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Dog Harness vs Collar, Which one is best for your dog?

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Now that you have your dog and you start thinking about the exercise regiment of getting them out to start walking them.  The question that dog owners struggle with is what kind of collar or harness should they get for their dog.

Some people believe that a little dog should have a harness and a big dog should have a collar.   The big question is which works the best the debate of a dog harness vs collar. I am going to break it down for you.

I think that for every dog the situation is completely different.  A dog that is calm and trained well, generally you see that dog with a collar on rather than a harness.  What is the difference between the two?

Why is it important to chose correctly?dog harness

A puppy needs to be taught how to walk on a leash, from day one.  Taking things slow and using a reward system, generally helps teach your puppy the proper way to walk on a leash.

Sometimes when you have a stubborn dog on a walk they pull constantly and it makes the walk extremely difficult.  Not only is it difficult for you, but it is also hard on the dog.  When a dog sees a squirrel for example they can jerk very strongly in a quick sudden motion.  This can cause you to have an arm or hand injury, just holding the leash.

When a dog is pulling all the time or making sudden quick jerks it can actually cause damage to themselves.

Dog’s neck are much like the neck of a human.  If we were to put something tight around our own neck and create that pulling motion,  we could cause an major injury.

A dog pulling excessively can cause serious injury to their neck, like whiplash, crushed trachea, damaged larynx and even cause paralysis.  They could also damage their jugular, trachea, and many more serious issues.  For that reason, we want to avoid putting our dog in that type of situation.

Dogs that pull excessively like this would do much better on a harness, then just a collar.  Having a harness on the dog, takes away the pulling on the neck.  The pulling then comes from the entire body like a sled dog.  It is more evenly dispersed, which makes it much safer for everyone.dog harness

Harness breakdown.

Of course like everything else, there are different choices when deciding on what type of harness to buy.  So how do you know which one will work for you?  As we talked about dogs that pull excessively should be in a harness, but getting the right harness can also make a huge difference.  A good harness distributes the weight evenly.

There are generally 2 kinds of harnesses that are structurally different.  The main difference, is where the leash connects to the harness.

The first style is called a front clipping harness.  So the leash is connected just as it says, in the front.   With this style of harness the dog has less leverage when trying to pull.  Therefore not causing any possible injuries to the dog or yourself.

dog leash cute

The second type of harness is a back or neck clipping harness and yes the dog can pull harder with this style of harness.  But if your dog is a puller, at least the pulling won’t cause harm or damage to your dog.

I know I said there was mainly 2 different kinds of harness, but there is one more style that I would not recommend, and that is a slip lead style that tightens as the dog pulls.  The slip lead goes over the dogs head,  the problem with this style is that it can cause the dog to potentially injury their neck by causing the dog to twist his neck to the side.  For this reason, I would avoid this type of harness.

Some of the harnesses do come with dual leash connectors, offering your the best of both worlds.

Shopping for a harness.

When shopping for a harness, the key is always getting one that fits properly.  Making sure that the harness is not to snug or not to loose is the key to a proper fitting harness.

The best way to fit a harness is to get a few key measurements from your dog first.

The first measurement is getting the weight of your dog, which is the most important measurement to get.  This is because some harnesses have a the weight measurements on the back of the harness.  The weights usually come in an variety of weight ranges.  So you would pick the one with the range of where  your dog’s weight best fits.

You also need the size of your dog’s neck.  Use a tape measure and put it around the thickest part of your dog’s neck to get the proper size.

Chest measurement, is the last important measurement that you need.  To get this measurement, it’s easiest to get using a cloth measuring tape and start at the very bottom of your dog’s rib cage, up over the back and then back to where you started.

Some harnesses also come by fitting your dog’s body measurements eg: 23 – 29.5 inch body (M) or 26.5 – 31.5 inch body (L).

Harnesses also come in very different styles and with or without padding.  The padding can be as soft as fleece, or lightweight with a mess lining.

Most harnesses have adjustable straps and clip in a few different spots.  Depending on the harness some have metal clips vs some that have plastic clips to attach it around your dog’s neck or body.  They are both good choices, it just boils down the making sure it fits correctly on your dog.

What’s your decision?

Collars are still a one of the most popular items that people buy for their dogs.  Of course, dog collars are the perfect cool accessory as a matching set with a leash.

Personally I think a good collar will do just fine for most dogs.  The key if you just want to use a collar, is to make sure that your dog is trained properly from the very beginning.  A good well behaved dog, does not pull on the leash at all and just walks beside you.  Holding the leash then is just a formality really.

