Skip to main content

PawTracks may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Dog collar sizes: Which one is right for your pooch?

Being a responsible dog owner means ensuring that your best friend never leaves the house without a collar with ID and rabies vaccination tags attached. It doesn’t really matter whether dogs enjoy wearing collars or not – it’s a legal requirement in many communities. Moreover, collars with identification are the fastest way to reunite lost pets with their families. To ensure your pup’s collar stays on, it’s vitally important that his collar is sized correctly.

How to measure your dog for a new collar

The only measurement you’ll need when sizing a dog’s collar is the circumference of your pet’s neck. All dogs are different and vary in size, but the guidelines are the same for getting collar measurements:

  • You’ll need a cloth measuring tape, or you can simply use a piece of string and measure it against a standard ruler to get the correct neck size.
  • Wrap the tape or string around your dog’s neck a few inches down from the head. Pull the tape or string snug but not too tight.
  • Before taking a measurement, you should be sure you can fit two fingers between the tape and your dog’s neck. Alternately, you can just add an inch to the measurement for small dogs and two inches for medium and larger breeds.

Once it’s secured on your dog’s neck, check to see that the collar is sized correctly by using the two-finger rule. If it’s a good fit, you should easily be able to slip two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck.

When shopping for a collar online, you can take measurements yourself and then refer to the store’s online measurement charts to help get the right size. Be aware that different companies may put breeds into different size categories. Generally, as long as you’re in the correct size range, collars can be adjusted to make them tighter or looser as needed.

cute beagle laying down with collar and tag
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What about the collar width?

You can’t measure for collar width, but the general rule is, the smaller the dog the narrower the collar. Wider collars are great for large, strong breeds or for sighthounds like greyhounds and whippets who can easily slip out of regular-size collars.

Choosing the best collar design

If the collar is just to hold tags, you don’t have to worry much about durability. However, if you plan on attaching a leash to the collar, you need a collar made of a strong, durable material like nylon or leather. Custom-made collars are great options if jangling tags annoy you or if you’re concerned about losing the tags. For example, GoTags Personalized Nylon collars come with your dog’s name and contact number embroidered onto the collar.

Choose a waterproof collar if you spend a lot of time outdoors with your dog or if your dog loves to swim. These collars are made from materials resistant to water and won’t smell musty when wet. Reflective collars are a great option if you walk your dog around the neighborhood after dark.

Make a habit of checking the collar frequently

It’s extremely important for the health and safety of your dog that the collar is sized correctly. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • When it comes to puppies, the American Humane Association reminds pet owners that it’s vital to check collars weekly. Pups grow quickly, and since collars don’t expand, they need to be adjusted as needed until the dog is fully grown.
  • Adult dogs may gain or lose weight throughout their lives and this will impact how the collar fits. Elderly dogs tend to lose weight, so get into the habit of checking the collar periodically.

Your dog’s coat type will also determine how the collar fits. For dogs with thick winter coats, the collar will need to be loosened during cold-weather months. When the coat sheds in the spring and summer, the collar will need to be tightened. Also, check the collar after your dog has a haircut.

Choosing specialty collars

Trainers may recommend humane specialty collars for dogs with specific issues.

Martingale collars are designed for dogs with narrow heads such as greyhounds and whippets. Training experts at the Humane Society of the U.S. also recommend these collars for dogs who learn to back out of regular collars or fearful dogs who may try to escape when out in public.

Headcollars are recommended for strong, energetic dogs who may jump and/or pull on a leash. Because the halter is around the dog’s muzzle instead of the neck, the dog can’t pull on the leash with the full weight of his body.

To be safe and effective, these specialty collars need to be fitted and used correctly. It’s always best to enlist the help of a trainer, who can make sure you and your dog have a pleasant walking experience.

Editors' Recommendations

Vera Lawlor
Vera was the pet columnist for 201 Family magazine and has contributed pet and animal welfare articles to Bone-A-Fide Mutts…
9 frighteningly amazing large dog Halloween costume ideas to try this October
Spooky, adorable, and easy-to-make large dog Halloween costumes
Border Collie in a skeleton shirt sits in a pile of autumn leaves

The spookiest night of the year is almost upon us, which means it’s time to plan everyone’s festive outfits... including your pup's! With these large dog Halloween costumes, even your dog can be part of the frightening fun. And here’s the best part: You don’t have to spend a ton on these dog Halloween costume ideas, either.
Not only are they all reasonably priced (especially compared with Halloween costumes for people), but some are completely DIY-able, too. It's a crafter's dream! How you ultimately decide to dress up your dog is totally up to you — she's going to be the star of the show this Halloween, no matter what. Just don't make her look too spooky!

Beanie Baby DIY name tags are perfect Halloween accessories for any pet
If your childhood self would have loved the idea of a life-sized Beanie Baby, you can make that dream come true this Halloween. All you need for this adorable project is cardboard and some paint (or colored construction paper if you’d rather) to design your pet’s own Beanie Baby tag. Bonus points if you go the extra mile and write her a custom biography poem!
Once you've designed and glued this adorable tag together, all you need to do is attach it to your pup’s collar — and snap some pictures, of course. An oversized tag might be more eye-catching, so plan your size before you cut any materials!

Read more
8 easy and affordable small dog Halloween costume ideas that are perfect for both tricks and treats
Try one of these small dog Halloween costumes
French bulldog dog dressed up with funny cactus Halloween dog costume

With so much spooky cuteness rolled up into a four-legged package, it’s tough to top dogs in Halloween costumes. Everyone you meet is in for a treat, especially when you have a well-thought-out outfit for your pup. And maybe they'll see a trick, too, if your dog is up for it!
These small dog Halloween costumes pack an extra punch of cuteness with their miniature sizing, but many come (or can be made) in various sizes. From DIYs to store bestsellers, these outfits for petite pups will surely be winners come Halloween night.
These are our eight frighteningly fabulous favorites.

DIY your dog a pair of custom bat or dragon wings
Your pet may not breathe fire, but he can surely act like it! Unleash your doggo's inner dragon with a quick and fun DIY project you can spend as much time on as you like. All you need is cardboard or foam core, paint, a harness or jacket for your pup, and something like Velcro to attach the wings to the harness.
First, use your cardboard or foam core and scissors to cut out a pair of wings, then decorate them however you like. You can use paint, sequins, fabric, or anything else that won’t weigh down the cardboard/foam core. Once the wings are all prepared, use your Velcro (or whatever fastener you'd like) to attach them to the harness or jacket. Keeping the wings attached while your buddy moves around is the trickiest part, so give yourself plenty of time to experiment!

Read more
These national parks are stunning in the fall – and allow your dog to visit, too
These 4 beautiful national parks have pet-friendly attractions
Couple looking at map on fall trail with dog.

With cooler fall temperatures just around the corner, pet parents dream of taking their dogs on long outdoor adventures. Some might even be planning pet-friendly getaways. Autumn is certainly a wonderful time to get outside and enjoy nature, and where better to do this than in a U.S. national park? Many of these wonderful parks are pet-friendly. Here we highlight four national parks that are incredible in the fall and perfect for both of you.

Are dogs allowed in national parks?
The good news is that most national parks do allow pets in some areas and under certain conditions. Only a few deny pets in all parts of the park — so you can easily plan an outing or vacation for you and your four-legged friend. However, it's important to follow the rules, especially when it comes to hiking and wildlife. The National Park Service uses the acronym B.A.R.K. to sum up the four basic principles you should follow while in the parks with your pets. It stands for:

Read more