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Updated June 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best dog training collars

Dogs are smart, intuitive creatures capable of taking in a lot of information from their human companions to adjust to the world around them. There are different ways to train a dog, but above all it requires patience, dedication, and the right tools. A good training collar is one of those tools.

Dog training collars are used to teach dogs the commands they need to know to be confident and safe in different environments. There are a couple of types of these collars that are safe and effective and won’t harm your dog. One of these should be paired with humane training methods in order to achieve the results you seek. 

The right training collar is an important component of properly educating your dog. The wrong collar can instill fear and anxiety in a dog and make it negatively associate training or walks with punishment. Our buying guide outlines the options, which collars should be avoided, and how to train your dog so it can live a happy, safe life.

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Dogs that are especially nervous or traumatized from past experience might need extra attention and special training from a professional trainer.

Key considerations

Type

There are two main types of training collars that are most effective: the martingale and the head collar. 

Martingale collars are designed with a loop that prevents the dog from pulling or slipping out of the collar. The loop is set to a certain length, and when the dog pulls, the loop slowly tightens. You can set how much the loop tightens so it doesn’t hurt or put pressure on your dog’s neck.

Head collars, or gentle leaders, wrap around the dog’s neck and snout and act like a front clip harness. If the dog tries to pull, the movement redirects the dog’s attention back to the person holding the leash. Pulling simply turns the dog around, deterring the pulling behavior.

A gentle leader is comfortable and safe for dogs. The front strap doesn’t cover the dog's mouth but instead rests at the top of the snout, below the eyes. The dog can still open its mouth. The back strap sits higher up on the neck without putting pressure on the vulnerable part of the throat.

Aversive collars

The most successful, healthy, and humane dog training is done with positive reinforcement. However, decades ago it was believed that to train a dog you needed to establish dominance while disciplining the dog through uncomfortable and even painful means, including aversive collars. While this method of training is now largely rejected, there are still some people who use them.

Aversive collars include metal choke collars that tighten around the dog’s neck, which is especially dangerous for smaller dogs; metal prong collars that have points that press into a dog’s neck when it pulls; and bark and shock collars that hurt the dog when it performs an undesirable action. All of these are harmful to the dog and should not be used. 

A common side effect of using an aversive collar is the dog becomes fearful and anxious, with the dog repressing a behavior instead of learning to not do it. The dog could begin to fear going outside at all, and while it might understand what not to do, it won’t necessarily know what it should do. Most importantly, aversive collars present a high risk of pain, trauma, and serious injury to the dog.  

Size

Training collars come with a size guide so you can get the right fit for your dog. You’ll need to measure the circumstance of your dog’s neck using a flexible measuring tape or a piece of string or rope that you can then measure with a ruler.

You can tell the training collar fits properly if you can slide two fingers between the collar and the neck. This means the fit is snug and comfortable but also allows for control. The dog should have full range of motion without the collar pinching, but the collar should not be so loose that it can slide off easily.

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Staff Tip
Training a dog can take several months. Even if your dog listens well, it’s important to continue to reinforce the training so that it sticks.
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Features

Colors and patterns

Dog training collars are offered in a range of colors, patterns, and other fun designs. In most cases, you’ll have a choice of various solid colors, which you can match to the color of your dog’s coat or favorite leash. Some options come in various patterns or pop culture motifs.

Reflective

Some training collars have a reflective lining that helps your dog be more visible in the dark. The lining shows up when lights shine on it, such as headlights. While this feature is helpful, if you regularly walk your dog at night, especially if the dog is black, it’s advised that you use a brighter LED collar or a reflective vest or harness for better visibility.

Waterproof

For active dogs, some training collars are waterproof by design and won’t wear out or retain odors when submerged in water. Most dog training collars can hold up when exposed to rain or snow.

Accessories

Dog leash: Frisco Dog Leash
The ideal leash for walking a dog is 6 feet long, like this nylon option by Frisco. It allows you to control your dog and provides room for your pet to explore. This collar comes in four colors too.

Dog training treats: Blue Buffalo Bits
The treats you use for training should be high value and different from the regular treats you give your dog at home. These chicken, salmon, or beef soft treats by Blue Buffalo are healthy and delicious.

The Humane Society of the United States says that aversive collars are not humane. There are better collars to use for effective training and positive reinforcement.

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Pricing

Inexpensive: You can find small martingale collars in a variety of colors and patterns for under $10.

Mid-range: Most dog training collars, including martingale and gentle leader options, cost between $10 and $20 for small and medium dogs.

Expensive: Large training collars cost over $20.

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Did You Know?
Most dog training collars are made of nylon or neoprene. These materials are comfortable, breathable, and inexpensive, though they are susceptible to damage by dogs that like to chew.
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Tips

  • Check the collar’s fit and condition regularly. Collars can loosen and wear out over time, which is why it’s important to examine the collar and fit when you put it on your dog. A loose collar poses the risk of injury or escape.
  • Get into a routine. Dogs love routine and will learn more quickly if you adhere to a regular schedule. Go for walks or training sessions around the same time each day.
  • Stay positive. Do not grow impatient, angry, or stressed when you’re training your dog. Your mood can cause the dog to be nervous or fearful of walking or training, which can undo any progress it’s already made.
  • Monitor your dog for reactions. When using a new collar, it’s important to check for any allergic or other reactions. Some dogs may be sensitive to the materials or develop a rash or skin irritation if the collar is too tight.
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While dogs like consistency, it’s important to explore different areas on your walks so your dog can get used to different sights, smells, and sounds and adapt to different environments

FAQ

Q. How do I teach my dog to walk using a training collar?

A. Positive reinforcement and creating positive associations with training are necessary to successfully train your dog to walk by your side and listen to your commands. The goal is for your dog to not pull or react to stimuli like other people or animals. It should also make eye contact with you so it knows what you want it to do. You can also use a clicker, which conditions your dog to look at you when it hears the noise. 

It’s helpful to bring tasty dog treats on your walk and reward your dog with treats and praise when it responds correctly, especially early in the training process. Over time, you can reward your dog with just praise. Be consistent with your commands so your dog doesn’t get confused. 

Q. Should I remove the training collar when my dog’s at home?

A. A gentle leader is designed for walking and should only be used when your dog is on a leash outside. A martingale collar can be kept on at home, but most owners remove collars when their dogs are indoors so their pets are more comfortable. A dog wearing a collar shouldn’t be left unsupervised, especially a younger dog that may explore the house or try to escape a crate. The collar could catch on something and injure the dog.

Q. Is it better to walk a dog with a collar or harness?

A. A harness generally provides more control for the owner and more comfort for the dog during walks. The harness spreads the pressure more evenly across the chest instead of applying pressure to the vulnerable area around the neck. However, training collars are designed to relieve that pressure while also increasing the ability of the owner to guide their dog in the right direction.

Once your dog is trained to go on walks, it may do well with a regular collar provided it doesn’t pull and isn’t excitable. In most cases, it’s recommended that you use a harness so that the dog doesn’t risk injury to the neck or have an opportunity to escape.

 

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