Both of my dogs, have always worn collars and have never worn a harness.  That being said, we really should have put BOO in a harness, just because he is a big puller on walks.  Almost 16 years ago, harnesses were really not that popular.  Collars were really the only main option when out shopping.

boo finn walking

Shopping for dog supplies on the internet back then, was not an option.  Nowadays, we really have the ability to get and research all things dogs.  This allows us to have a huge variety of options to choose from.

Deciding on what the answer is in Dog Harness vs Collar is really up to you and your dog.  When you decide which is the best for you, remember the key to success in either choice is to start when they are young.  Putting the collar or harness on right from the beginning is when it will really pay off so you can enjoy wonderful pull free walks enjoy wonderful pull free walks.

HAPPY DOG WALKING!

18 Comments

  1. I’ve started walking my dog to the park now that the weather is getting nicer. I have to work with her on not pulling. She has  a harness that clips in the back. I’ve read about the front clipping ones before and am thinking about getting her one of those. It really does make the walk unpleasant with her constantly pulling. If only she would realize we would go faster if she would stop pulling.

    • Hi Nicole,

      A pulling dog, really does make walking that much harder.  It’s so frustrating that they don’t seem to understand that if they just slowed down, they would probably get longer walks.  As I said in the post, my dog Boo has been a puller from day one. He is now almost 16 and still pulls to this day.  I wish that 15 years ago, I would have put him in the harness.  He starts wheezing and coughing a bit and it’s extremely difficult to see him go through that.

      You were smart to start your dog in a harness, and if you decide to switch to the front clipping harness, let me know how you make out.  I would be curious to see if it would help your dog.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story.  It is great to here what other dog owners experience with their dogs.

      Coralie 

  2. What good doggie information! I have a puller, and I have a harness that works good for her. She’s real stubborn and doesn’t train very well. Do you have any suggestions to get her to stop pulling while walking? She’s 2 years old now, is it possible to do this? Should I use treats to help? And how would I do that?

    • Hi Buffy,

      Thank you for your story and comments on my post. I also have a dog that pulls all the time as well, but he is a old dog and honestly he doesn’t get walked much anymore.

      One thing that you can try is, when he starts to pull stop immediately and try to stand completely still. Once the leash relaxes and she is calm start moving again. Repeat this process over and over. 

      I hope this helps. Best of luck and let me know how you make out with your dog.

      Coralie

  3. Hey Coralie! 

    Thanks for sharing about the importance of using a harness for your dog. 

    My dogs are strong and pull a lot. I get worried that they will hurt themselves but they just won’t stop pulling. One is really bad cuz he pulls it really tight and you can hear that he’s having trouble breathing. 

    Of course, I know that’s bad for him so I’ve stopped walking him altogether although I don’t know if that’s any good for him either. Do you have any tips on how to stop dogs from pulling on the harness? 

    Also, I’m wondering if the padded type might be better for him? I had no idea they came padded.

    • Hi Marlinda,

      It’s wonderful to hear your own dog story and thank you for sharing your comments.

      My dog Boo does the exact thing, where he pulls and pulls til he starts wheezing and coughing.

      The one tip that I was given, was when your dog starts pulling, instantly stop moving forward. Get the leash to be relaxed and then start again. You may need to repeat this over and over so that it can sink in for your dog.  The first while, your walks maybe very short, but treat it like a training session rather than an actual lengthy walk.

      The padded harnesses really offer more protection, so that we don’t need to worry that our dog is hurting themselves.

      I hope these tips help you. I know it is hard, but try not to give up on the walks.  Best of luck to you and your dog.

      Coralie

  4. Great timing, we have a reasonably well-behaved dog for whom we’ve always used a collar. However, someone recently gave us a back-clipping harness they no longer needed (size looks right) and I’ve been thinking about trying that out. 

    I said he’s “reasonably well behaved” by which I mean under most circumstances he’s just fine, but every now and then something catches his attention and I do have to exert some physical control over him. While I do worry about his neck health under such circumstances, the very fact that the collar does focus the pressure on the neck makes it easier to control him.  (This is more important for my wife than for me as I could probably handle him regardless.)

    Do you see any downsides in going back and forth between a harness and a collar?  Perhaps I could use the harness while my wife sticks with the collar for better control?  He’s a very chill dog, so I don’t believe he would particularly care. 

