GPS dog collars, dog training collars, electric dog collars, no-pull dog collars…never-ending list, huh? No surprises if you’re overwhelmed finding a million results looking these up. So if you’re curious about the different types of dog collars, we’re going to walk you through the most common ones. (And which of these your buddy might really need in the first place.)

Because in a nutshell: we’d always recommend choosing what prioritizes your dog’s safety and wellbeing. Which means, ideally, an ID tag, a dog GPS tracking device, and a humane (and legal) way to get them to behave. Let’s get started.

The main types of dog collars & what you’ll need them for

The types of dog collars you’ll run into tend to differ on their purpose. So here are some of the most common ones that’ll turn up on your search:

  • Regular or flat collars
  • Dog tracking collars
  • Dog training collars

Regular (flat) collars

Likely the first image that comes to your mind when you think “dog collars”. Flat collars are simple, adjustable collars designed for everyday use. We’d recommend getting one for your dog specifically to attach an ID tag – and a tracking device. (Which we’ll cover in the next section.)

Ideally, your dog’s collar is lightweight and comfortable to wear. A good rule of thumb is to ensure you can fit two fingers into the space between collar and neck. This means your collar is fitted snugly enough to prevent falling off – but not so tight that it’ll hurt your dog.

A dog standing in a snowy field with a clear view of their collar and ID tag

A flat collar is also your dog’s first step into leash training. Which isn’t just a fun activity to do together. Rather, walking your dog on a leash is legally required in many parts of the world. So make sure to check the laws and regulations as they apply to your state or country.

For example, if you live in Ohio, you’ll need to keep your dog on a leash while out in public. (Unless you’re off hunting.) Keeping dogs on a leash in public is also legally required in countries like most European countries, Canada, Australia, and many US states.

Other types of regular dog collars

Here are some types of regular dog collars you might come across – and where they work best:

  • Martingale collars, which are flexible in build and can help prevent a dog from slipping out. They’re also adjustable and secure your dog’s neck to their collar – but without choking or hurting them.
  • Head collars, which slip around your dog’s head – quite similar to a muzzle. (But without covering your dog’s mouth.) They can help train your dog to heel and walk comfortably on a leash. With this, you can gently and immediately redirect your dog’s unwanted behaviors without harming them.
  • Harnesses, or a no-pull collar which go around your dog’s neck and chest – providing a comfortable fit. Great for dogs who have a tendency to pull, as well as dogs with neck, back, and airway problems. Some animal experts even recommend starting your dog’s harness training early on. (Since puppies have a tendency to pull on their leashes and bolt.)
  • Rolled collars, which can help dogs with sensitive skin, including rolls and wrinkles.

Dog collars you should consider avoiding

In general, both vets and animal experts recommend avoiding chain slip collars and prong collars.1 They tend to pull tightly against your dog’s neck. Which, over time, increases their risk of injury and even strangulation, in some cases. This is especially so if you have a dog on the smaller side.

Generally, these types of dog collars rely on negative reinforcement (i.e. pain and punishment) to “train” dogs. So we’d always recommend considering more humane alternatives, like a no-pull collar or a harness. Or get in touch with your local vet who can refer you to an animal behavioral specialist.

Do you need to put an ID tag on your dog’s collar?

Much like leashes, you might be legally required to attach an ID tag to your dog’s collar in some countries. (Like the UK and some parts of the US). But besides this, it’s generally a good idea in case your dog gets lost.

A dog standing in a lawn, wearing a collar with an ID tag

With a dog ID tag, you can include important information about your dog. Including:

  • Your contact details, including your phone number. So a helpful stranger who’s found your dog can get in touch with you.
  • The geographic area where you live, like your city or district.
  • Your dog’s vaccination history. (Which might be legally required in some US states.)

All these details can help keep your dog safe in case they run off outdoors. And if you add a tracking device to your dog’s collar, you can take a more active role in finding them.

Tracking collars

In a world where dognapping is on the rise, a tracking collar can help keep your buddy safe. In fact, it’s estimated that around 1 in 3 pets go missing in their lifetime.2 Which is about 10 million missing pets per year in the US alone. But with a dedicated dog tracking device attached to your dog’s collar, you can stay on top of their location – no matter where they are.

brown dog wearing gps tracking collar

GPS trackers are great for tracking and finding a hyperactive dog, or one who tends to bolt out of anxiety, or has a high prey drive. Plus, with all the reasons that dogs tend to run away, a dedicated dog GPS tracker can ensure you’ll never have to worry about losing your buddy again.

For example, the Tractive GPS works across an unlimited range and shares real-time updates for your dog’s location – every 2-3 seconds. It also connects with mobile networks across 173 countries, so you can track your buddy no matter where you are in the world. With just a glance at your app, you can track your dog’s real-time location. And take a more active role in finding them. (Which is more likely to ensure you’ll find them safe and sound.)

