5 min read

Is It Better to Walk Your Dog on a Collar or a Harness?

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Dogs love walks! And it’s easy to see why. Walks provide exercise and mental stimulation, and are the best way for your dog to catch up on the dog news in your neighborhood or local park. But a walk without the proper equipment can be frustrating for both dog and walker, and could even be downright dangerous.

Whether training a new puppy or walking an adult dog, most pet parents will be faced with the question of which is better for walking their dog- a harness or a collar? While they are both furbulous options for pet safety, each one has various pros and cons that should be considered.

Read on to find out what harnesses and collars have to offer dogs and their owners, and which one may be best for fun, safe and exciting walks that will leave you both barking for more.

adult red Chihuahua with red clothes

Are collars good for walking?

Dog collars have been the standard dog accessory for as long as dogs have been domesticated, which stretches back some 14,000 - 29,000 years ago, and there’s a good reason why. Collars originally consisted of a leather strap with some kind of metal fastener or hook to secure them around the neck, and were an instant way to control a dog. They also performed a function of ownership, and showed which dogs belonged to someone and which were strays.

Today, collars perform much the same functions, and give pet parents an easy and convenient place to attach a leash for walks. But are they good for walks? Are they good for your dog? Let’s compare the pros and cons to find out.

Pros of collars

  • Collars are very customizable, and are available in a range of materials, colors and sizes to fit any dog and human preference.
  • Collars are inexpensive.
  • Collars come in various styles that allow for breed differences and a correct fit. Flat-collars work best for most dogs, while a rolled collar may be preferred for less matting or flattening of the hair underneath. A martingale collar may be better for breeds like Whippets or Greyhounds that have heads that are smaller than their necks which a collar can slip over.
  • Collars are generally easy to put on and take off, and are comfortable enough to wear all the time.
  • Collars hold ID and rabies tags, which can help bring your dog home if they get loose.

Cons of collars

  • If a collar is too tight, it can cause your dog pain or discomfort.
  • If collar is too loose, dogs can slip out of them more easily.
  • If a dog pulls on their leash, a collar can damage the neck, throat and airway, spine and back. Therefore, a collar is unsafe for dogs with spine or back issues, neck issues, tracheal collapse, glaucoma, eye proptosis, or for any toy or brachycephalic breeds, such as Chihuahuas, Pugs or Bulldogs.

black and tan dachshund in the daytime

Are harnesses a better choice for walks?

While collars certainly enjoy a very long history, harnesses aren’t very new either. Originally used with working dogs to help them pull sleds or do other jobs, harnesses strap around the chest and distribute more of the force when pulled. In this way, any pulling or leading from the leash affects the upper body instead of the neck, which is helpful for dogs that have certain medical conditions, or who pull too hard. And while for some dogs, you’ll need to train them to walk with a harness, a lot of them walk with ease from the start.

So, are harnesses good for dogs? Let’s find out.

Pros of harnesses

  • Harnesses distribute pressure over the chest, shoulders and upper back.
  • Harnesses don’t put any pressure on a dog’s neck, thus preventing injuries to the neck and trachea.
  • Harnesses give you more control over a dog than a collar.
  • Harnesses come in a variety of styles that offer leash attachments in the back or front, the latter of which reduces pulling.
  • A harness can be more comfortable for some dogs.
  • Since a harness encircles the chest and front legs, it offers a more secure fit that is harder to get loose from.
  • A harness can help train puppies to walk on a leash.
  • A harness can reduce the risk of the dog’s leash getting tangled under their legs.
  • A harness can help reduce back pain in dogs.

Cons of harnesses

  • Like collars, a harness that is too tight can be painful. A tight harness can also restrict movement.
  • A harness that is too loose can be slipped out of.
  • Harnesses may be uncomfortable in hot weather.
  • Harnesses should be removed between walks.
  • Harnesses require more steps to put on and take off than collars.
  • A harness can require more strength to walk a dog.
  • Harnesses with a hook on the back for the leash may inadvertently train your dog to pull you.
  • Most harnesses don’t have a place to attach rabies and ID tags.

Shiba Inu with a red dog collar on a dog walk with his dog walker

Which is better: a harness or collar?

As you can see, both collars and harnesses are good choices to use, but they also carry reasons why they may not be the best choice for every dog. So, which one is better for walks?

To answer this question, you may need to ask a few of your own about your dog, their physical condition and their behavior, as this isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.

If you have a medium to large dog who is healthy, free of any neck or spine issues, and is so well trained that they never pull, then a collar would be a simple and affordable choice for walks. A quick clip of the leash onto a collar that stays on all the time affords a walk at any moment, and a well-trained pup will make the stroll easy on their body, and on yours!

However, most dogs don’t fit in that category. Many medium to large sized dogs can have genetic orthopedic and joint issues that can involve their neck or back, and most dogs pull until they are trained not to.

Harnesses are a better choice for walks for a lot of reasons.

  • By design, harnesses don’t put stress on the neck or back, and are safer for older or weak dogs, brachycephalic breeds, toy breeds, dogs who have smaller heads than their neck, or dogs who suffer from neck injuries, back injuries, back pain, or tracheal collapse.
  • Harnesses are infinitely safer for dogs who pull.
  • Harnesses can be better for training puppies, or dogs who aren’t used to leash walking, such as rescues.
  • Harnesses give you more control over your dog at any time.
  • Harnesses seem like the best choice for your dog’s well-being and your sanity during walks. But… most harnesses don’t have a place to attach ID tags. And if your dog gets loose, whoever finds them may not be able to find you. A collar has always been a personalized way to show ownership, and today, we use tags on them to identify dogs and locate their parents when found. 

dog looking up from the grass in the daytime

Is a harness or collar the best choice for walking my dog?

So, which is better for a walk, a harness or leash? Ultimately, clipping the leash to a harness is the best way to safely walk most dogs, as it gives you more control over the walk and reduces any injuries to your dog, regardless of their behavior. But having a collar on at the same time gives you security in knowing that if your dog gets loose, they can be identified and returned to you easily. That peace of mind means a lot, and is well worth the effort of having both.

For those of you with small, mini or toy pups, these dogs benefit even more from a harness during walks, but they may have less space on their bodies for an additional collar. Finding a harness that offers a place to attach ID tags is the best choice for these little pooches.

Now that you are all set to head out for a walk, be sure your dog is trained right! Book an in-home training session with Wag!

https://wagwalking.com/dog-training

today to help with your dog's leash manners and make sure every walk is furrific. 



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