By Augie Berings, Bering’s Hardware
Nearly every dog owner buys a collar for their new pet but few are aware of the long history and many different types of collars. Archaeology has demonstrated that humans were crafting collars for their animals at least 7000 years ago and the possibility that this is a conservative estimate is large. These ancient Egyptian collars were engraved with the animals’ names, indicating that they served a function very similar to most modern collars: decoration and identification. All throughout subsequent history, mankind has always maintained its close relationship with “man’s best friend” and the collars we find mirror the current selection’s usages closely. In situations where dogs were primarily guarding domestic animals, collars tended to have studs or spikes to frustrate the jaws of a marauding wolf. Dogs owned by royalty or other elites tended to be ornate and decorative. Middle class adoption of dog ownership required affordable collars, just like today’s mass marketed collar industry.
Modern dog collar options follow historical trends, resulting in varieties that are both traditional and modern. Here are the most common types of collars.
“Normal” collars– Most dog collars are used to dress up the family pet and to identify it to strangers who may come into contact with the animal. Normally a simple leather strap with a buckle, these basic collars are cheap and commonly available. They typically provide a metal loop to attach a leash or lead and a smaller ring below the chin to hang an id tag.
Flea collars– Flea collars are a simple plastic collar impregnated with chemicals or oils designed to discourage fleas from taking up residence in the choicest part of a dog (from a flea’s perspective), the bushy fur surrounding a dog’s neck.
Choke collars– These collars serve a training function. Large, difficult to control dogs are collared with a chain that may or may not include dull, inward facing prongs arranged in a “slipknot” configuration that tightens as the dog pulls away from its handler. Although they can appear cruel, most dog trainers agree that a dog properly handled with this collar is in no significant danger. Training collars should always be used with an observant human present to prevent accidental harm.
Martingale collars– Martingales are a type of collar that serves the same function as a choker with a slightly more complex mechanism that prevents over tightening. The larger circle of these collars tightens through a smaller chain loop as the animal pulls away. This small loop allows the collar to loosen quickly as the dag relaxes. These collars are particularly useful on greyhounds and other dogs with a small head and large neck.
Wolf collars– Modern studded collars exist primarily as decoration intended to make a pet look tough, but this type of collar has a historically important function. A sheep dog or other herding animal’s primary duty is to guard the flock against the designs of other carnivores. A sturdy strap around the neck with or without spikes can provide a tremendous advantage in a fight since most predators will instinctively attack the neck.
Harnesses– Dogs with joint issues and smaller dogs with delicate necks are often outfitted with harnesses that fasten around the torso instead of the neck. Some trainers feel that this setup encourages pet dogs to fight the leash, since they are deprived of the direct control of a collar. A newer variation of this idea is the head halter which fastens around the dogs head and appears to be a type of muzzle, although it actually doesn’t band the jaws. These harnesses provide control of the front of the dogs head and are designed to improve leading.
Shock collars and lighted collars — in recent years, manufacturers have been adding technological improvements to the traditional collar such as electronic devices that produce a small jolt once the animal moves out of a predefined area or barks loudly. Modern LED lights allow inexpensive, lighted collars that are visible over long distances at night to help prevent lost game animals and runners.
The total variety of available options can be a bit bewildering. If you keep in mind the needs you hope to fill with a new dog collar, your options should be relatively simple.
About the Author
August Bering V, “Augie” to his friends, is President of Bering’s Hardware in Houston, TX. Bering’s is well known for a broad range of carefully selected home goods such as outdoor living products to pet products, and red carpet service that has delighted customers for generations since 1940. From your bridal registry, decorating your first home, to your first baby registry, Bering’s has special gifts for special occasions and the right tools for the right job. Augie enjoys spending time with his family and friends, grilling and cooking, playing hard outside, travelling, design, art, live music, and spending as much time as he can with his family.