Walkies and Woofs

Many dog owners wonder whether a dog harness or collar is the right choice for their four-legged friend. In recent years harnesses have become increasingly popular, so we are going to help guide you through which is best for your dog to allow you to make an informed decision.

What is a dog harness?

Similar to a dog collar, a harness is a type of wearable equipment that owners put on their dogs to attach a lead. Rather than going around the neck, a harness is fitted around the dog’s body to distribute any tension to its chest and take the pressure away from the neck. There are various styles / designs available in a variety of shapes and sizes.

What is a dog collar?

A collar is a common sight on dogs of all shapes and sizes, and it is the simplest way to identify that a dog has an owner. Most collars allow for easy attachment of identification (ID) tags, so should your dog ever become lost, a collar can serve as a visual aid to others that your dog has a home. The ID tags can also help your dog get safely returned to you – its vital that you include your address and / or phone number on the tag, so if your dog is found, it can be safely returned. The most common format of ID tag is an engraved metal disc which includes your details.

Pros and Cons of Harnesses and Collars

There are pros and cons to both collars and harnesses, and the decision between the two should be based on your dogs habits, behaviour and breed.

While collars are vital for the identification of dogs, it may not always be the right choice as a point of control for your dog. Using a collar can place significant pressure on your dog’s most delicate and vulnerable areas, such as the trachea, the oesophagus, the thyroid gland, and the cervical vertebrae. A hard tug on the lead or constant pulling from your dog can sadly cause pain or even damage to these important areas. 

In addition, your dog might be more likely to slide out of a collar and escape, which is very common and particularly true in dog breeds where the width of the neck and the head are similar. In these cases, a harness rather than a collar will be a more effective way of keeping your dog safe.

Harnesses for dogs come in many different styles, designs and ways of putting them on your dog, but the basic principle is the same – a harness is used to distribute any force exerted on the lead across a larger area of the dog’s body rather than in a confined space around the neck.

Harnesses are really popular as a first option with puppies, but are also been used by owners of dogs that like to pull on walks or that are large and harder to control. 

The biggest benefit of a dog harness is the shift in pressure from the neck to a larger area of the body. However, it’s very important to note that a poor-fitting harness can be just as detrimental to your dog’s well-being as a collar with too much pressure applied in the wrong area. It’s important to make sure that your dog’s natural range of movement isn’t hindered, particularly around the shoulders or the front legs, and that you measure your dog for a well fitted harness.

A well-fitting harness that fits around the body at multiple points, can be helpful for nervous dogs that can back out of a collar or a more simple harness style.

If your dog has very long fur, however, a harness may be more likely to cause tangles or mats, especially if worn for a prolonged period of time or for intensive activities. They can also make the dogs warmer, so ensure that you choose a lightweight breathable fabric and the harness isn’t too heavy or bulky for the dog.

Some dogs may also need to get used to wearing a harness. It is more tricky to put them on vs a collar, and some dogs may not like putting their head through it. In these instances, taking it slow and using treats to build a positive association is recommended. There are also different styles of harness to make it dogs feel more at ease – our most popular Snappy harness doesn’t go over the head for instance.

Conclusion

Every dog should wear a collar for identification purposes, but if you’re trying to decide on a harness versus collar for walking and training, take into account your dog’s breed and personality, as well as your experience and common scenarios you may encounter. 

Small dogs, those that have suffered from breathing problems or breeds that are prone to this issue should use a harness. Any dog that pulls excessively would benefit from wearing a harness to take the pressure off their neck and stop them from choking while you work on lead walking skills.

If you are running with your dog or allowing some additional freedom on a long line, a harness is always recommended to avoid them hurting their neck if they build up momentum and reach the end of the lead.

No equipment is a substitute for good lead training, so If you want a well-behaved dog capable of loose lead walking, you must be prepared to put in the time and effort to achieve the results you are looking for.

However, by being informed of the pros and cons of dog collars versus harnesses, allows you to make the right choice for your pet. Based on our personal experience, we would always recommend using a harnesses as for us, the pros by far outweigh the cons, and your dogs health, comfort and safety comes first.

We offer a range of dog harnesses and collars, and we particularly like the Doodlebone brand. Doodlebone harnesses come in several different designs – with the Snappy and Airmesh harnesses being the most popular.