Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.
Choosing a good collar for a German Shepherd is important: it’s something they’ll wear every day and will impact their training and behavior on walks. Especially for a large breed, the right collar and leash combination can help you to train and handle your dog confidently. But there are a lot of different types of collars and leashes to choose from! Below, we outline all the different kinds of collars and leashes, focusing specifically on the best choices for German Shepherds.
Variety Is a Man’s Best Friend
Sometimes, the best collar is multiple collars. A standard collar is great for attaching ID tags and for everyday wear. But you may want to change it out or add a separate collar over the top for training or for walks if your dog likes to pull on their leash. Similarly, you may want to have different kinds of leashes available for different activities, such as short walks or for swimming.
Don’t worry about finding one perfect German Shepherd collar and leash. Instead, think about what activities you want to do with your dog and what will help with their training. You may want to have a small collection on hand that you can rotate through.
The Best Materials for German Shepherd Collars
There are a few great choices for dog collar materials, depending on your budget and what kind of activities your German Shepherd likes:
Nylon is the most popular material for dog collars because it is both affordable and durable. Nylon is a synthetic material that stands up well to water and everyday wear. You can find nylon collars, especially standard colors, in a wide variety of colors and patterns, so you can have fun choosing a style you like.
While nylon is great for everyday wear, it can become grungy and smelly over time, so you may want to replace a nylon collar every year or two.
If your German Shepherd loves to swim, a neoprene collar is a great choice. Neoprene is the same material that wet suits are made out of; it’s made to be durable in the water, and it dries quickly. This means that if your dog is constantly in and out of the water, this collar won’t smell as much as a nylon one.
Most neoprene dog collars are made with a layer of nylon webbing to give them extra strength. You’ll find that neoprene German Shepherd collars are more expensive and thicker than nylon collars, but they’re great for water-loving dogs.
Leather German Shepherd collars are a classic, high-quality choice if you’re looking to spend a little bit more. Real leather is a natural material that’s more breathable than nylon, which means it’s a great choice for dogs with sensitive skin or allergies.
Leather is durable and typically lasts for a few years; you can also easily wipe it clean. Although you’ll spend a little more upfront, you may spend less on replacing collars over time. Many owners also love leather dog collars for their timeless look.
Dog Collars to Avoid
There are some collars that we highly recommend you avoid because they can be actively dangerous to your dog.
The most common (and controversial) collar we suggest avoiding is a dog training collar, also known as a choke collar. These dog collars are made of a metal chain that pulls tighter as the dog pulls on it. They can be useful to teach a dog to relax while walking, but if not fitted properly and used correctly, they can constrict your dog’s neck.
They should never be used on a puppy under 6 months old. If you’re having a lot of trouble with a dog who’s a strong puller, you may consider using a German Shepherd training collar after working with a dog trainer to learn how to use it properly. Then use a training collar for brief corrections, rather than all-day wear. But for most owners, we recommend using a martingale dog collar instead.
Prong Choke Collars and Shock Collars
There are two other kinds of aggressive collars we caution dog owners against: prong choke collars and shock collars. Prong collars work much like training collars, but they also have sharp inward-facing prongs that dig into the dog’s neck when they pull. This trains your dog not to pull by causing them pain. They can also lead to injuries and infection.
Shock collars contain an electrical unit that shocks the dog when the owner presses a button. Some dog owners choose to use dog shock collars to train unruly dogs. The problem is that both shock collars and prong collars work by inflicting pain on your dog. They teach your dog to fear you and may even lead to aggression. Instead, if you’re having trouble training your German Shepherd, we recommend working with a trainer.
The Best Collar for German Shepherds
Standard or flat collars are your basic dog collar that most dogs wear every day. Most have a simple buckle to take on and off and a ring where you can attach tags. Standard collars are great for everyday wear around the house and work well for walks for many dogs. If your dog pulls a lot, however, a standard collar might slip off over their head. You can find standard collars in any pet store, and most have a similar design. But here’s one we think is particularly great:
Chai’s Choice Padded Reflective Dog Collar
This dog collar is simple, affordable, and very popular among dog owners. It’s made of nylon, and what sets it apart is its thick layer of padding. This helps make it extra comfortable, especially for German Shepherd puppies who are still learning to walk properly on a leash.