You might think a tracking device makes more sense if you live in a remote area or near nature. But dogs are as likely to bolt in urban areas as rural ones. And both come with dangers of their own. So with a dog GPS tracker safely attached to your buddy’s collar, you’re better-equipped to keep them safe from harm.

packaging of the Tractive GPS DOG tracker

Always know where your dog is

Follow every step in real-time with unlimited range. Get alerts if they wander too far. Keep them happy & healthy with Wellness Monitoring. And let others – like walkers or sitters – keep an eye on your dog too.

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Choosing the right tracker for your dog

With tracking devices like Tile tags, Apple AirTags, and even the Ring Pet Tag on the market, you might be wondering whether they count as dog tracking collars. To which we’d say, no – none of these devices were (actually) built keeping dogs in mind.

  • Tile tags and Apple AirTags are Bluetooth trackers built for items, not pets. They alert you with an audible sound or alert if the item you’re tracking is within Bluetooth range. Which is around 30-40 feet, or around the size of your neighborhood block. (So not a great option for an active, outdoorsy dog.)
  • The Ring Pet tag is similar to a microchip. It includes a custom QR code that helps someone identify your dog if they get lost. Which, when you think about it, isn’t really a guarantee you’ll find them safe and sound.
  • Other GPS collars do exist on the market. But we’d strongly recommend you avoid those that market themselves as training and tracking collars both. Many of these rely on aversive stimuli, like shocks, to “train” your dog against unwanted behaviors. Which, over time, can damage both your dog’s physical health – and their trust in you.

We’d also advise against picking a tracking device that dangles from your dog’s neck. It could fall off, get your dog stuck in a narrow space, or even create a choking hazard.

The Tractive GPS, on the other hand, comes with a safety clips to help you attach it to your dog’s collar. So it’s secured against your dog’s neck – and less likely to fall off. (Plus your dog won’t even notice it.)

A man hugging his dog who's wearing a Tractive GPS collar

How the right tracker can save your dog’s life

When it comes to upgrading your dog’s flat collar into a tracking one, your best bet is a dedicated dog GPS tracker. And specifically, one built keeping in mind the needs of pets and pet parents both.

Dog parents around the world are relying on Tractive’s life-saving technology to keep their buddies safe and sound. Like Happy, an off-leash Golden Labrador who ran off into the woods on his first hike in the Alps. Despite panicking, his mum Francesca quickly switched on Tractive’s LIVE tracking – and found him in no time.

In her words:

“I remembered that Happy had the GPS tracker clipped on. So I immediately switched on the LIVE Tracking mode and started breathing more easily the closer I got to his position.

Then, I could follow his path, live, directly on my phone and the position was so accurate…finally, there Happy was, sipping water from the source on a mountain’s edge.

Two women hiking kneeling down next to golden retriever dog in a lake in the mountains

Read the full story of Happy, Francesca, and how Tractive is a life-saving tracking device for pet parents around the world.

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Staying on top of your dog’s health & wellbeing – with Tractive

With the right device, you also go beyond just tracking your dog’s location. Rather, with Tractive, you can also keep an eye on your dog’s sleep and activity levels. When you’re able to track these behaviors over time, you’re more easily able to catch a change – and even prevent a medical emergency.

Here’s a story from one of Tractive’s pet parents and how her dog’s Wellness profile helped her catch on to an illness right in time:

Evi, a PTSD-trained service dog, with her Tractive GPS

Evi, my PTSD dog was the first to try out the tracker. And after three and a half weeks of using, and finally really trusting the data that Tractive gave me, I found out she was sick before I could even really see it. Her sleep quality suddenly drastically decreased from around 90% to 60% and her active minutes dropped by about 50 a day.

So even though she still looked happy and healthy, my Tractive device stated otherwise. So I went to the vet with this information. They took me and Tractive seriously…and it turned out she had the beginning of an infection in her ears!

My Tractive GPS is a part of my primary gear now – and I don’t want it any other way.

– Cissy V, Netherlands

Often, your buddy might be struggling with a sickness, but their changes in behavior might be too subtle to catch. (And easy to miss out on.) But with Tractive’s Health Alerts, you get immediately notified if your dog’s sleep is disturbed too often, or if they’re less active than before. So you can catch on early and get your buddy the help they need – when they need it most.

Training collars

Training collars for dogs come in a variety of designs and functions. Much like leashes and ID tags, these might be subject to legal requirements (and restrictions) depending on where you live. 

How do dog training collars work?

Modern dog training collars help pet parents train their dogs through stimulation. For example, with a vibration, beep, and in some cases, even with a static shock. (Like in the case of electric collars.) These kinds of collars offer pet parents control over training dogs to discourage unwanted behaviors – like excessive barking.

A man training his dog in a park

Remote dog training collars

Remote dog training collars let you control your dog’s behaviors from a distance. They’re one option for boundary training – or preventing your dog from wandering past a far-off safe zone. As well as other unwanted behaviors, like excessive barking.

These collars often use electric signals communicated through radio transmitters.3 Unfortunately, some remote collars might also use aversive stimuli (like static shocks) to discourage your dog from certain behaviors.

What are e-collars for dogs?

