Purchasing a harness or a collar is a necessity when you bring a new dog home. During the span of your dog’s lifetime, you will most likely purchase more than one as he grows. There are two types of accessories you can clip the leash on, and they are dog collars or dog harnesses. The dog community of pet parents and experts alike have varied opinions on which is better.
If this is a question you wonder yourself, then you’ll find the answer below.
Harnesses vs Collars: Which is best for your dog according to veterinarians
Vets are known for their expertise on everything pet-related, which is why their advice on which is better is taken seriously. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each.
Pros and Cons of Dog Harnesses
Let’s start with the harness, as they are the more popular choice in general. One of the major pros of a dog harness is its ability to reduce pulling. When your dog pulls during walks, the harness can disperse the pressure across his chest to give you better control. It’s also safer compared to dog collars in this sense because your dog won’t end up choking himself.
Another very big advantage of harnesses is they are more secure. Because they cover a larger surface area rather than just your dog’s neck, harnesses are a better choice for security.
Unfortunately, dog harnesses have a few cons as well, but it’s in our humble opinion that the pros definitely outweigh the cons for all dog breeds. There may not be a place for an ID tag on a harness, but there are options out there that do keep this in mind and have a D-ring specifically for ID attachment. Another con is that some dogs prefer a collar over a harness and if you don’t get one that first right, it could chafe your dog.
Vets strongly recommend harnesses for brachycephalic breeds such as French Bulldogs, those who have tracheal issues, and ones who suffer from spinal problems.
Pros and Cons of Dog Collars
A dog collar can hold ID tags, and some pet parents leave the dog collar on even if they use a harness for this exact reason. For dog collars, we feel that the cons outweigh the pros. Unless your dog is good at loose-leash walking, collars are not the most recommended for canines who pull. Because it covers a smaller surface area on your dog’s body, a puller with a dog collar could choke and it could even cause neck injury.
As we mentioned above, these collars are not recommended for dogs who have certain medical issues as spinal injuries. If your dog is a suitable breed for collars, we would always suggest using flat collars. A flat collar is recommended for dogs who know not to pull.
A Word About Collars
As you can tell from our comparison, collars are not as widely favored as harnesses. Types such as choke collars and prong collars are never recommended and considered cruel to many dog parents.
Is walking a dog with a collar bad?
We wouldn’t say walking with a dog collar is bad because sometimes it suits your dog better. However, in more general terms, most people would recommend harnesses as it sits across a dog’s chest and distributes the pressure more evenly.
Types of Pet Harnesses
Just like there are different types of collars, there are different sorts of dog harnesses as well.
Back Clip/Step-in Harness
These harnesses have a clip in the back, as the name suggests, the D ring for the leash is located in the middle of your dog’s back. This type of harness is better for dogs who don’t pull as it’s more difficult to correct the behavior with this kind.
Front Clip Harness
On the contrary, to back clip harnesses, the front clip type is excellent for pullers. So a harness with a clip on the front of your dog’s chest is great for a dog owner who is leash training. Both the front and back clip harnesses are widely available.
Dual Clip Harness
A dual clip harness combines the advantages of the front and back clip options into one. This makes walking dogs much easier as you have the choice of connecting the leash to the front or the back of your dog.
Head Halter Harness
The head halter harness is not as easy to find, but your vet may recommend this for dogs who are aggressive pullers and highly excitable and reactive. It may look intimidating, but these harnesses are very useful for dogs who are powerful pullers as it gives you the most control with the least amount of force.
You won’t see this type used on small dogs as they are better for large breeds who have owners that don’t have adequate strength to control them.
Strap and Vest Harnesses
Between the two, we would recommend the vest harness for more comfort. This type of harness has a triangular piece of material across the chest, which makes it very durable and provides more padding than a strap harness. Strap harnesses can have cushioning as well, but they can chafe over time and they don’t absorb the pressure as well as the vests.
There are also training harnesses to consider such as the tightening harness. When your dog pulls, this harness will tighten around your dog and make it slightly uncomfortable to discourage lunging. Before investing in a tightening harness, we would suggest consulting with a trainer or canine behavior specialist to determine if it’s a good idea and to find the right one.
Tips for Introducing Your Pet to a New Harness
If you are looking to make the switch from a collar to a harness to just introducing your dog to a harness, we have some tips that can make the process easier.
Do It Slowly
The harness will take some getting used to – especially for puppies. Dogs are not used to being constrained by a harness, so don’t be discouraged if your pet is resistant at first. When you bring the new harness home, allow your dog to sniff and examine it, so he can determine that it isn’t a threat.
Don’t leave the harness on for too long at once. For example, if your dog is accepting towards the harness, leave it on for 30 seconds to a minute or so before taking it off and rewarding him. Lengthen the period each time by 30 seconds to a minute until he is entirely comfortable.
Find the Right Type
Determine the type of walker your dog is to figure out which type of harness you need. Many dogs are leash pullers, so front clip or dual clip harnesses are your best bet. These aggressive pullers will also benefit from a vest style rather than just straps.
Get the Right Size
What can really make your dog uncomfortable is the wrong sizing. We wouldn’t recommend purchasing a harness online without having tried one on first. Harnesses are adjustable, which gives you a little wiggle room when it comes to the size.
How Should a Harness Fit?
The harness should be snug and secure, but it can’t be too tight. How can you tell if a dog harness is too tight? You should be able to fit two fingers through at any point between your dog and the harness. Your dog shouldn’t be able to back out of the harness and the D-ring shouldn’t be too high up. It should be around the middle of your dog’s back rather than the base of his neck.
Is a Harness Better for Some Dogs?
Dog harnesses are generally a more suitable walking accessory compared to harnesses. However, we would say that harnesses are a necessity for small dogs who are more susceptible to tracheal collapse and brachycephalic dogs.
For heavy pullers, harnesses are almost a necessity, but you have to make sure you get the right type. Back clip designs can actually train your dog to pull you along, as stated by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Harnesses are more widely suggested by experts because they are safer. If you have the right fit, they are also more comfortable for your dog.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is walking a dog with a collar bad?
Walking with a dog collar is not bad if your dog is not a puller and doesn’t suffer from specific medical issues such as tracheal collapse. If you pick the right fit, a flat-collar style, and your dog is good with loose-leash walking, then dog collars are great.
Is it better to use a harness or a collar?
In general, dog harnesses are a better choice because they distribute the pressure evenly across your dog’s chest rather than just its neck. Harnesses are strongly recommended for avid pullers and they come in many styles that can address walking problems.
Do dogs need collars?
No, dogs do not need collars, especially after the invention of microchips. But collars are highly useful for dog owners who want their dogs to have a physical form of ID or to display their vaccination tags.
Dog collars are great for identification purposes, but some harnesses also have a D-ring on the front to display your dog’s tags. For walks, it is our opinion and the recommendation of many experts that harnesses are the better choice as they are safer, more secure, and generally more comfortable for your dog.