Much like a bride's flowers are the highlight in many of her wedding photos, your dog's collar is going to be a focal point in his images, which is why selecting the right collar for your furry friend is one detail you don't want to overlook. I recently talked with Mindy Saver, owner of Diamond Daisy Design, who shared her top tips and considerations when choosing the best collar for your dog's photography session.
"[The] number one thing you should look for when picking a quality collar is would you want to wear that? Honestly. I know that sounds ridiculous, but if you wouldn't want a certain material rubbing on your neck than your dog probably won't enjoy it either," Mindy explains. "Comfort is very important, so when picking a quality collar make sure you pick a width that is right for your dog. A lot of places offer multiple widths (I offer five different widths myself) and you should make sure that your dog isn't wearing something so thin it will bust (the flea collar look) or so fat your dog can't move its neck."
Makes sense, right? Yes, but where to go from there? Let's look at the two types of collars that most clients fit their dogs with for their session: traditional buckle collars and martingale collars.
Selecting a Style
"A lot of people don't seem to realize there are quite a few different types of collars and each one has a different use and/or purpose," says Mindy. "I'll start with a martingale since it's my favorite."
"A martingale is composed of two loops, a small loop that will have the D ring for the leash and tags to connect to and a larger loop, which will slip over your dog's head and adjust down to the perfect fit. These types of collars are good for dogs that may need a little bit of help with pulling on the leash or a dog you may be worried about slipping out of the collar...say if they see a squirrel or are dog-reactive. A martingale is designed to tighten--but not choke--when the dog pulls."
As a photographer, I love martingales because they make post-processing a bit easier provided you keep the loops of the collar toward the back of your dog's neck. (Fear not, I'll walk you through the best way to hold a leash during your session to make removing it easy and eliminate the pulled look of a collar.) A martingale is also so much more flattering in your final images than a bulky, body-covering harness while still offering a similar benefit for strong pullers.
Mindy explains that the buckle collar, the type most people think of when they think of a dog collar, has a bunch of names, including snap or flat. These ones have plastic or metal buckles/clips that close to hold the collar on as well as an adjustable loop that goes around the dog's neck and clips securely in place. According to Mindy, this style is considered the gold standard in collars because it is most common and what most people are used to.
So, should you use a buckle or a martingale? Mindy believes this varies from dog to dog depending on personality, leash manners, and personal preference.
"Buckle collars are wonderful if your dog already has pretty good manners on-leash. They're super easy to snap on and if your dog doesn't like a lot of handling, they're definitely the better way to go to not make your dog uncomfortable with you needing to make adjustments like you do with a martingale," advises Mindy. "If you don't need the correction of the martingale but don't want to see a buckle, many collar makers--myself included--can make a buckleless collar, which is a large loop that adjusts down. [It] works like the buckle collar, but [with] no bulky buckle."
"If your dog is more of a handful, I would generally recommend a martingale. Used correctly, they can be excellent tools in helping leash manners; in some cases, people just like the look of them better, not having the bulky buckle," says Mindy. "Keep in mind, if a martingale isn’t fitted correctly, they can actually do more harm than good, so make sure to read how to get a proper fit."
Sizing a Collar
Choosing a collar that is appropriately sized not only helps it photograph better, it's also crucial for keeping your dog safe during our session. Knowing how to choose the perfect fit is something Mindy wishes more pet parents would take into account--and for good reason!
"I don't get asked this as much as I wish I did," she says. "The way the collar fits is very important. Ill-fitting collars can be dangerous. Your dog can slip a collar, which is a truly terrifying experience to have," adding that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. "No matter which style of collar you select, once you receive it, it will need to be adjusted down."
Mindy recommends a simple two-finger measuring trick to help gauge if a collar is too loose or too tight.
"You should be able to fit two fingers snuggly under it, that's it. With a buckle collar, that's pretty self-explanatory. It's exactly that: two fingers between your dog’s neck and the collar. With a martingale, it's a little trickier. You want to put your two fingers in the small loop and when you pull the D ring (that’s where you attach your tags and leash), you should be able to sit your two fingers snuggly in there."
Adding Fun to Functionality
"When collar hunting for photos, always think first about what you want. If you want to see the collar highlighted, go with a collar that complements your dog’s coloring," suggests Mindy. "For example, my orange dog Emma rocks purple collars and they really pop, so if I want her collar to show off, I'd go with that, but if I don't necessarily want to show off her cool new collar, I’d go with a more subtle color, like a light pink, which you would barely notice in her pictures."
While bright colors are ultra-fun, I do recommend steering away from them for lighter-colored pups because of the natural colorcast that they will produce when reflecting off your dog's chest and neck. (Sorry, all my fans of lime green, hot pink, red, and neon orange.) This is one instance in which less is more. And please--as much as you may think your alma mater's logo looks darling on your dog, it does not make the best choice for your session.
"Color is great for photos, but you don't necessarily want a crazy print with words or pictures. It may be a cute collar, but bold colors and abstract prints definitely go better for photos. The focus is, after all, your adorable doggo, not their 'lady's man' collar," says Mindy.
Remember, too, that, if you choose to be in photos with him, you ideally want your dog's collar to complement what you'll be wearing as well. Colors that create a cohesive palette will look the most flattering. For instance, a deep blue collar will look great with jewel-toned clothing whereas a subtle rose pink one would pair well with a more neutral outfit.
Just as I advise my two-legged clients on their wardrobe within my session guide, many of the same recommendations apply when selecting a collar. Keep in mind the location we're shooting in; rustic and rural spots where your pup is more likely to get wet or a little dirty may require different material and durability than what you'd choose for your dog's backyard or uptown city session.
"You should look for a collar that not only looks good but [one that] can take a beating," agrees Mindy. "Collars should be able to be tugged on and washed. After all, it's for a dog. Your best friend has a big personality and should be able to not only show it off with a fashionable collar but have fun in it and [have it] be easy to clean up after. If you can't throw your collar in the wash, you probably shouldn't get that collar. A lot of people don't think 'Can I wash this?' until their pup goes rolling in poop."
"The art of picking a good collar is knowing what you and your dog need. And if you don't know, ask," encourages Mindy. "[Any business] should be more than happy to answer any questions you may have so you can choose what's right for your dog, particularly if you're shopping small."
In need of a new collar for your upcoming session? Shop local with:
- Diamond Daisy Design
- Scout Dog Collars
- Clara's Collars
- Schmoopsie Couture
- Petagogy, Wagsburgh, Healthy Pet Products, and Three Dog Bakery in Sewickley
If you're looking for something more unique, check out other Bark & Gold Photography client favorites:
- Hypnotic Dog Co. for handcrafted, made-to-order, unique beaded collars made from hand-painted wooden beads, premium ceramic beads, and deluxe semi-precious gemstone beads
- Bull in a Collar Shop for custom-made dog collars to fit not only your dog's size but their style & personality
- Half Moon Hounds for handmade custom paracord collars and leashes (as seen on Draco)
- Upland and Downstream for quality, 100% American bridle leather collars
To learn more about Diamond Daisy Design, its collars/bandanas, and the incredibly entertaining pack that inspires many of Mindy's designs, visit www.diamonddaisydesign.com and follow Diamond Daisy Design on Instagram.