There are various types of collars with various meanings but they all symbolize some type of commitment within a BDSM dynamic. They can be indicative of progress or different phases in a relationship. The most common collars are for training, protection, and ownership. They can also be used simply for play during scenes or sessions. While both parties can offer input for choosing the collar, it is the Dominant who offers it and the submissive who wears it. Neither party is obligated to accept or offer a collar and should only do so willingly and free of coercion.
As well as symbolizing commitment, a collar also serves to reinforce roles. It serves as a reminder to the submissive and the Dominant that power has been exchanged. Collars also serve as visible marks of ownership letting others know the one wearing it is spoken for in some capacity.
When you wear or offer a collar you are telling the other person “I am committing to you within the limits we decided upon”. Collaring is not limited to long-term or lifestyle relationships; they are also offered for individual scenes and their effects may only last for the duration of that specific scene. Offering a collar within the context of a romantic relationship can be likened to offering an engagement or wedding ring and is taken just as seriously.
A training collar is offered and worn when a Dominant and a submissive enter into an agreed upon period of training. This can be before or during a relationship. During the period that a training collar is used the submissive and Dominant teach each other what they need, want, and expect. Limits should be set and agreed upon first and foremost before any kind of collar is even considered. Oftentimes a contract is negotiated and signed before the training period begins. While this is not necessary it is a very helpful tool to help you keep the relationship on track and have a hard record of agreed standards. It is common for the training period to be more strict and intense in order to build sturdier foundations. Everyone is different so any rules and protocols must always be reasonable and well judged. Rules can always be changed or done away with if needed. Training can also be an extension of the vetting process before entering into anything more long-term or legally binding.
When potential partners are vetting each other and want to do so on an exclusive basis a protection collar is used. This tells others that this particular submissive is no longer available and is being seriously considered as a potential partner. The collar of protection also serves as a sort of security blanket for the submissive since it represents a solid form of commitment. During the period when a collar of protection is worn the Dominant and submissive both stop looking for other prospects so they can focus on vetting each other.
The collar of ownership can best be compared to a wedding ring. It symbolizes long-term commitment from both parties. While the ownership collar is likened to a wedding ring it is also used for platonic play partners to express long-term exclusivity. An ownership collar is often the only collar people will use and is considered “the” collar.
No matter the specific purpose or term, every collar represents some form of mutual commitment. To offer and receive a collar is to trust someone with your needs and your desires as well as your prosperity. At any time either party may revoke consent and give/take back the collar, essentially severing any long-term commitments within the context of that dynamic. However, removing a collar is not the same as a breakup. The collar is symbolic of BDSM and D/s commitments, not vanilla ones. Just because the collar goes away doesn’t mean the relationship has to go away too. Sometimes a break from the BDSM lifestyle is needed.
No matter the collar always make sure to be safe. Make sure any collar isn’t too tight or aggravating the skin. You should be able to easily fit two fingers between the collar and the skin. If the collar has a locking clasp, make sure the submissive can quickly and easily access a key in case of emergencies. Be aware of any allergies to any materials that might make a good collar a bad one. Above all, do it because you love it. There is no set standard and every dynamic should be just as unique as the people in it.