Are you wondering which is the right way to take your dog out on walks? Whether you should opt for a dog harness or a collar? Will a dog collar put a strain on the neck of your dog if he decides to pull during the walks? Are you in the process of planning your first dog walk with your park?
No matter the breed of your dog, you will have to take him for a walk at some point. For dog walks, there are usually two types of leash attachments available in the market. One is the dog collar, and the other is the dog harness.
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Dog harnesses or collar?
How do you know which of these two is most suitable for your dog? It does not matter whether you are a new dog guardian researching leash equipment for the first time or planning to replace the old and worn-out ones, if you are concerned about the well-being of your dog, you are more likely to go with a dog harness instead of a collar. Dog harness has taken over the market with a rage. There are a variety of dog harness sizes available in the market. Therefore, whether you have a puppy or a senior dog, all of them can use a dog harness.
As a dog guardian, it is your responsibility to figure out which dog walking equipment is best for your pup. Whether you should go for a dog harness or a collar is a decision that you have to make. Alternatively, if you are not sure about which one to go with, read the blog post all the way to the end to make a sound decision.
Each of these pieces of equipment have its own pros and cons. However, you should first understand the purpose of collars and dog harnesses, their users, benefits, and finally, disadvantages. In specific cases, it may be helpful to have one equipment over the other. Before you decide which of these you should go for, you need to understand what exactly is a dog collar and a dog harness.
A dog collar is a band that is put around the neck of the dog. A dog collar has multiple users. It can be used for restraining the dog, attaching the identification tags of the dog, as a fashion accessory, or for protecting the dog’s neck. Most dog guardians attach the medical information and identification tag of the dog to the dog collars. This is done so that in case the dog gets lost, the person who finds him can use the information on the ID tag to return the dog to his guardians.
Advantages and disadvantages of dog collars
Collars are way more convenient to put on the dog than the dog harness
The primary benefit of using a dog collar is that it can be put on the dog fairly easily. You can also leave the collar on your dog at all times. On the other hand, if you decide to go for a harness, you should only put the harness when you take your dog out for walks, runs, sledding, etc
Even if you decide to not leave the collar on your dog at all times, placing the collar is much easier than locking in the harness. It also takes fairly less time.
Keeps the ID tags secure
There is no place in the harness where you can attach the ID tags. Even if you do secure the ID tags to the dog harness, there is always a chance that your dog may chew out the ID tags because he can access it. However, in the case of collars, they have a metal ring where the ID tag of your dog can easily be attached. You can also add the phone number to the ID tag in case your dog gets lost. This is a crucial point in favor of collars.
Suppose you are walking down the street, you come across a dog who has a collar on him. You’ll immediately know that this dog belongs to someone and has a guardian. Thus, we come to the third advantage of opting for a dog collar. Collars allow for easy identification. The moment a person looks at the dog, they will know if the dog has a guardian are not. The collar serves as an identification tag in itself. This feature is not available in the case of a dog harness.
Variety and styles available
Depending on your need, you can go for a specific type of dog collar. A flat collar is used for dogs who know how to walk on a leash without constantly pulling. If your dog is fantastic at slipping off the collar, you should go for martingale collars.
Martingale collars are recommended explicitly for breeds like Wiemariners, Saluki, greyhounds, etc., who have a slim face and neck. Their neck is almost of the same size as their head. This is why it is easy for them to slip through their collars.
You can also opt for rolled collars. Rolled collars have been known to be amazing for holding the ID tag of the dog. They also do not cause any flattening or matting of their hair underneath them
Collars have been known to provide better control to the guardian. It also requires less strength from the guardian to keep the dog by your side during walks.
Recommended by trainers
Many dog trainers suggest that leash training should be done with a flat collar and a four-foot leash at around six weeks of age, and a lot of positive reinforcement should be involved in the process. Positive reinforcements can come in the form of treats and praises.
Disadvantages of using dog collars
Many times, a collar is not an option for the dog. Let’s find out when a collar can be more harmful than useful.
Dogs with medical issues
If your dog suffers from medical issues like eye problems, spinal malformations, neck injuries or glaucoma, then opting for a collar is not the option for you. A dog collar puts pressure on the neck of the dog. The neck is responsible for movement and protecting many sensitive muscles, including the trachea or the windpipe of the dog. When you put a collar on your dog, it not only restricts the movement of the neck, it can also damage the sensitive muscles in case your dog decides to pull excessively.
If your dog is a fantastic escape artist, there is a chance that he can easily slide off the collar and run away during walks. This problem has been observed explicitly with the hound breeds like whippets, sight hounds and greyhounds. Since such dogs have a head and neck that are of similar width, they can easily slide out of the collars. Under these conditions, opting for a dog collar may not be in your and your dog’s best interest.
