Dog Collars: The Ultimate Dog Trainer’s Guide - Ray Allen Manufacturing

Dog Collars: The Ultimate Dog Trainer’s Guide

Dog Collars: The Ultimate Dog Trainer's Guide

A Primer for Dog Handlers, Trainers, and Hardcore Enthusiasts

Selecting the best dog collar for your K9 is crucial, but that goes without saying. While choosing a collar (or any other piece of dog gear) solely based on appearance and positive reviews can be tempting, you need to dig deeper before purchasing any K9 equipment.

Gaining a thorough understanding of the materials, hardware, and other features that are used to make collars is the most surefire way to choose a collar or harness that will deliver longevity and positive results.

There’s no shortage of articles that help users gain a better understanding of what to look for in a new collar, but you can never be too sure that these articles are written by professionals and not just someone who gets paid to promote a product. That’s where our team at Ray Allen Manufacturing can save the day!

We’re working on writing a collection of dog gear guides designed to help every dog owner buy the right equipment for their dog. The Ultimate Harness Guide, Ultimate Leash Guide, Ultimate E-Collar Guide, Muzzle Buyer’s Guide, and Bite Suite Buyer’s Guide are really popular with new and returning customers alike.

And now it’s time to give everyone more insight into our expertise with our Ultimate Dog Dog Collars Guide!

So whether you’re an everyday dog owner with a little toy dog or an experience K9 trainer in charge of hardcore Maligators, this guide will teach you everything you need to know before buying a new dog collar.

Dog Collar Definitions & Terminology

Before we get too deep into the weeds on shopping for a new dog collar, we should start with providing some basic definitions and terminology that we’ll be using throughout this Ultimate Guide. In this section, we’ll cover definitions for the materials and hardware we use in many of our dog collars (as well as other K9 equipment).

Collar Materials

Dog collars are made from a wide variety of materials. The material(s) used largely help inform the purpose of each collar option. When browsing collar styles for your working dog, some of the most popular materials you’ll find include Biothane, leather, nylon, and steel. Check out the many common uses of these materials and their functionality.


Made exclusively by the Biothane Coated Webbing Corp, Biothane is a heavy-duty, brand-id webbing material. This leather alternative is most frequently used in ultra-strong leashes and lines, but we also use it in several of our collars, like the Single Layer Biothane Collar, E-Flex Collar, and Biothane Adjustable Collar.

Biothane dog collars are made of polyester webbing with PVC coating, making them both durable and waterproof, which is ideal for trainers who need a collar for tracking or outdoor training. Another advantage of Biothane is that it delivers a superior grip over other materials when a dog starts lunging or pulling.


Tried and true across a variety of applications, especially in the working dog world; leather is a great material for dog collars. Sturdy and attractive, leather dog collars are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. This material can be designed in a wide array of lengths and thicknesses and is excellent for everyday training and use.

Leather pieces are graded by weight, measured in ounces. Most of our handmade leather products are crafted out of tight-grained, 12- to 14-ounce (which you’ll see written as .12 -.14) leather to ensure nearly total durability and water resistance.

Check out our blog, Leather Dog Collars Strength Test - Backwoods Destructive Testing, to learn more about the Latigo Leather Agitation Dog Collar, Ultimate Padded Leather Agitation Collar, and the Military Spec Collar.

We know that shopping for a leather collar isn’t as straightforward as it may seem, so read our blog titled How to Choose a Heavy Leather Dog Collar to learn more about all of your options.


Nylon is a wonderful material for both on-the-job use and for transitioning from K9 duty to everyday wear. Thanks to their comfortable fit, lightweight feel, pliability, and durability, nylon collars are both reliable and ultra comfortable.

Depending on the construction of the collar, nylon has more give than other materials, which aids in shock resistance. However, don’t let its comfort and lightweight composition fool you into thinking this is a weak material! Nylon is great for heavy-duty, tactical use, and it’s capable of bearing extreme loads.

