend to pull a lot. A collar that is more narrow can be useful for smaller breeds, or dogs that may have shorter necks.

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.

Potential Sizing Issues

Typical collar sizing is based on the fit for an average dog. Collars don’t fit every dog the same way, so it is important to consider your dogs anatomy.

According to Dr. Michael Walsh, of Oak Hill Animal Clinic, “Some dog breeds will slip out of any collar if their neck is thick and the same width as their skull. Breeds such as Greyhounds, Whippets, Pugs, Bulldogs and similar breeds will slip out of even the tightest buckle collars.” In cases like this, where any collar may slip, you may want to consider looking into a harness for added safety and control while on walks.

The Importance Of Testing And Adjusting

There is a really simple rule out there when it comes to the appropriate fit of a collar. You want to be able to fit two fingers comfortably between your dog’s neck and the collar. While it is simple, it’s also very accurate. This test ensures that the collar is not too loose, or too tight.

Another quick test you can do is gently pull the fastened collar towards the top of your dog’s head. You want to ensure that it does not easily slide over, and off, your dog’s head.

Adjusting the collar is imperative to ensure your dog’s constant comfort. If you have a puppy, it is important to check the fit, and adjust accordingly, often. However, it is also vital to check the fit of your dog’s collar even once they’ve hit adulthood. Grooming is one thing that quickly throws off the fit of the collar. It is important to check the fit right after the grooming, and also after a few weeks have passed.

Accounting for minor changes in anatomy is also important when it comes to adjusting. While most dog’s weight stays consistent, there could be fluctuations throughout their life. Checking every so often ensures that you account for changes in their weight or even excess skin that may appear as they age.

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 Happens If The Collar Is Too Loose?

This may seem preferable over the alternative of a collar being too tight, but it can be just as problematic. A collar plays a huge role in the control of your dog. If a collar is too loose, your dog could slip out of it on a walk. Alternatively, if you’re needing to hold your dog back, for any reason, you certainly don’t want to lose that control due to the collar sliding off. If your dog happens to escape, a loose collar can also hinder rescue efforts.

What Happens If The Collar Is Too Tight?

A tight collar may seem to resolve the concern of lack of control, but there is such a thing as too tight. The issues with a collar that is too tight revolve around the negative effects it can have on your dog’s wellbeing. A collar that is too tight can cause extreme discomfort for your dog. In the most extreme cases, it can become embedded, which can result in major medical issues. It is extremely important to ensure that the collar does not hinder your dog’s everyday activities like eating, drinking, and barking.

What About Dog Harness vs Collar? Which is better?

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 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.

Like It? Share It!


More In Dogs & Rescues