Habit of constantly pulling
First of all, let me clear up one fact. You should not take your dog out on walks till your dog does not know how to walk on a leash properly. If your dog has not been provided proper leash training, he is going to pull at the collar when he is out on a walk. This pulling behavior may be instigated by your dog seeing a squirrel, another dog, another human etcetera. However, when your dog constantly pulls at the collar, they are at a high risk of injuring their trachea. All collars, when attached to the leash, increase the chances of the dog hurting their trachea if they are trying to move forward by pulling. Tracheal injury can cause a restriction of the air flow and result in excruciating pain to your pup.
If you are a new dog guardian or if by mistake you tie the collar too tight, it can constrict the airway of your dog. Furthermore, tight collars also cause matting of the fur underneath the collar. They also cause loss of fur due to regular rubbing on the skin.
Not meant for certain breeds
If your dog belongs to the side hound breeds as I mentioned above or if your dog belongs to any of the brachycephalic or toy breeds, you cannot use a dog collar on your dog. Examples of toy breeds include
- Italian greyhound
- Yorkshire terrier
- Toy poodle
Brachycephalic breeds example
- French bulldog
- Boston terriers
Is a dog collar the right option for your pup?
Here is an experiment that you can try on yourself and identify if putting a collar on your dog is a suitable option. Take the collar of your dog and put it around your neck. Tie the collar up. Now try pulling at the collar with your fingers. What you experience right now is the same thing that your dog experiences if you pull the collar from the front. Hold the collar from the back and push your torso forward while providing a restrictive hold from the backside of the collar. Now the experience you feel is how your dog feels when he is pulling on the leash while you are trying to hold him back.
If by any chance, the collar rises a little higher on your throat, it can choke your windpipe. Imagine pulling at the collar when it is right on top of your windpipe. Now think, do you still want such equipment on your dog’s neck when you take him out on a walk? A collar is a good option if you are going for a quick walk [2-5 minutes] or you have to quickly greet guests and do not have time to put on the harness on your dog. However, for longer walks, using neck collars for dogs is not a viable option.
Now that I have discussed everything that you need to know about a dog collar, let’s come to a dog harness
What is a dog harness?
A harness is walking equipment similar to a dog neck collar. It can be easily put on your dog. However, instead of the neck, a dog harness attaches to the chest section of your dog. The harness does not circle around the neck of your dog like a collar. It is instead fitted around the upper torso. Harnesses have straps and buckles that cover the front leg of the dog, the chest, and the spine. It provides equal distribution of the tension on the chest region of the dog. With a harness, there is no pressure on the neck.
Since a harness sits on a completely different part of the poor dog’s body, around the shoulders and the chest, this leaves the neck completely free of any potential damage or airway restriction. Furthermore, since dogs tend to use their shoulders to propel themselves ahead when a harness is placed correctly, it allows for complete shoulder and head movement.
Why are dog guardians favoring harnesses over dog collars?
Harnesses have become more popular nowadays compared to a few years back. This is because now dog guardians understand what harnesses can offer. Harnesses have proved themselves to be amazing training tools for young puppies who are still learning to behave the right way on leash. They are also suitable for dogs with neck problems, tracheal issues, orthopedic issues etc. Another huge benefit when using a dog harness is that leash tangling occurs much less in case of harness compared to in case of dog collars.
The advantages and disadvantages of using a dog harness for your dog
Before you decide to go ahead and purchase a dog harness for your pup, you need to look into the pros and cons of this as well
Advantages of using a dog harness
Reduce the risk of pulling
If your dog has a bad habit of constantly pulling on the leash, a dog harness can be of big help to you. Harnesses cover the shoulder, upper back, and chest of the dog. This way, it can put equal pressure on the dog’s upper torso, providing you with better control over the movement of your dog. Pulling also becomes difficult because the harness is more easily controlled by the guardian.
If you are worried about your dog’s pulling habit, you should switch to a no-pull harness. No-pull harnesses are designed in a manner that the leash is attached to the chest of the dog. Under such conditions, if the dog tries to pull forward, his torso will automatically be turned back towards the guardian because of the presence of the leash.
No pressure on the neck
A dog harness does not put any pressure on the neck of the dog. No matter how much pressure your dog applies while moving forward, harnesses do not come anywhere near the neck of the dog. The entire harness is attached to the upper torso of your dog and thus puts zero pressure on the neck. This reduces the chance of tracheal collapse or straining of the neck muscles.
Perfect for All breeds
If you have a brachycephalic dog, a dog belonging to the toy breed or even a sighthound, a harness is a perfect solution for you. When you use a collar, there is always a risk of the dog hurting his neck. In the case of sighthounds, they can easily slip through the collar due to equal head width. However, when you use a dog harness, all such problems are eliminated. With brachycephalic breeds, if they put too much pressure on the collar, their eyes may pop out. Again, this problem is eliminated if you go for a harness instead of a collar.