E-collars (or electric collars) are a type of dog training collar that uses electric signals to communicate with your dog. With one, you can deliver different types of stimulation to reinforce (or discourage) different behaviors. Depending on the model, these might include static, vibration, or sound-based signals.

It’s important to note that vets and animal welfare advocates strongly discourage the use of e-collars that deliver static shocks.4 You’re always at risk of administering a harsher shock to your dog than you intended. Which can just make them fearful and more likely to pull or bite you in defense instead. Also, if left unattended, a child or someone untrained in the use of an e-collar might use it instead. So there’s always a change they might misuse it – and massively shock and injure your dog.

In some countries, the use of dog collars (including e-collars or shock collars) is either restricted or completely banned. This is because of concerns regarding their potential misuse and even harm to dogs. E-collars are banned in a number of European countries, some states in Australia, and the province of Quebec in Canada.

A dog running through a snowy forest

These laws and regulations may vary across US states and different countries. So make sure to look up the legal requirements in your area.

Humane alternatives to electric dog collars

Dogs are emotionally intelligent and respond well to positive reinforcement. So if you’re wondering how to train them out of a specific behavior, here are a couple of humane options that don’t rely on fear or stress.

Clicker training

Clicker training is a training method that’s built on positive reinforcement. It’s how you can help condition your dog to associate a reward with the sound of a clicker. So a fun, non-invasive, positive way to train them to perform certain behaviors. (Which also doesn’t potentially harm them.) 

Besides regular positive reinforcement, clicker training helps you communicate your expectations to your dog clearly. The sound of the clicker tends to be consistent. So it’s easier to signal “Good job!” to your buddy than the sound of your voice. (Which can vary – and potentially confuse them instead.)

Clicker training works great on dogs of all ages, sizes, breeds, and temperaments. It’s a smart choice for both basic and advanced training commands – and has a ton of benefits in real life. Working dogs around the world are trained with the use of a clicker, including service dogs and therapy dogs.

Tractive’s Virtual Fence: An alternative to boundary training collars

With Tractive, you can set up a Virtual Fence – or a “safe zone” for your dog. Now if your dog wanders beyond this point, you get an immediate alert on your phone. So you can take a more active role in finding and tracking your dog if they stray beyond a safe distance. 

Virtual Fence infographic for the Tractive GPS

So a much more humane alternative than remotely “shocking” your dog to prevent them from wandering freely. Because you should never have to compromise on your dog’s freedom, independence, and even love and trust in you just to “train” them.

Can you use Tractive’s Light & Sound features to train your dog?

Here’s a common question we get – and the answer is no. Tractive’s Light & Sound features are meant to help you find your dog – not train them. Not sure what we’re talking about? Keep reading.

One of Tractive’s innovative tracking features is Light & Sound. If your dog’s run off into a dark, poorly-lit area, you can use your tracker’s Light & Sound functions to locate them visually or audibly. Importantly: these are tracking features meant to find your dog, not train them.

  • Tractive’s Light functions include an LED light. Which you can use to locate, say, a dark-furred dog if they’ve run off somewhere in the late evening. 
  • With Sound, you can trigger a high-pitched melody to help guide you to where your dog might be. (So a better option in a sunny, well-lit area.) 

Again, we don’t recommend using Tractive’s Sound features to train your dog. You might’ve heard of audio-based tracking devices like Tile where users trigger a sound or a tone to call their pets home. But in general, your Tractive GPS isn’t designed to train dogs. We’d consider this off-label use. Our tracker is meant to find your lost dog – not help call them back at mealtime.

A woman hugging her dog who's wearing a red harness

Besides these options, it’s always a good idea to get in touch with a certified dog trainer – or explore your options with your local vet. They can refer you to an animal behavior specialist who can help you train your dog and wean them off specific unwanted behaviors.

Because at the end of the day, it’s always better to put your buddy’s safety and wellbeing first.

Stay on top of your dog’s safety – with the right dog collar

Once you’ve considered your dog’s needs, we’d always recommend a dog collar that’s built with their safety in mind.

  • Regular collars. A flat collar with a dog ID tag can help a stranger identify them and return them to you. Consider a Martingale collar if your dog tends to slip out of them. Or a rolled collar if your dog’s skin is on the wrinkled side. We’d also recommend you avoid prong collars and chain collars as they tend to cause your dog pain.
  • Tracking collars. With a dedicated dog GPS collar, you can stay on top of your dog’s location wherever they are. GPS trackers like Tractive offer unlimited live tracking and also help you stay on top of your dog’s sleep and activity. You’re better off avoiding tracking devices that are built for items over pets.
  • Training collars. Remote training collars can help you stimulate your dog with a sound or a vibration to discourage unwanted behaviors. We’d recommend avoiding e-collars or shock collars which can potentially harm your dog. Or consider a humane, positive alternative like clicker training – or partnering with a certified dog trainer instead.

By understanding the different types of dog collars, you’re now one step closer to prioritizing your buddy’s safety and wellbeing. So once you’ve picked a well-fitting flat collar, let’s get yourself an upgrade. Invest in a dedicated dog GPS trackerand never worry about where your dog is ever again.

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