Another advantage of nylon collars is that they can be customized to suit your dog in a number of ways. They often come in the widest range of sizes, colors (excellent for adding visibility when needed), and styles to suit most training needs. Dog trainers can further customize nylon collars with patches and ID panels for use during fieldwork.


Built to last a lifetime, steel is most often used in choke chains and pinch collars, which are excellent in correcting undesirable behaviors (but we’ll cover that later). As one of the most durable, long-lasting collar types on the market, steel is rust-resistant, won’t discolor your dog’s fur, and can be used on any large K9 breed. Stainless steel dog collars are made in various sizes to suit each dog's needs and breed.

All styles of steel collars can be used across specialties, such as behavior training. They are ideal for dogs who are prone to dragging and tugging on the leash, as collars made from steel are often centered around effective behavior correction.

Steel material used in a harness

Collar Hardware

Often overlooked by dog owners who are inexperienced when it comes to shopping for new collars, hardware is another important factor to consider when purchasing a dog collar. Browse the many styles of collar hardware to learn about their benefits and common uses.


Buckles are the mechanism used to secure your dog’s collar in place. There are a wide variety of buckle types, all serving unique purposes. It’s important to understand that the style of buckle you choose depends heavily on the types of work you’ll be doing with your K9.

For example, if you’re walking a dog that’s known for pulling, you should consider purchasing a collar with a heavy-duty metal buckle that won’t snap or pop open if the dog lunges for a squirrel or tries to dart away.

Buckle collar hardware


Carabiners are handy clips that act as an extra security measure if a dog tries to break free from his collar (like in the example above). When used with a leash, like our Trikos Leash and Collar Set, a carabiner can also function as a hands-free way to walk your dog.

ClicLock Buckle

Made by Herm Sprenger, the ClicLock Stainless Steel Buckle can withstand the harshest environments and the strongest dogs. Its intended use is as the primary buckle on your dog’s pinch collar. As a bonus, the ClicLock Stainless Steel Buckle is equipped with a safety sleeve mechanism that eliminates the risk of an unintended buckle release.

ClicLock Buckle Collar Hardware


Commonly referred to as an “active D-Ring,” D-Rings are the stainless steel or brass rings that are secured to a dog collar. As their name suggests, this ring is in the shape of the letter “D.” They can lay flat or pop out, and stay stiff to clasp the end of a leash or line. D-rings have one of the most secure designs because dogs must pull against two layers of the collar when they lunge forward.

French Scissor Snap

Designed exclusively in Germany by Herm Sprenger, collars with a French Scissor Snap offer quick release. This hardware can be used with many collar types, and is ideal for hunting dogs and those training in a variety of sports and disciplines.

Frog Clip

A frog clip is a directional connector that is used on many dog leashes and leads. This style features automatic clamping action, which helps clip and engage securely when it touches an anchor point, such as a D-Ring.

GT Cobra Buckle

Load-bearing and rated to handle up to 500 lbs, the GT Cobra Buckle is one of the most sturdy buckle designs on the market. It is made from nylon polymer plastic and is created specifically to prevent the accidental release of the buckle. The GT Cobra Buckle is made exclusively by Austria Alpine.

Metal Buckles

Metal buckles are some of the most common pieces of hardware found in dog collars. They’re usually made of stainless steel, brass, or similar heavy-duty metal. Depending on the type of metal used in the piece, it may have a weather-resistant coating that guards against rust or corrosion.

Since these pieces are known for their durability, they’re great for use with hardcore working dogs who spend a ton of time outdoors (especially if they have a protective coating). The only downside to metal buckles is that they tend to be a bit heavier than their plastic counterparts.

Metal Cobra Buckle

Created as a load-bearing, heavy-duty, quick-release buckle, the Metal Cobra Buckle is most frequently used on police and military K9 collars. This buckle style is designed in a way that prevents accidental opening during heavy pulling or activity.


This is a stainless steel ring that is most often built into the center of a dog collar, leash, or harness. The purpose of an O-Ring is to turn inside out and release your dog if the equipment gets caught on something, such as a fence or a piece of training equipment.

