Dog Training

Collar or Harness: Which is Best for Your Pup?


In the long history of the human-dog relationship, it’s a relatively new debate.

Which are the best means of staying connected to your pooch when you’re out — collar or harness?

Until recently there was only one answer. A leash was attached to the dog’s collar, and off you go.

With that, however, came some problems.

There’s the young, untrained puppy who runs with all his might to find himself choking at the end of the leash.

There’s the big dog who constantly pulls against the collar, potentially damaging her trachea or even creating a greater likelihood of developing glaucoma from the pressure this puts on her eyes.

And, there’s the shy or easily frightened dog who manages to back out of her collar and get away from her human — potentially putting herself in danger of being injured or killed in traffic or forever separated from her family.

As our relationships with our canine friends developed, we began to take these problems more seriously.

We began to question whether the collar was a humane option for keeping our dogs connected to us and safe.

From that, the debate about which is best, collar or harness has been born.

So, which is best? In most instances, it is the harness. However, for some dogs and in some situations, the collar works just fine.

Regardless of which you use for attaching the leash to your pup, the dog should always wear a collar that includes your contact information to ensure that if they become separated from you, you can be reunited.

Why are harnesses better?

There are multiple reasons harnesses are likely to be the best option for your dog. The main reason being that collars can cause injury to your dog and can cause your dog pain when he pulls against it.

A harness also gives you better control of your dog, makes it less likely she can get out of the device and become separated from you. It is also better for training animals who are young or who are learning to walk on a leash for the first time.

When is a just a collar OK?

There is that time in most dog-human relationships when it just all settles into a comfortable place.

You know what to expect from your dog, and your dog knows what to expect from you.

If you’ve reached that place with your canine companion, you might be in that sweet spot where walking your dog with a collar is OK.

If your dog is predictable, well-trained and doesn’t pull on the leash, maybe a harness isn’t necessary for your pooch.

These are usually mature dogs who have passed their fourth or fifth birthdays and who can be trusted to not create trouble on a routine outing.

A few things to keep in mind, however, before you make the decision that you’re OK with just a collar.

If your dog is a pug or similar breed, if your dog is a small breed, or if your dog has respiratory problems, it is best to stick with a harness.

The dangers of injuries related to pulling (Almost every dog will do this at some point: “Oh, there’s a squirrel!”) are greater for these animals.

If your dog has a history of lunging or becoming aggressive when meeting other animals or new people, you’re going to be better able to control your pooch with a harness.

What are the problems with harnesses?

With harnesses seeming to be the best option overall, why doesn’t everyone just use a harness for their dogs?

For the most part, there are few problems with harnesses, but there are obstacles that sometimes make dog guardians less likely to use them.

These are easily addressed with just a little time and effort.

The most commonly cited reason dog guardians don’t like harnesses is that they can be more difficult to put on your dog than a collar.

Spend a little time making sure the harness is fitted to your dog correctly and practice putting it on and taking it off of him.

Your dog is wildly energetic and wrestles against you when you’re trying to get the harness on?

This is when you need to invest a little upfront time in training.

If your dog doesn’t already know these commands, teach “sit” and “stay.” Use lots of treats, praise, and rewards, and before you know it, she’ll be sitting like a champ while you get that harness on her.

Some dogs don’t like the feel of the harness.

Again, invest some time teaching your dog to adjust to the feel of the device. Give him lots of treats and praise while he is wearing it.

For most dogs, the harness will quickly become something they like instead of an object of hate.

They will come to associate it with treats, attention and getting to go out for a walk.

Emily Conklin

The author Emily Conklin

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