How to fit a dog collar

Dogs should always wear a correctly fitting collar, both for control and identification purposes. 

Used with a lead or leash, collars enable an owner to keep a dog safely under control. A correctly fitting collar attached to a lead can help a dog feel more secure, knowing it is attached 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 identifying 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 the correct sized collar is a straightforward process, here we explain how:

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.

Collar fitting:

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, please ask an IWCT member of staff.