Plastic Buckles

Plastic buckles are lightweight, easy-to-use fasteners commonly found in dog collars and harnesses. Despite the fact that “plastic” makes the piece hardware sound flimsy, our plastic buckles are made from durable, high-quality materials like acetal or nylon.

Though they may be weaker than metal buckles or suitable for large breeds or dogs who tend to pull, plastic buckles are popular because they're affordable, rust-proof, and easy to maintain.

An image of a plastic buckle


A swivel is a type of hardware used in dog collars to prevent twisting and tangling when a collar is attached to a leash. It's a small, rotating metal component connecting the leash to the collar, allowing free movement and rotation. Collars with swivels minimize the risk of the leash becoming tangled around the dog or the owner's legs and allow for greater freedom of movement for a dog.


Found on well-built choke chain collars, a toggle allows owners to put a training collar on their dog without having to slide the collar over the dog's head.


Similar to the D-Ring, V-Rings are “V” shaped metal rings that can be used to attach various items. On dog collars, this is the primary attachment point for the leash.

Different Types of Dog Collars

Now that you’re familiar with the various materials and hardware that go into creating some of the world’s best dog collars, it’s time to learn about the primary types of dog collars that are available. Being informed on the pros and uses of each type will help you choose the most suitable and comfortable collar style for your K9.

Agitation Collars

As its name suggests, agitation collars are specifically designed with the intention of not agitating your dog during training or bite work. This style of collar works in this way by preventing the restriction of airflow and breathing. It also limits pressure on a dog’s carotid artery during a forward drive in bite training or protection work. Agitation collars achieve these goals by featuring a wide, flat design that evenly distributes weight across the dog’s neck. These collars are almost always made from leather, which further reduces pressure and tension along the dog’s neck due to its soft feel.

Benefits & Uses of Agitation Collars

Agitation collars are great for working K9s who practice bite training or protection work, as they allow for pulling without discomfort. Airflow and breathing are not restricted while the dog is pulling, which is needed for working dogs in specialties such as bite work. Many designs feature a built-in handle that allows for additional control over the dog if desired.


E-Collars are an electronic style of collar that is used as a dog training system. Popular models feature a wireless remote and a wireless receiver. This system works by transmitting harmless electronic stimulation, like a vibration or beeping noise, to the collar to help control and correct behavior from a distance. Select E-Collar models also come with a GPS tracking system as an added benefit.

How do E-Collars work in practice? When a dog exhibits an undesirable behavior, the trainer can press a button that emits a small stimulation to the collar. Similar to a TENS unit, and nowhere close to the sensation of a shock, the intensity of these sensations can be further adjusted by the user. No pain is ever felt by dogs wearing these collars. If preferred, trainers can also opt to use a beeping sound instead of the vibration.

An image of an E-Collar

Benefits & Uses of E-Collars

E-Collars are primarily used to correct and control a variety of behaviors. They can be used to eliminate excess barking and jumping, to reinforce commands that your dog has already learned, and to improve off-leash behavior. Other benefits include long-distance behavioral correction, hands-free control, and off-leash freedom. For more helpful information, check out our E-Collar guide.

Choke Collars

Choke collars are steel collars that are used as an efficient training aid when handled by responsible owners. Despite their harsh-sounding name, the dog only feels mild tightness and tension when pulling on the leash. This tension immediately loosens when the dog stops pulling, which provides instant behavior correction.
The collar’s metal and links are intended to prevent discoloration and damage to fur around your dog’s neck, and do not cause pain either. Choke collars should be used only during training, and are not intended for long-term daily wear.

An image of a Choke Collars

Benefits & Uses of Choke Collars

Ideal for larger breeds due to the strength of these collars, choke collars can quickly help correct a wide variety of problematic behaviors. These collars are wonderful for basic, short-term training initiatives, such as training a dog on leash pulling.