The reflective material helps to make your dog visible at night, and it comes in a range of fun colors. Reviewers praise this nylon collar for its durability and apparent comfort, and it’s only $11.
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Best Martingale Collars and Gentle Leaders (for Dogs Who Pull)
If your German Shepherd pulls while walking, the right collar can help. You have two great options that won’t hurt your German Shepherds: martingale collars and gentle leaders. Like a dog training collar, a martingale collar tightens when your dog pulls. The difference is that only a small section, rather than the whole collars, cinches closed, preventing the collar from closing too tightly around your dog’s neck.
Good2Go Two Tone Martingale Dog Collar
This is the best martingale collar for German Shepherd dogs and it is made of nylon all around, with a fun two-color design. It’s super affordable (under $8), but reviewers note that it’s durable and lasts a long time. Most importantly, dog owners report that this collar helped them control their dogs on walks, without worrying about straining the dog’s neck.
A gentle leader is another way to address a dog who pulls, but it works differently. This kind of collar loops over the dog’s nose then loops around behind their head.
The leash attaches beneath the dog’s chin rather than at the back of the neck. That way, when the dog or handler pulls on the leash, the dog’s head is turned back to the handler. This redirects the dog’s energy and teaches them that they can’t get where they want simply by pulling harder. This can be especially great for a large dog like a German Shepherd when you don’t want to be competing through strength.
PetSafe Gentle Leader Headcollar
This is a simple but effective gentle leader for German Shepherd dogs that is well-loved by many purchasers. The reviews are full of large dog owners who report that these collars helped them to stop pulling behavior.
A number of reviews note that getting the fitting right is important to the collar’s effectiveness, so if you buy it, take your time to adjust the fit on your dog during your first few walks.
Choosing a Leash for German Shepherds
Once you’ve chosen a collar, choosing a leash is relatively simple. The most important thing is to choose a high-quality leash that won’t snap or slip out of your hand. You can find sturdy leashes made out of nylon, leather, and rope.
You’ll also need to think about length. Most leashes are between 4 and 8 feet long. There’s no one right length; we recommend having a couple of different ones on hand.
A 4-foot leather leash might be perfect for walking around the neighborhood when other dogs and distractions are nearby. And an 8-foot nylon leash might be great for when you take your German Shepherd to your favorite secluded spot, where they need some room for running around or even swimming. When in doubt, a shorter leash will give you better control over your dog.
Dog Leashes to Avoid: Retractable Leashes
A retractable dog leash seems like a great idea: you can adjust the length easily based on how much lead you want to give your dog. Unfortunately, the reality is that these leashes give you very little control.
If you’ve ever used one of these leashes, you’ve probably experienced trying to retract it quickly when another dog approaches or a squirrel catches your dog’s eye. Or you may have noticed that it can be hard to hold onto the leash properly while trying to press the locking button. Too many dog owners lose control while trying to use a retractable leash. Instead, we recommend a simple fixed-length leash, especially for large breeds.
The Best Leashes for German Shepherds
Atlas Lifetime Leash
At $58, this large dog leash isn’t cheap, but it does come with a lifetime warranty. It’s designed to be indestructible – it’s made from the same rope that rock climbers use. Reviewers praise it for being lightweight but super durable, even when their dogs chew on it. It’s available in 5 foot and 8-foot options and in six different colors.
Max and Neo Double Handle Heavy Duty Reflective Leash
If you’re looking for a more affordable but still high-quality German Shepherd leash, this nylon flat dog leash from Max and Neo is a great choice. The clever design features two handles: one 18 inches from the clip and one at 6 feet. The close handle allows you to control your dog closely if you’re in traffic or need them to heel.
Both of the handles are padded to make them more comfortable for your hand. The leash also has reflective stitching to help make you more visible at night. The reviews are full of dog owners commenting that this is a great leash for training large dogs.
We hope you've enjoyed our article and found a leash or collar to your liking. Keep in mind your dog's safety and you'll need something strong and durable.
- L. Withwam, The German Shepherd Handbook: Essential Guide For New and Prospective German Shepherd Owners (Canine Handbooks), 2020, 234p.
- Palika L. and Albert T. Your German Shepherd Puppy Month by Month: Everything You Need to Know at Each State to Ensure Your Cute and Playful Puppy., 2016, Alpha, 352 p.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2021 Sam Shepards