    • Hello Jon,

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comments and sharing your story.

      I like your comment “reasonably well behaved,” that made me laugh.  The truth is your dog sounds like for the most part is well behaved on walks, but when say a squirrel or something exciting passes him he lunges forward. 

      My dog Finn is famous for this. Darn near rips your arm out.  What I do is instantly stop walking, make him sit and even sometimes turn him away from what is distracting him.  Basically trying to refocus that energy to being calm and making sure that I don’t continue the walk until he behaves.

      To your question about switching back and forth between a collar and harness, I see no issue with doing that.  I think it is more important to find which one really works for your dog and then stick with that choice.  Some dogs do very well on harness and with pulling dogs, or lunging dogs, I worry more about them hurting themselves.

      Best of luck with your dog walking skills. LOL!

      Thanks

      Coralie 

      • Thanks! Yeah, it’s kind of random. He ignores most distractions but if he takes an unexpected disliking to a particular creature it can be mayhem! I don’t know what sets him off anymore than I know what it was about an apparently barren patch of sidewalk that held his interest for two minutes this morning!

        • Hi Jon,
          I appreciate you sharing your story. Yes I can totally relate to your dog getting distracted, my dog Finn is the same way.
          He will go crazy if he sees any other creature at all. The only thing that worked for me is to get him to sit and stop. I try to make sure that he either can’t see what the distraction is, or to just focus on me. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does.
          Best of luck with your dog.
          Thank you
          Coralie

  5. Hi! I am so glad I found this! I have been looking for a good harness to help train my new puppy! I was leery of buying him a collar and knew I wanted a harness because I didnt want to pull on his throat, I know the collar can be harmful to their esophagus.
    This was so helpful in pointing me in the right direction, I now know everything to look for when buying a harness and will be sure to measure to make sure it fits properly.

    Thanks so much!

    • Hi Madysen,
      I really appreciate your input on my dog harness post. How exciting for you, that you have a new puppy. Puppies are so much fun. Enjoy every minute.
      You are completely right about being careful to not hurt your dog’s neck. Getting a harness early is a great idea, that way you can see how you and your dog like. Best of luck and thanks again for sharing.
      Coralie

  6. Great article. I had to get a harness for my very stubborn pup as he would just lay down on a walk when he didn’t want to walk anymore and he is a puller and I didn’t feel comfortable with pulling at his neck. I like the breakdown of what to look for as I had to go back a few times to get the right one.

    • Hi Trish,
      Thank you for your comments on my post. I am laughing that your dog just lays down when he wants to stop walking. Wow he is stubborn. haha!
      That must be an adventure. I’m glad that you found my post helpful to you. Getting the right fit for your dog is really the most important thing.
      Best of luck
      Coralie

  7. getting a dog soon and now when I walk him I will not get a collar, only a harness. Didn’t know it makes that much of a difference this is great thank you

    • Hi Jamaar,
      Thank you so much for your comments. I am so glad that you got some tips from my post. Funny enough everything you buy for dogs is always a tough choice. What works for one dog, may not work for another.
      Best of luck with your dog when you get it. They are tons of fun and being a dog parent is such a cool thing. I hope you enjoy it.
      Thank you
      Coralie

  8. Hi Coralie!
    I was just having this debate with my wife and brother in law!
    He just got a new puppy (a cute little chiwawa) and we were at the pet store going shopping for her this past weeked.
    She is super wild so I told him that he would probably be better off getting her a harness instead of a collar, but we couldn’t figure out why some had the clip in the front and some had the clip in the back!
    So we ended up getting her a padded one with a clip in the back and a velcro strap around the tummy.
    Now she’s busting out of that thing because she has started gaining weight.
    Do you think we should look at getting the same type just in a different size or one that clips on the bottom?
    She pulls ALOT so just don’t want little ivy to end up hurting herself!

    thx you.

    • Hi Kenise,
      Thank you so much for the comment on my post. Congratulations on your new puppy. A wild puppy, that is pretty normal haha. The joy of puppies, they are wild and fun. As far as getting her the new harness, if you found that she did pretty good in the harness, I would stick with that style.

      Your idea of just getting her a bigger size is a great plan. Keep the old one, because now that my dog Boo is older, he fits back into his old sizes. With her harness that is too small now, you maybe able to use that old harness down the road if she loses some weight. I like the harness for big time pullers, just to be sure she doesn’t hurt her small little neck.
      Best of luck, and I hope this helps.
      Coralie

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