Martingale Collars

A martingale collar (also called a no-slip collar) is designed for both training and daily wear. This collar type is equipped with a unique loop that stays disengaged while worn normally. The loop tightens only when a dog applies tension to the leash, preventing the dog from wiggling out of their collar and running away.

An image of a Martingale Collars

Benefits & Uses of Martingale Collars

Martingale collars are fantastic collars for younger dogs who still need to develop basic manners. They are effective in training a dog to walk politely on walks, and to prevent excess pulling. Because they are designed to prevent a dog from escaping their collar, this is also another feature that is valuable for puppies and young adult dogs who are prone to running off.

Pinch Collars

Different from a choke collar, pinch collars are made to create a slight pinching sensation around most of the neck. This is in contrast to a choke collar, which works by applying tightness instead of pinching. Multiple metal tines distribute the correction across the dog’s neck evenly to provide the sensation. For dogs who are sensitive to metal, there are various pinch collars that are made to be hypo-allergenic.

People who prefer pinch collars over choke collars often cite the difference in sensation as being more effective, since the light pinching is said to mimic the nibble a mom will do to her pups to correct their behavior.

An image of a Pinch Collars

How to Fit Your Dog for a New Collar

Much like choosing a dog collar that serves a specific purpose, fitting your dog to his or her new collar is equally as crucial. Without the right fit, your selected collar will not function as intended. Your dog also runs the risk of being uncomfortable during their training or daily life, or worse yet, escaping due to too loose of a collar. That is why it is of the utmost importance to know how to select an optimal collar size.

What’s the best way to fit your dog for a new collar? Once you’ve settled on a style, measure your dog’s neck circumference to see how many inches it is, and purchase a collar size that reflects that measurement. One essential piece of guidance to follow is the “Two Finger Rule,” which states that, when secured, you should be able to fit two fingers under your dog’s collar. This ensures that the fit is not too tight or too loose.

Ray Allen Evolution Collar on a police K9

Choosing the Right Dog Collar

Want to know what dog collar style is best for your K9? Explore some of our tips for finding the right collar based on your dog’s breed, the type of work and training they do on a daily basis, and more.


Your dog’s breed is especially important to consider when selecting a collar style. Many heavy duty collars are too large, thick, and strong for smaller breeds, such as chihuahuas and Jack Russell terriers. Thankfully, the vast majority of dog collar styles are tailored based on their intended purpose, which helps ensure appropriate use. For example, many working dogs are large breeds, and as such, working dog collars are made with these breeds in mind.

For everyday use collars, the best guidance is to select a style that is the appropriate thickness based on your dog’s breed size. Large breeds need 1” (and up) collars, while small breeds will fit well in thicknesses between 3/8" and 3/4".

Type of Work

The nature of the work your dog does is another major consideration for the type of collar you should be using. Specialty collars, such E-Collars, are fantastic for basic through advanced behavioral training. Alternatively, for dogs who are fully trained and who work in harsh environments, an adjustable Biothane collar can withstand the elements and are indestructible. Consider the factors and collar characteristics that are most essential for your dog’s current training level and work to make the best possible choice.


The material that your dog’s collar is made out of is incredibly important for helping meet your expectations. Some materials are designed to withstand all weather conditions as well as frequent use. Others are sturdy and reliable, yet not indestructible.

Read up on each type of material and decide what style best meets your needs.

K9 Bite training feature Ray Allen Agitation Collar

Collar Size

Finally, measuring your dog’s neck circumference properly is key to achieving a proper fit. Some collar styles, such as an E-Collar, only work well when fit to your dog correctly. Always choose the most accurate measurement available when selecting a collar. As mentioned above, also be sure to select the right collar width for your dog’s size (e.g. always choose a 1” or larger width for large breeds).

Some of Our Favorite Collars

Here at Ray Allen Manufacturing, we back all of the dog collars we sell with a satisfaction guarantee. While every collar that we sell is USA made and of the highest quality, there are certain designs that stand out above the rest.
We asked our team to come up with a few collars that they think stand out from the rest of the products in our store, and here’s what our teammates recommended:

The RAM Collar

Designed to withstand any weather conditions and tactical situation, the RAM Collar is one of the hottest-selling collars in our collection. Crafted out of Mil-Spec nylon and leather, this collar’s durability is unmatched and sure to last for years.

