There’s no question, dog collars are one of the most necessary and indispensable tools in a dog owner’s arsenal. Before picking out a bed or a harness, a collar should be your first purchase for your furry friend.
Used for everything from embarking on safe and structured walks, to transmitting commands, to holding ID tags, and perhaps even making a fashion statement, there’s a lot being asked of a simple strip of fabric.
So we wanted to find the best—whether it's for large dogs or small dogs. We evaluated 10 popular collars and after extensive testing discovered the Educator’s Biothane Collar(available at Amazon for $19.97) is everything we want. It’s flexible, comfortable, and easy to adjust for a perfect, personalized fit. But it’s not the only collar worthy of being your dog’s go-to accessory.
These are the best dog collars we tested, ranked in order:
Educator Biothane Collar
Country Brook Petz Martingale Heavy-Duty Nylon
Max and Neo Nylon Reflective Metal Buckle Dog Collar
Perri’s Padded Leather Collar
Aolove Classic Leather Pet Collar
If It Barks Martingale
GoTags Personalized Pet Collar
Blueberry Classic Nylon Dog Collar
Petsafe Premier Martingale Dog Collar
Soft Touch Leather Collar
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From tiny puppies to full-grown Great Danes, the Educator Biothane Collar is a true one-size-fits-all collar. That’s because it boasts a whopping 35 holes (more standard collars have five or six), and has a secure and durable metal buckle, which will keep your pup from pulling loose.
To accommodate differently proportioned necks, the collar comes in 3/4- or one-inch widths, and has a 29 1/2-inch strap (18- to 24-inches is more common). The great thing about the extra length is that it can be simply cut down to the desired length, without compromising the integrity of the collar whatsoever.
The Educator is crafted from practically impenetrable neoprene, a highly flexible material that won’t crack or fray. It’s also totally waterproof, so can withstand inclement weather and romps in the mud. It's also easy to clean so it won't mildew and take on that famous wet dog smell. It’s smooth (unlike nylon), so it also won’t scratch at the neck, comes in seven bright colors and is crafted in the U.S.
To be perfectly clear—a martingale is a specific style of collar meant for training your dog to guard against escaping and pulling. It's not suitable for all dogs, and must be fitted correctly and used appropriately in order to be effective and safe (see our “What to Know About Buying Dog Collars” below).
But if you’ve determined that a martingale is right for you and your dog, this American-made model made from heavy-duty nylon stands heads and shoulders above the others we tried.
As opposed to consisting of a skimpy tangle of scratchy straps, this collar's one-inch wide nylon webbing is very smooth and extra thick with turned edges—a notable benefit for dogs with sensitive skin, as thin, unfinished edges stand more of a chance of cutting into or chafing the pup.
The nickel-plated steel hardware is sturdy and substantial, and box stitching helps reinforce the collar at its pressure points, for added strength. It also comes in 20 colors and designs, making it as fashionable as it is functional.
I’m Sarah Zorn, and I’ve reviewed dog products, developed pet-friendly recipes, and written animal rescue stories for outlets like Rachael Ray Every Day and Animal Fair magazine for over a decade. This means that my 10-year-old hound mix, Rowdy, is truly living his best life, as official house recipe taster and product tester.
We placed the collar on the dog and adjusted it to fit. We had the dog wear the collar for a couple of days, assessing it for comfort level and if it stayed in place. Afterwards, we washed the collar twice according to the directions to see if any damage was incurred to the hardware or materials.
What to Know About Buying Dog Collars
There are several different types of dog collars we evaluated for this guide:
Martingale: A gentler alternative to a choke chain collar (which we did not review), martingales are a good option for dogs that pull or tend to slip out of classic buckled or clasp collars. They consist of two loops: one that goes over the head and one that attaches to the leash. Tension on the leash causes the neck loop to constrict, which both transmits a command and prevents escape. Martingales can be dangerous if not fitted properly and used correctly, however, and are not appropriate for all dog breeds.
Nylon: The most classic material for dog collars, these tend to be inexpensive, lightweight, and come in a range of colors and patterns. They are good for attaching tags and wearing around the house, but tend to be less durable and harder to clean.
Leather: Though often on the more expensive side, a leather dog collar can be attractive and comfortable. It's also long-lasting, as it's generally crafted with care and out of quality materials. However, esigns tend to be limited.
Neoprene: The material used in wet suits, neoprene is waterproof (so it dries quickly and is easy to wipe clean) and extremely durable. These collars may be a bit more expensive, and come in limited designs.
After settling on the style and material that are right for you, look for a collar that offers ample opportunity for adjustment —a number of holes, extra length —so you can arrive at a proper fit.
Certain materials like nylon can cause chafing, so padding is preferred. At the very least, the collar should be on the wider side, or composed of thicker materials (such as double ply nylon, as opposed to single) which can prevent it from digging in the skin.