Perfect for dogs with neck problems
If you have a pup who is already suffering from a neck problem, harness is a perfect solution for you and your pup. If your dog has already suffered through a collapsed trachea or an issue of restricted airways, a collar is a definite NO for your dog. You should always go for a dog harness.
Harnesses are much better at preventing accidents compared to collars because there is less risk of the dog slipping through the harness and escaping. In the case of collars, dogs tend to slip out of them. Once the dog is out of the collar, he can run into someone else’s yard or incoming traffic, causing an accident. However, if your dog is on a harness, the chance of him running away is minimal. Therefore, a harness can provide much more security and safety than collars.
Perfect for arthritic dogs
If your dog is suffering from arthritis or any joint problem, walking can be a tedious task for your dog. Alternatively, if your dog has suffered paralysis from the waist down, you may have to train him to walk again. For this a harness is the perfect solution. You can lift your dog up by the harness and provide him the support he needs while walking.
Shifts pressure from the neck to the upper torso
The primary advantage of using a harness over a collar is that it shifts the pressure from the neck to the upper torso. However, you must never forget to get a fitting harness for your dog. If the harness is very loose, your dog can get out of it. Alternatively, if the dog harness is too tight, it can just be as detrimental to your dog as a tight collar.
When you get a harness for your dog, make sure that your dog can move around easily while wearing the harness. You may have to allow your dog to get used to the harness before you put it on him. Ensure that the natural motion range is not hindered specifically around the region of the front legs and shoulders.
Reduction in walk time problems
Harness has been shown to provide a better control over unruly and large breed dogs. If you find it hard to walk your dog belonging to a large breed, you should go for a harness. Harness does not reinforce any kind of pulling behavior and makes it much easier to train the dog in proper leash walking techniques.
Disadvantages of dog harness
- If something has multiple benefits, it also has its own set of cons. Let’s understand the disadvantages of dog harness before you decide as to whether you want to go for dog harnesses or a collar.
- Just as the frontal harnesses prevent the dog from pulling on the harness, if you use a harness with the back clip, it may encourage pulling.
- You cannot leave your harness on your dog when you are not taking him out on a walk. If the dog harnesses is left on the dog for a long period, it can cause matting and tangling of the fur.
- If the harness is too big, your dog can easily wiggle out
- You may have to exert more pressure to keep your dog in line when using the harness than when using a traditional collar.
- A harness can be harder to put on and remove
- A harness can make your dog uncomfortable in hot weather and cause skin rashes if left on for a too long period.
- You have to give your dog time to adjust to the harness. In some cases, dogs never got adjusted to the harness. Always use positive reinforcement methods when you’re trying to get your dog adjusted to the harness.
The verdict: dog harness or dog collar? Which is better?
The primary question is whether you should go for a harness or a collar? How about if I say both? You need to have a caller on your dog so that you can attach the ID tag. There is no possibility of connecting the ID tag to the harness. Therefore, having a collar is essential. However, a collar is not the right way to take your dog on a walk. If you are taking your dog on a walk, you should always go for harnesses. In case of pulling behavior, you can go for a front-end clip harness.
When taking your dog on a hike or for sledding, a harness is always recommended over a dog collar. A dog harness uses the strength of the dog’s upper torso. This makes it perfect for building up momentum and moving at high speed.
Factors that you should always keep in mind
If your dog has a history of tracheal collapse, go for a harness. Tracheal collapse is a condition where the trachea folds on itself. The dog finds it very difficult to breathe. Under such conditions, you should never use dog collars because they can put a ton of pressure on the trachea and worsen the situation further.
Your dog suffers from a spinal problem or is at risk of developing one. Certain long-body breeds like dachshunds are very prone to suffering from slipped disc [invertebral disc disease]. A harness takes the pressure off the neck and prevents damage to the spine.
If your dog has a history of orthopedic disease, you should go for a harness. A harness can help you navigate your dog properly. Dogs with orthopedic problems also find it hard to get up and move around. Therefore, a harness can be of big help
Having an id tag on your dog is crucial, so collars cannot be eliminated. However, for walking, hiking, running, etc., you should always go for a harness. A harness will not put any pressure on your dog’s throat and keep the neck muscles safe. Furthermore, if you have a dog belonging to the toy, brachycephalic or sighthound breeds, you will need a harness to prevent excess pressure on the neck.
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Which walking equipment do you use? Do you use a dog harness or a collar, and why? Please share your experiences with the audience in the comment section below. If you have any queries about this blog post or any other blog post on The happy Puppers, feel free to reach out to me on any of my social media channels. You can also reach me live on Twitch. I stream co-working streams every day from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM IST. Alternatively, you can reach out to me on my social media channels. I will be happy to help.
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