Since the collar is sure to last for years, the RAM Collar is adjustable from 14” to 26” inches. So from the time your K9 is a pup to the time they retire, this may be the last collar you ever need to buy!

And as an added benefit for handlers, the exterior of the collar features sewn-in loop Velcro that allows handlers to attach Velcro panels and patches. Good luck finding that feature on average leather collars!

An image of The RAM Collar

E-Lusive 2.0 Collar

Available in four colors and two widths (3/4” and 1”), and in a handle and a no handle option, the E-Lusive 2.0 ID Collar provides exceptional options and flexibility. Its core purpose is to eliminate the need for multiple collars by creating an all-in-one solution. This design has loop velcro panels for patches and identification, as well as covering for your e-collar receiver. It is made with military-grade construction, ensuring that it will last for years.

An image of an E-Lusive 2.0 ID Collar

Cobra Buckle Dog Collar With Handle

The Cobra Buckle Dog Collar with Handle is a premium, heavy-duty option. Ideal for demanding training sessions, and manufactured from Type 13 nylon webbing, this collar is one of the strongest available. Its handle allows for precise control over your dog, and it is equipped with a velcro ID panel. Choose from one of four colors — black, coyote, gray, and ranger green.

An image of Cobra Buckle Dog Collar with Handle

Dominant Dog Collar

Searching for a simple, yet well-constructed slip collar for your working dog? The Dominant Dog Collar is a fantastic choice. It is made using a thick 6mm weaved paracord, as well as two solid brass rings and a sturdy brass clasp. It serves as an effective alternative to metal choke chains, is easy to use, and fits dogs with neck sizes between 14" and 20".

An image of a Dominant Dog Collar

Ultimate Padded Leather Agitation Collar

Available in a variety of sizes and designs, the Ultimate Padded Leather Agitation Collar delivers superior comfort and functionality. It is specifically made to reduce neck irritation, and does not collect dog hair. Made with durable latigo leather, this collar is intended for frequent, long-term use.

An image of an Ultimate Padded Leather Agitation Collar

Quick-Release Training Pinch Collar

Excellent for reducing pulling, the Quick-Release Training Pinch Collar is a highly effective behavior training tool. Chrome-plated and available in five colors, this dog collar offers a slide loop with D-ring for added correction.

An image of Quick-Release Training Pinch Collar

Biothane Adjustable Dog Collar

Constructed with indestructible Biothane material, and made for all-weather use, the Biothane Adjustable Dog Collar is the first of its kind. Great for growing dogs, this design comes with an adjustable slider. It is also made with black finished metal hardware, a light feel, and resistance to mold, mildew, and sun damage. It is exceptional for everyday use, and is available in five bright colors.

An image of Biothane Adjustable Dog Collar

Herm Sprenger 3mm Short Link Chrome-Plated Steel Choke Chain

Affordable and ultra durable, the Herm Sprenger 3mm Short Link Chrome-Plated Steel Choke Chain is a popular behavior training collar. Working K9s who need a choke chain will benefit from this design’s smooth action and quick release. The Herm Sprenger 3mm Short Link Chrome-Plated Steel Choke Chain is intended for use in demanding training sessions and missions.

An image of Herm Sprenger 3mm Short Link Chrome-Plated Steel Choke Chain

Buy Your Dog Collar from Ray Allen Manufacturing

No matter which option you choose, we guarantee that the best dog collars for your K9 will always be found at Ray Allen Manufacturing. For over 76 years, we’ve worked tirelessly to engineer the highest quality, handcrafted, and American-made gear for both handlers and their K9s. Check out our full line of dog collars today!

Want to learn more about dog gear? Check out our Dog Gear Guides for help choosing the best products for your K9!.