One of the biggest questions dog owners ask when shopping for walking accessories is whether a harness or standard collar is a more suitable choice for their dog. After all, harnesses allow dogs to more easily distribute their weight for less pressure on their necks. But a collar is easier to size and use. Both options have their strengths and weaknesses, but the question remains: Is a harness better than a collar?
In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of dog walking harnesses in comparison to collars and tell you how to decide what’s suitable for you and your furry companion.
Harnesses are great for most dogs, and they’re incredibly versatile for owners and trainers. They allow for multiple points of attachment for leashes, and they come in a wide variety of sizes, so you’re sure to find one that fits your pup without a problem.
Different types of harnesses have different features to make you and your pup feel secure and comfortable, including adjustable straps, buckles, leash clips, multiple adjustment points, and reflective material or reflective stitching for better visibility at night. Almost all harnesses are characterized by a horizontal chest strap for extra security. Some heavy-duty harnesses are made
The Pros of Harnesses
Harnesses have several benefits and can be used in a variety of settings, including car rides. Some harnesses are made specifically to latch to your car's seat belt for extra security! Consider the following pros when taking into consideration a harness for your dog.
A Great Training Tool
If your pup needs training while on the leash, you’ll have better results using a no-pull or front-clip harness rather than a collar. Harnesses are designed to deter your four-legged friend from bad habits like pulling and jumping. Almost all harnesses on the market today come with a front attachment point for leashing, usually in the form of a metal loop or some type of front clip. When a leash is attached to the front attachment point, it creates discomfort and strain when the dog pulls. Additionally, attaching the leash like this forces the dog in the opposite direction of where it wants to go, discouraging leash pulling, chasing a squirrel, and other bad behavior.
Control Over the Situation
Pull harnesses often come with an attachment point on the front or back of the harness. For large dogs who need extra control when they get rowdy, this can be a serious benefit for a few reasons. From a safety standpoint, it prevents injury to your dog's torso and spine. Having two mounting points creates the ideal amount of control when things get a little out of hand.
The Secure Option
If you’re looking for the safer option between a harness and a collar, a harness is your best bet. Harnesses help reduce the chances of your pooch slipping away because they wrap around your dog’s chest rather than its neck. This feature is ideal for breeds that can easily shimmy out of their collar, like whippets. If your pup is skilled at getting its collar off, you’ll most likely want to get a harness over a collar.
Better For Their Health
When you choose a harness over a collar, you reduce the likelihood of injury to your dog that can happen when pulling hard. A harness wraps around a dog’s chest rather than its neck, significantly reducing the risk of choking and other neck-related injuries. Often, if a dog is a strong puller, they won’t even know that they’re harming themselves when pulling hard on a collar. Harnesses help prevent damage to the throat.
Good For Older Dogs
With older dogs, the problem may not be associated with violent or overzealous motion as much as it is with a lack of motion. Sometimes when an older dog with mobility problems lays down, they have a harder time getting back up. Should they be wearing a harness with a secure fit, you can use it to assist them in standing by gently raising their body with it. Some come with a handle to do exactly that. You definitely couldn’t do that with a collar.
The Best Option For Small Breeds
If you’ve got a small breed of dog, you’ll want to get a lightweight easy walk vest harness with padding rather than a collar. Most harnesses were originally designed for small dogs to prevent the injuries that owners commonly experienced when their dogs wore collars--especially toy dogs. Small breeds are more prone to injuring themselves with a collar because they can more readily slip out of it.
The Cons of Harnesses
While harnesses have plenty of benefits, it’s only fair that we talk about why you may not want to get a harness, too. There are some downsides.
Some Dogs Can’t Adjust
No matter how comfortable a harness is, sometimes a dog just cannot adjust to them. If this is the case, you’ll only really be able to use a collar with your pup. You must follow the signs that your pup gives you about their comfort, as it’s best not to stress them out. A harness could be a stressor in their lives, unfortunately.
A Higher Cost
Most times, a harness is going to cost a bit more than a collar. More materials are used to make them, such as mesh, reflective strips, and a higher amount of metal. They also have a longer manufacturing period than collars. Harnesses made of the same material as a collar will almost always end up costing more.
If you’re more concerned about fashion than you are function because your four-legged friend has great leash manners, you’ll find that there are fewer options for harnesses on the market than there are collars, restricting your pup’s style overall.
Making the Case For Collars
While this article may seem heavily geared towards selling harnesses rather than collars, that’s not to say that collars don’t have their place in the world. There are benefits to collars as much as there are disadvantages.
The Pros of Collars
When looking to choose between a collar and a harness, the following are advantages of the collar:
- Variety: Collars come in a wide range of materials, patterns, and colors. There are far more options for collars than there are harnesses.
- Cost and availability: Collars are widely available and are sold at most department stores and big box stores. They’re also significantly less expensive than harnesses.
- Better for longer coats: If you’ve got a dog with a longer coat, collars prevent their coat from being snagged, unlike harnesses. On the other hand, a heavy-duty harness can be a gamechanger for strong dogs, like German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, and Boxers.
The Cons of Collars
Collars have far more cons than harnesses do, but we’ve chosen to focus on the ones that can be the most detrimental to your pet:
- Risk of injury: Collars significantly increase the chance of injury if your dog is an energetic puller. There are collars designed to dissuade this, but they still pose that same risk.
- Easy escape: If your pup is an escape artist, putting a collar around their neck only makes escaping easier.
- Encourages pulling: Due to the nature of a collar’s design, if your dog pulls on the collar, they’re going to feel pressure pulling back that encourages them to keep pulling. This can lead to lousy leash manners.
Is a Harness the Better Option?
In most cases, a dog harness will be a better option than a collar is. That being said, if you’re looking to get your puppy to a point where they’re well-behaved enough to wear a collar rather than a harness, it’s possible to do so using a harness.
Ultimately, the best harness is one that works for you and your dog, not one over the other. With a no-pull, front-attaching harness, you can teach your dog that pulling on the leash isn’t going to get them to where they want to go. Eventually, the behavior will begin to disappear altogether! Once your four-legged friend has learned their leash manners with the harness, consider graduating them to a forever collar! If they backslide, don’t worry, you’ll still have your handy harness around, too!
Dog Harness Vs. Collar: Which is Better? | American Kennel Club
Why Pet Harnesses Are (Usually) Better Than Collars | Safewise
The Pros and Cons of Using a Dog Harness | Harmony Animal Hospital