Proper Use and Fit of Dog Training Collars

Using a proper training collar will aid your dog’s ability to learn if the collar fits well and is used correctly.

It is essential to understand and use the right equipment, but it is also vital to fit correctly. Training equipment is not meant to be worn all the time.  Only when you are supervising your dog.

In addition, it is important not to use excessive strength with any training collar.  The purpose of the training collar is to refocus your dog, not to manhandle them.

“To understand how the prong collar (or any collar) works as a stimulus, you must first understand how the dog learns. Briefly, the dog learns when the advantages and disadvantages of his actions are spelled out in black and white. When the choice between advantage and disadvantage is clearly defined, the dog can decide without stress or confusion. Training difficulties arise when the trainer does not clarify his advantage. It is the trainer’s responsibility to see that the stimulus, be it inducive or compulsive, is sufficient for the dog to clearly perceive his advantage, which is to to the handler’s wishes,” comments Suzanne Clothier

There are a variety of collars that can be used for training your dog.  The size of the dog’s head is the key to a proper fit.  Chain or nylon training collars should slip over the dog’s neck snuggly, yet not so tightly that it has to be forced.  Training collars come in sizes as small as 10 inches and as large as 30 inches.

Training/Slip Collar

The slip collar is the most widely recognized and recommended training collar.  There are two types of slip collars:  chain and nylon.

The chain collar (or choke as it is sometimes sadly called) is used to startle the dog.  It is not intended to choke or strangle a dog.  It would be best to use only top-quality collars welded in a smooth, seamless fashion.  Inferior collars may break easily and have burrs on them, pulling the dog’s hair, causing irritation and pain.

Nylon training collars are not recommended for dogs with long coats because they fray, remain tight, and tangle or matte into the hair.  This collar may work well for you if you have a smooth-coated shorthaired dog that does not need many leash corrections or may have some skin sensitivity.

Training collars allow dog trainers such as portland dog trainers to easily train aggressive dogs. Typically dog training uses positive encouragement, but with aggressive dogs, collars are an often-used tactic.

Fitting of the slip collar

Pay attention to the weight of the chain and the size of the links on the training collar.  The weight and size of the chain must be appropriate to the size and weight of the dog.

Determining if the training collar is the right size is relatively easy.  The ideal-sized training collar should fit snugly yet comfortably over the dog’s head.  It is essential that the slip collar not fit too tightly, but it should not be too loose.  A training collar that is too tight will be too hard to put on and off.  On the other hand, a training collar that is too loose can accidentally fall off of the dog’s head when it lowers its head.

It is also important to know that a too-long training collar requires a great deal of finesse to use correctly.

It is best to measure the dog’s neck with a tape measure,  then add 2 to 3 inches to that measurement.  So if your dog has a neck 12-inches in diameter, you would want to buy a training collar that is 14-inches in length.  Chain slip collars are generally sized in two-inch increments.

Placement of the slip collar

To refocus a dog with a training collar effectively, you must make sure the collar is correctly on the dog’s neck.

The leash is attached to the ring that does not have the collar sliding through it.  The collar runs over the TOP of the dog’s neck and then around to the other ring from the leash.  When placed on your dog in this manner, pulling on the leash will cause the collar to tighten.  When you relax the leash, the collar loosens.   If placed on your dog incorrectly, the collar links go from the leash through the other ring and then UNDER the dog’s neck.  If placed on your dog incorrectly, the collar will often not automatically loosen when you pull on the leash.


If your dog heels on your left, the training collar should look like the letter “P” when facing your dog.


If your dog heels on your right, the training collar should look like the number “9” when facing your dog.

It is important to pay attention to how the collar fits the dog.  It is essential that dog owners properly fit the training collar to the dog.  A properly fitted training collar is easier to use and safer for the dog.  There is the right and wrong way to fit a training collar, and putting it on wrong will make it both effective and potentially dangerous.  A training collar should be used as a sharp reminder, not as a punishment.  Constant pressure must be avoided when using a training collar.

Tightening the collar is the first part of refocusing, and loosening is the second part.  The transient nature of the tightening gives the dog the message.  This message is similar to a mother’s correction when the puppy performs an undesired behavior.

Prong Collar

Prong/pinch collars look to some like a medieval torture device. Still, they can be helpful with some larger, more powerful dogs with a strong resistance to feel or skin sensitivity OR as an equalizer when a person of little strength is training a powerful dog.  This type of collar, when used correctly, quickly distributes multiple pressure points around the entire dog’s neck without piercing or scratching the skin.

The prong collar consists of two main parts: the links (A) and the chain (B).  The chain has two rings, a circular ring (C) and a “D” ring (D).  Your leash will connect to the “D” ring.

If you choose to use a prong/pinch collar, be sure it is properly fitted and check the ends of each link for sharp edges—they should be rounded and smooth.

Fitting the prong collar

The prong collar fits your dog differently than the standard slip collar. If you cannot get your fingers between your dog’s neck and the “finger” on the links, then the collar is most likely too tight.  Never try to slip the collar over your dog’s head, as this means the collar is too large and will cause more harm than good.

To effectively redirect your dog, you will want a minimum of 6-links in the collar.  Links can be added or removed to resize the collar.

To remove a link, pinch the links together.

Placement of the prong collar

The proper placement of the prong collar should be as follows.  The links should be on the back of the neck, just below the ears.  The chain should be on the throat. 

You may have to re-adjust the collar as you work with your dog and NEVER correct your dog if the links have slipped around the throat area.

Good Dog collars are similar to the prong collar, except they are black plastic.

DO NOT use this kind of collar unless your dog has a proven high pain tolerance using a standard collar.  The pinch collar can do more harm than good if used on a dog with a sensitive, laid-back personality.

NOTE:  When using a prong collar, it is recommended that you also use a slip collar.  You should connect your leash to both of these. If your prong collar comes unlatched, you will still have control of your dog via the slip collar.

Martingale Collar

too large Martingale collar

Martingale collars, if used correctly, work similarly to a slip collar but look more like a prong collar.  There isn’t a wrong side when putting this collar on—only the wrong size.  Martingale collars are NEVER slipped over a dog’s head.  If you can slip the collar over your dog’s head, the collar is too large. Instead, the collar should fit tightly with the chain taut.

Neck Protectors

Although not a collar, it is also important to mention neck protectors.  Neck protectors help prevent hair loss for fair-haired dogs such as the golden retriever, collie, or Irish setter.  You can buy nylon latex neck protectors for your dog, or you can innovate. For small dogs, you can wear an old sock. For larger dogs, use a section of a worn-out pair of sweat pants.

Final Thoughts

So what collar should you use?  I can only say that the choice is yours–as it should be.  I encourage you to open your mind, determine your needs, look at your options and then choose the equipment that will give you the best results for your dog.  Once you have decided, find a trainer who will respect your choice and be skilled in using the chosen tools.  Do this, and you will be off to a great start.

Let’s talk dogs, or even better, let’s learn about dogs.  Gain more canine knowledge through Acme Canine’s social media:  websiteFacebookYouTubeInstagram

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