collar vs. harness

Though collars are much more common attire for dogs than harnesses, many trainers, veterinarians, and dog experts are beginning to see the benefits of using a harness in some instances.  It can be confusing deciding which is more appropriate for your dog and activities, so here are some tools to help you decide which makes more sense for you.

Uses for a Harness

Use a harness for leashed activities, especially if your dog pulls, is not well-trained to ignore distractions, for extra control, or if your dog has respiratory or trachea problems (common in small dogs and short-nosed dogs).

Harnesses are better for small dogs and dogs that pull

Advantages of a Harness

Safe Leash Attachment. Because a harness secures around the dog’s body and distributes the pulling force on stronger parts of the dog’s anatomy, the likelihood of injury on the neck, spine, and windpipe are greatly reduced.  Even if your dog is not a puller, he or she could be injured wearing a collar if they make a quick move to chase a squirrel, dog, or person.

Security. Unlike a collar which can come undone or the dog may wiggle out of, a harness such as the Web Master™ Harness, has five points of adjustment which make it difficult for even a Houdini dog to get out of.

Control. A harness can offer a bit more control depending on where the leash attachment is located.

Lifting Assistance. If you opt for a harness with a handle, such as the Web Master™ Harness, not only will you have control over your dog while they’re on-leash, but you can use the handle to help them up and over obstacles such as boulders, out of water, onto boats, and into trucks and automobiles.

Uses for a Collar

Use for identification and comfort for on and off-leash activities for dogs that don’t pull, are under voice command, and have no respiratory problems, trachea issues, or injuries.

Collars are an option for larger dogs that don't pull

Advantages to a Collar

Comfort. Less is more where comfort is concerned.  A collar allows you to keep your dog identified and in control with minimal amounts of “clothing.”

Ease. Easy on, easy off.  Collars are great if you take your dog’s accessories off daily, or if you want a quick way to attach a leash.

Identification. A collar’s number one purpose is identification.  A good collar should hold your dog’s tags and identification.  If you don’t like the “cling, cling” sound of the tags, opt for a collar with a separate tag holder and leash D-ring, such as the Hoopie™ collar.

9 comments

  1. grant webster · ·

    something few people know. The area between a dogs front legs is a stimulus area. Rubbing there will increase a dogs aggressiveness and if not neutered or spayed excite them sexually , male or female and increase their desire to dominate (watch dogs play bump and run). Any one who uses harnesses from sled dogs draught dogs and attack dogs is aware of this. A dog in a harness that rubs between the front legs will want to pull to create the stimulating effect. Only people who know how to handle a dog properly trained to perform in a harness should use them. Look carefully at a seeing eye dog, its harness in the chest area is high and does not go between the legs and a sled harness, draught harness and attack dog harness does. Any harness that goes between the front legs should be avoided

  2. I love the pictures on this blog! I agree that harnesses are the best for dogs. We have 2 Shih Tzus and found that the Puppia brand works best for them. We buy their harnesses at http://www.organicpetboutique.com/Dog-Harnesses-s/92.htm

    Looking forward to reading more about our favorite four legged friends.

  3. Jennifer Kirby · ·

    I love the web master harness for my dog. I first used one with a dog that wriggled backwards when panicking in traffic – he could slip anything else. Then I discovered that he could support my walking ( I am disabled). It is wonderful with my latest dog who has learned to pull me up hills and not down!
    I’ve continued to use harnesses ever since. I got one dog at age 6 who wasn’t good at leash walking. I put a long slip lead on her as well as the harness, and if she pulls I cross it under her chin and loop it over her nose. Like this it doesn’t press on her throat and it inhibits her pulling.
    I use your flat out leash round my waist, so I haven’t got 2 leads to hold.

  4. Harnesses aren’t actually great for dogs that pull. They do give you a little more control over them because of the greater surface area, however it actually encourages them to pull more. It’s easier for them to throw their weight against something that is around their chests rather than their necks. Check out videos of beefy dogs pulling giant trucks and other things. They wear harnesses. The best, most effective way to teach a dog not to pull is with a Gentle Leader head collar. It tightens slightly around their muzzle when they pull and releases when they’re not pulling, giving them clear signals of the right and wrong way to walk. You don’t put a collar or a harness on a horse and expect them not to run away with you. You use a halter. Same with dogs.

    1. Thank you for your comment. To clarify, for dogs that pull, a head collar or front-attachment harness are the best option! While a standard harness will disperse the weight and give the dog more pull, a standard collar used on a pulling dog could potentially cause damage to the trachea and neck, so it is our opinion that a harness would be a safer option.

    2. Melody Python-Veria · ·

      To anyone reading this now, rather than back in 2010, I would like to clear something up. Harnesses don’t, on their own, encourage pulling. People following dogs that pull will encourage pulling. The only way that a harness could possibly encourage pulling is because the dog can get more leverage, thus pulling the trainer along. Just strapping a harness on your dog doesn’t make it want to pull more.

      And horses also can and will follow you if you use something other than a halter to guide them with. For example, at the barn I used to ride at, if I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to find the proper halter for the horse I was riding (the halters were taken off for safety reasons when the horses were in the paddocks) I would just grab a lead rope and wrap it around the horse’s neck. The horse would follow me, even though it didn’t have a halter on.

      I don’t know why this person thought that the type of equipment an animal wears dictates its behaviour. It doesn’t. If a dog walks calmly with you in a collar, it will in a harness too once it is used to the harness.

  5. Kristen · ·

    I love the harness for when we go running…although sometimes it seems to rub under her “armpits” causing scabbing. Looking for a harness that won’t do this…

    1. philip tregurtha · ·

      Kristen. you need to put a sleeve of soft material over the strap that goes under your dogs arm so the strap can move inside the tube sleeve and not cause the rubbing. The sleeve stays still under the arm while the strap moves. Makes life more comfortable for your friend and companion.
      Phil

  6. [...] collar vs. harness « blog for active outdoor dogs [...]

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