Walking your dog is a part of their daily routine. One of the questions that may arise for new dog owners is, should I use a collar or a harness? Both have their own pros and cons, which we will discuss below. The collar is the most common choice amongst dog owners. Enter any pet store, and you will have an abundance to choose from. Big, small, wide, narrow, made of different materials, and in all colors of the rainbow. Harnesses have gained popularity over the years though, and for good reason. Whichever you choose, make sure to avoid collars that are designed to intentionally constrict or cause pain or discomfort as they may harm your dog.
Types of collars
There are many types of collars available, like the flat collar, prong collar, martingale collar, and choke chain, which we will discuss further in our blog named “A Guide to the Different Types of Collars and Harnesses”. When choosing a collar it’s important to choose one that doesn’t cause pain, harm or discomfort to your pet.
At Paw Pals we only use force free methods when interacting with our fur clients. This means that we do not walk dogs on collars that have the intention to cause discomfort or pain, like the martingale collar, choke chain or prong collar. Because of this, in this article when we talk about the collar, we refer to the standard collar.
Pros of the Collar
One of the positive points of the collar is that they are easy to put on and take off. Where some types of harnesses have to go over the head of the dog, a collar can be easily clipped on. Overall, a collar will feel less intrusive to dogs who tend to be insecure or anxious.
Another positive point of the collar is that identification tags are easily attached, and collars can be left on if needed without causing the dog discomfort. Collars are often also easy to clean. Simply put, the collar is convenient.
It is important to be aware that a collar that is left on without supervision is a strangulation hazard, and in rare cases, dogs have been known to get stuck with their collar on items around the house, which in some cases led to the dog choking to death.
For owners, the styles and materials available are a plus. You can pick any style you want. Simple or glamorous, cute or cool, the choices are endless. You can even get details stitched on them, like phone numbers and names.
Cons of the Collar
A big con of the collar is that getting the right fit tends to be difficult. A collar that is too loose, will result in a dog that might escape. A collar that is too tight, will be uncomfortable for the dog. Dog collars can also contribute to throat damage, back and neck issues, and other discomfort due to the way they are placed around the neck. Especially when your dog tends to tug and pull on the leash.
For some breeds collars are not advised due to their build. Snub-nosed dogs already have a predisposition to breathing difficulties and throat issues, and hence will do better with a harness as this will not restrict their breathing.
You will need to check and feel regularly if the collar is still a right fit, especially for fast growing pups. In severe cases when a collar is forgotten and not adjusted it will grow into the neck.
Types of harnesses
There are many types of harnesses available, like the Norwegian style harness and the Y harness, which we will discuss further in our blog named “Types of Collars and Harnesses”.
Pros of the Harness
Harnesses are usually more comfortable for your dog due to the way they are placed on the body. A well-fitted harness will prevent injury, like throat damage, and will not restrict breathing. This is especially a plus for breeds that often already have restricted breathing, like the Bulldog or Pug. Generally speaking, it’s harder to escape out of a harness than out of a collar (mainly because collars are often not fitted well), but it’s not impossible. An exception to this rule is a harness that will have an extra strap around the waist, like the Ruffwear Web Master harness. Another plus, a harness with a front clip will prevent pulling and gives you more control over the dog.
Cons of the Harness
Depending on the style of the harness, they can be tricky to put on. For long haired dogs their fur might get tangled in the harness, and for skittish dogs harnesses that have to go over the head might feel too intrusive. A harness needs to be well-fitted to prevent restriction of movement and chafing. Some harnesses will have a design that is closed at the top and/or side, which may get uncomfortable when it’s hot.
While a pro of the harness is that a front clip will prevent pulling, a con is that a back clip might invite your dog to pull as they won’t feel as much guidance as a front clip or collar provides.
Collar vs Harness
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this comparison and it will depend on your dog, your preference, and intended use. Though the harness seems currently to be the most advised among experts and vets. You can also always consider using both, and we commonly see use of the combination at the clients we care for. This is also a great option for recently adopted or skittish dogs as it creates an extra safety barrier in case they slip out one of the two. Whichever you choose, make sure to get the right size and fit for the safety and comfort of your dog.