You may see a lot more dogs on the street today wearing harnesses rather than having their leashes attached to collars. Are harnesses safer for dogs than collars? Should you abandon your dog’s traditional collar altogether?
The fact is, your dog should have both a collar and a harness for the most effective training. The harness is the appropriate place for attaching your leash – it keeps your dog securely connected to you while eliminating strain on their neck. Harnesses are hard for dogs to slip out of, and they increase the walker’s control over where the dog moves.
Whole Dog Journal believes collars are a great way to keep licenses and other identification tags on dogs – not necessarily for attaching a leash. For walking, we prefer a well-fitting harness.
There are many types of collars AND harnesses on the market, and some serve specific purposes. The front-clip harness, for example, is a useful tool for a dog who pulls on the leash during walks. Head halters can be helpful for helping control a dog who pulls hard and is being handled by a physically frail or small person, but many dogs find them highly aversive. In this case, a consultation with an experienced, positive-reinforcement-based trainer would be advisable.
Both dog collars and harnesses should always be taken off during any play – whether with other dogs, or roughhousing in the backyard. Collars are known to get caught on things, and could seriously hurt your dog. Harnesses, too, should be taken off in play. They may not strangle your dog, but they can still catch on objects or entangle your dog’s playmate.
Comparing Harnesses vs Collars
|Dog Collars||Collars are a comfortable and secure way to keep ID tags and licenses on the dog at all times.||Some dogs may become experts at ducking out of their collars; broad-necked or small-headed dogs have a higher risk of escape.|
|Most dogs do not seem to notice wearing a simple flat-buckle collar (WDJ recommends fitting collars with room for 2 fingers between), whether on-leash or off.||Collars can be hard to fit properly to super tiny dogs.|
|Collars come in a huge variety of types and materials; some kinds of dog collars serve specific needs, like for duckers or more safety.||Collars are known to cause thyroid and/or trachea damage to dogs who pull|
|Some collars detach under generalized pressure, eliminating the risk of suffocation in an accident.||It is possible for collars to get caught on objects during play or in a dog fight, and may injure or suffocate the dog wearing it; collars are also known to get caught in the jaws of other dogs during rough play.|
|Dog Harnesses||Harnesses create less pull-stress on both the dog and human during leashed walks.||Harnesses should still always be removed while the dog is inside, or playing with other dogs.|
|Front-clip harnesses have shown to be most effective when training dogs not to pull on their leashes.||Harnesses can chafe skin around a dogs’ “elbows” if worn excessively.|
|Dog harnesses tend to come in a greater variety of sizes than collars; there may be better options for extra small or extra large dogs.||Often harnesses are not adjusted to fit properly; if not fitted correctly, harnesses may cause the dog discomfort.|
|In the event of a dog’s harness getting caught on something, the dog is safe from hanging.||A harness that is improperly fitted may actually inhibit movement and alter the dog’s natural gait.|