Dog Collars: Buckles vs. Clips

Whether they close with a clip or a buckle closure, every type of dog collar has two main functions: to keep the two of you together, and to provide ID information that can help reunite you if you become separated.

And, okay, it doesn’t hurt if the collar looks great, too.

Though they are broadly similar (for instance, both types of collars are equally easy to clean) clip and buckle collars aren’t exactly interchangeable. Buckle collars are stronger and less likely to break, while clip-on collars (or snap collars) are safer than buckle collars, as they can easily be released if needed. The differences don’t end there, so let’s take a deeper dive into what separates clip-on collars from buckle collars.

Clip-On Dog Collars

What Are Clip-On, or Snap Dog Collars?

Clip-on, or snap dog collars use the same type of closure with a plastic clip at each end of the collar, much like a hip strap on a backpack. To secure the collar, simply pinch the sides of the smaller end and push it into an opening on the larger end and release it to allow it to snap into place. The greatest advantage of clip-on collars is that you can remove them quickly in an emergency. Squeeze the sides of the plastic clip, and the collar will pop open.

This can be a literal lifesaver: When two dogs are playing, one dog’s teeth or jaw can become caught in the other dog’s collar. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it happens fast, and the consequences can be devastating. With a clip collar, resolving the situation happily is as easy as squeezing the clip. And because they’re the safer option when interacting with other dogs, snap collars are required at some doggie daycares.

Disadvantages of Clip-On Dog Collars

The clip can break and the collar can open at a less opportune time, too. Even high-quality plastic clips can become stressed and weakened over time, under force, and through temperature changes. This means that a clip collar isn’t always a great choice for leash walking or a supervised tie-out if your dog is a puller. If the clip breaks, your leash or tie-out will be left connected to an empty collar.

ID Info and Personalized Clip Collars

One of the main functions of your dog’s collar is to hold ID information, and clip collars offer a couple of options. You can connect your dog’s ID tags to the metal D-ring on the collar. An advantage of this method is that you can change contact information without swapping out the entire collar.

Another option is to order a personalized collar with your dog’s name and your contact information embroidered directly on it. This option eliminates a potential point of failure or entrapment—the small jump ring that connects the D-ring and the tags. (And, yes, it looks pretty spiffy.) But there’s nothing wrong with doubling up—ordering a personalized collar so that the most important info is there no matter what, and also attaching traditional ID tags, which can hold additional phone numbers or other information. 

Clip-On Collars Overall

Clip-on collars are a fantastic, safe choice whenever dogs are playing—at the dog park, at doggie daycare, or in the back yard. They are usually made of woven or braided nylon and come in a variety of colors, patterns, and personalization options. For can’t-fail security on leash, though, buckle collars are the better option.

Buckle Dog Collars

What Are Buckle Dog Collars?

Buckle collars, sometimes called flat buckle collars, are dog collars with a metal buckle that fastens like a belt. Once buckled, it stays closed and it’s a secure way to connect anything you want to be attached to your dog: a leash, a check cord, or your contact info. With a buckle collar, none of it is going to pop off.

Disadvantages of Buckle Dog Collars

Metal buckle collars aren’t quick-release and can be problematic in an emergency, making them less safe, in certain circumstances, than clip-on collars.

Because buckle collars rely on evenly spaced belt holes, they don’t allow the same size control as clip-on collars. You want to size your dog’s collar so that you can comfortably fit two fingers beneath the collar (perpendicular to the neck, like the scissors in rock-paper-scissors, and not flat against his fur like you’re petting him). But the collar should also fit snug enough that it won’t slip off easily over your dog’s head. If your dog’s head and neck are close in size, one hole on a buckle collar might be too snug on the neck, while the next might be too loose over the head.

For some dogs—and you know who you are, narrow-headed sighthounds and thick-necked bully breeds—even a clip collar with an adjustable slider might not yield a comfortable fit on the neck that won’t slide right over the head. For those dogs, you might look into equipment like a martingale collar or a harness.

ID Info and Personalized Metal Buckle Collars

There are always the traditional ID tags, but metal buckle collars can be personalized in a variety of ways, too. Rugged nylon weaves can have ID info embroidered in, as above. Buckle collars made of odor-resistant BioThane material can be printed with your contact info. And for classic good looks, buckle collars made of leather can be personalized with engraving on a brass plate. 

Buckle Collars Overall

A buckle collar is a secure, safe choice for leash walking, long-line training, or a supervised tie-out. Buckle collars can be personalized with embroidery, printing, or a brass plate. Keep in mind that while its secure closure makes it an ultra-safe option on leash, a buckle collar isn’t the safest option for dogs playing one-on-one or in a group.

Once you weigh the trade-offs and know how you want it to function, you’ll be able to decide which style of dog collar will be best—or best for a specific situation. There are plenty of options in both clip and buckle varieties to keep your pal stylish and safe on all your adventures together.

9 thoughts on “Dog Collars: Buckles vs. Clips”

  1. My pup chewed the plastic buckles off her 1″ Orvis monogrammed collar. Any idea where I can find replacement buckles to repair the collar?

  2. My 40lb Staffordshire Terrier mix was a pro at breaking the plastic clip on her collars. All she had to do is run to the end of her lead and the collar would go flying. Our Husky has already managed to somehow unhook his metal seatbelt type buckle twice. Now we’re going to try him with a buckle type collar for tie out. Mind you he is never left outside alone, but on a lead while we are out in the yard working. On walks he’s in a harness.,

  3. I will only use a clip type of collar. I have 2 labs, one has a clip collar and the other a buckle collar. Today while playing, one lab got her mouth wrapped/twisted with the buckle collar. The other labrador almost suffocated because I could not undue the buckle collar. If this was the clip one, no issues. I will only use clip or snap collars from now on.

  4. It’s sad to see the lack of metal belt bukle collars these days. If you own a pit bull like me or any strong dog, a metal belt buckle collar is a must. Can’t trust that plastic clip collar once the pups are a few months. They snap open easily.

  5. I need a buckle fastener for a harness for my mini dachshund! Not because he pulls like an Alsatian but because my fingers are old and arthritic and I cannot unclip a catch fastener! Any ideas please?

  6. Clip fasteners are the worst. I have an older dog who has four items that have to be clipped and unclipped multiple times a day – collar, gentle leader, scavenger mask, and coat (2). I don’t have the hand strength to easily unclip them and by the end of the day my hand hurts. Bet they were designed by a man, just saying.

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