Hardware is also important. We much prefer durable, metal buckles as opposed to flimsy plastic clasps, which can wear out over time or easily separate with a simple tug, allowing your dog to break free.
How to Fit a Dog Collar
To find the correct size, wrap a measuring tape around your dog’s neck between the ears and collarbone, then add two inches to the measurement. When fitting the collar on your dog, you should be able to snugly slip two fingers between your dog’s neck and the collar. Anything else indicates that it’s too tight or too loose.
Other Dog Collars We Tested
Max & Neo Max Dog Collar
The top dog by far among the classic nylon collars we tested, the Max and Neo is fitted with beautiful, heavy-duty gunmetal hardware, including a securely locking buckle instead of a cheap plastic clasp.
The one-inch wide nylon is forged into a double thick, four-millimeter layer, which not only improves durability, but greatly increases comfort; it won’t scratch, dig or chafe into the dog’s neck. The eyelets are also reinforced with metal (all in all, upping its chances of withstanding regular trips through the washing machine), and while traditional in design, a number of smart and thoughtful touches make this collar far from basic.
It has reflective stitching for night walks, and a hole in the buckle specifically for attaching tags.
We’re also sweet on Max and Neo as a company, since they donate collars to rescue organizations for each one they sell.
Our top pick amongst leather collars, Perri’s model is made in the U.S. by Amish craftsman, from soft and supple lambskin that’s lined with padding for superior comfort.
The stainless steel hardware includes a securely latching buckle, and is sturdy without being too bulky or heavy.
This leather padded collar is a bit more finicky to maintain, as it can only be hand washed. As with most leather collars, there’s a smaller range of colors to choose from (although the available two-toned options are very chic).
Leather collars can be stiff, at least on the outset, so we liked the flexibility of the Aolove. The trade-off is that it’s a bit thinner than the other leather models we tested, with less padding, although it’s still considerably more comfortable than your basic nylon collar.
The gold-plated hardware looks fashionable and feels durable, but a bit less so than the Perri’s, which is why it just got edged out. Still, this collar is a good budget pick if you’re looking for one made from leather.
We like that this martingale is made in the U.S., and has reflective stitching. When sized and used appropriately, it can fit well—especially if you go for the custom option, which allows you to enter the exact size of your dog’s neck.
But even though it claims to be made to military specs for extra strength and durability, we found the nylon webbing to be way too thin and very scratchy, which is undoubtedly uncomfortable for a dog. This model is also considerably more expensive than our top martingale pick.
GoTags Personalized Engraved Reflective Dog Collar with Quick Release Buckle
If you want to go hog wild with customization, by adding your dog’s name and phone number, and choosing amongst colors, then this is the collar for you.
But if you prioritize function over form, you’ll quickly identify the issues—the stiff, plastic hardware is difficult to adjust for a comfortable and secure fit. It also uses a clasp instead of a buckle, which is always a safety concern.
Blueberry Pet Essentials Personalized Classic Solid Dog Collar
This is one of the least expensive collars on our list, but we simply don’t think the price differential is enough to go with such a throwaway collar. Sure, it comes in tons of jazzy colors, but the nylon webbing is super thin with unfinished edges, making it very scratchy and prone to cutting into the neck.
Instead of a buckle, it has a flimsy plastic clasp that could easily unlatch. It’s also not built to stand up to too many passes in the washing machine, so this is the kind of collar that will invariably build up a stink before too long.
While one of the least expensive collars we tested, there’s a reason you shouldn’t pinch pennies when it comes to customized equipment.
Requiring repeat adjustment, this martingale collar simply didn’t fit as securely as it should. And the nylon webbing—while reasonably smooth—is also a bit too thin, making it potentially scratchy and uncomfortable for long term use.
At first glance and during initial handling, we were convinced this collar would cruise to our top spot. The craftsmanship and quality of materials is apparent; think full grain, naturally tanned, two toned genuine leather, lined with sheepskin padding for extra comfort and fitted with solid brass hardware that’s rust and corrosion resistant.
So it’s shocking that such a thoughtfully designed object could also have an utterly fatal flaw. The buckle is positioned on the opposite side of the collar from the ring that holds the leash attached (they generally sit side by side). So any bit of movement or tension transmitted through the leash automatically presses the buckle against the dog’s trachea. The collar may have a lifetime warranty, but we wouldn’t give it so much as a day with our dog.
Sarah Zorn is a food writer, cookbook author, and product tester for Reviewed, Wirecutter and the Food Network. She regularly contributes to outlets such as Saveur, Esquire, and Civil Eats, and has very much passed her food obsessions down, as her beloved rescue hound, Rowdy, regularly deglazes his kibble bowl.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.