How to correctly fit a collar

By Kaytie Grant

How to correctly fit a collar to a dog

Collars provide 2 main functions in dog ownership – control and identification. 

Used with a lead or leash, collars enable an owner to keep a dog safely under control in public areas. A correctly fitting collar attached to a lead can help an anxious dog feel more secure in busy areas, knowing it is attached and close to its owner. With correct training, dogs learn not to pull against their collar when on a lead and to walk step by step alongside their owner comfortably.

Collars provide a means of identification for the dog and its owner. Should a dog go missing and is found with a collar bearing an identification tag with the owner’s contact details, the dog and owner are more likely to be reunited. 

Choosing a collar is a straightforward process, as long as the collar is of a suitable size and width, there’s no reason why an owner can’t explore bright colours and fun patterns. 

Measuring the dog’s neck:

Use a flexible fabric tape measure (or string and measure it against a ruler or tape measure) to ascertain the circumference of the dog’s neck. For standard size dogs, add 2 inches to this length. For large dogs, add 3 inches and for smaller dogs, only add 1 inch. The collar you choose needs to be this length when secured with the middle hole if using one with buckles. With collars with an adjustable strap, the midway point needs to be this length. This allows for flexibility if the dog gets bigger or gains or loses weight or coat cover.

Fitting the collar:

Too loose a collar can lead to the dog slipping out of it whilst on a walk. This can put it in danger of other dogs or traffic and it could become lost. A loose collar can also cause injury to the dog if it gets tangled in shrubbery or bushes. Dogs can also get legs, paws or their lower jaw stuck between their neck and a collar which is too loose. 

If a collar is too tight, this can lead to skin irritation, abrasions and lesions. If left too tight, it will eat into the flesh causing permanent scarring, as in Barker’s case. This can also damage the muscles and trachea and cause a dog to choke.

To ensure the fit of a collar is just right, one should be able to fit their index and middle finger without force between the collar and the dog’s neck. This is known as the Two Finger Rule. 

Consider the width of the collar:

The recommended standard width of collar is 1.5 inches. However, for bigger dogs, a wider collar would be more suitable to reduce pressure on the neck when the dog is on a lead. Small dogs should wear a narrower collar so neck movement is not restricted. 

Check the fit regularly:

It is important to check the fit of the collar regularly. Puppies can grow very fast and will need several collars by the time they are fully grown. Collars may need adjusting every week in younger dogs. Older dogs may experience weight gain or loss and so their collars would need to be checked and adjusted accordingly.

If you are unsure whether you have the correct type and fit of collar, consult a vet.

At IWCT, we supply collars for free to every dog we come across who either doesn’t have one or has a poorly fitting or makeshift collar. It costs just £1 in the Philippines to give a dog a collar, so even the smallest donation can make a big difference. Our treatment centre and mobile clinics are also used to educate dog owners in the best practices of pet keeping, such as learning how to ensure collars are correctly fitted. You can help to continue this education programme by donating here

No dog deserves to suffer. Thank you for your support.


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