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How Tight Should a Dog Collar Be? Vet-Approved Fitting Guide

Written by: Misty Layne

Last Updated on June 6, 2024 by Dogster Team


How Tight Should a Dog Collar Be? Vet-Approved Fitting Guide


Dr. Alice Athow-Frost Photo


Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

BVM BVS MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As a responsible dog parent, you know your dog needs to wear a collar at all times. After all, a dog’s collar is their version of a wallet since it’s where they keep their ID. And that ID will be essential if your pup ever gets lost.

However, you might not know just how tight the collar should be. The thing about dog collars is that they can’t be too tight, or they could cause issues, but they can’t be too loose, or a dog might slip out of it. So, how tight should a dog collar be?

The general rule of thumb is that you should be able to comfortably slip two fingers between the collar and your pup’s neck. However, that isn’t all you should know to ensure your dog has a properly fitting collar.

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How Tight Should Your Dog’s Collar Be?

When you’re picking out a dog collar for your pup, your dog’s comfort, as well as their safety should be top priorities. So, how tight should your dog’s collar be? As we said, you should be able to comfortably slide two fingers between your pet’s neck and the collar. Being able to do this means that your dog will be comfortable, as the collar won’t be overly tight, and safe, as they won’t be able to slip out of the collar.

Don’t just check the fit of the collar when you’re picking one out for your pup, though. Make sure you check the collar’s fit habitually, particularly if you got the collar for a puppy or younger canine. Younger dogs can grow quickly and grow enough that their collar becomes too tight and restrictive, meaning the collar should be let out or a new one should be purchased.

Dog with Electric shock collar on outdoor
Image Credit: Parilov, Shutterstock

Signs a Collar Is Too Tight

What if you’re unsure you got the fit of the collar right? How will you know if it’s too tight for your pup? A dog collar that is too tight will cause your pet discomfort, which will lead them to show signs that they’re uncomfortable.

One sign that’s a good indicator a collar is too tight is loss of fur and chafing on your dog’s neck. A collar that is too tight will rub against your pup, resulting in hair loss and skin irritation.  Another sign is coughing. If a collar is overly tight, it can put pressure on a dog’s windpipe; this makes it harder to breathe, which can lead to coughing.

The Dangers of Tight Collars

Wearing a dog collar that is too tight could cause your pet to have health issues and other problems. Some of the dangers of an overly tight dog collar include:

  • Less airflow
  • Restricted breathing
  • Skin abrasions and irritation
  • Hair loss
  • Damage to the windpipe
  • Choking

On the flip side, a collar that is too loose could result in your pet slipping out of it and running off into traffic or other dangerous situations. A too-loose collar could also get caught on things, like branches, and choke or injure a dog.  Dogs have been known to get a limb caught in a loose-fitting collar, when they have been scratching themselves.  Also, loose fitting collars can get caught around a dog’s mouth causing great distress and danger.

This is why getting just the right fit for your pup’s collar is essential.

pit bull mix with fun collar
Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

How Do I Measure My Dog for a Collar?

While the two-finger rule is a good barometer of how tight a collar is, measuring your dog beforehand for a collar will go a long way to ensuring you get the right size, as well. Collars come in a variety of sizes and models, so getting proper measurements will allow you to pick the best one for your dog. You’ll just need a soft measuring tape to measure your dog’s neck. Then, do the following.

  • Measure your pet while they are calm
  • Measure around the base of your pup’s neck, where a collar normally sits.  Make sure you can fit two fingers between the tape and your dog’s neck when you do this.

That’s it! You now have the measurement you need, and you can compare collars to this measurement to get the best fit. Most collar manufacturers will have a sizing chart on their website so that you can compare your measurement to the chart and ensure you get the right size collar for your pup.

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Final Thoughts

If a dog’s collar is so tight you can’t slide two fingers between it and your dog’s neck, then it’s too tight for your dog to be wearing. Keep that rule of thumb in mind, and you shouldn’t have to worry about whether a collar is overly tight or not. However, you should also measure your pet for a collar to help get the correct size for them, and check that fit often to ensure it is staying loose enough to be comfortable for them, but tight enough to keep them safe. This will keep your pup comfortable and happy!

Featured Image Credit: Brberrys, Shutterstock

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