The Difference Between Dog Harnesses & Collars: Which Is Better?

When it comes to dog walking, choosing the right gear is essential. What you choose will ultimately need to ensure the safety and comfort of your pup, provide control and handling, prevent accidents or injuries, and allow for proper exercise and stimulation.

Two common options for restraining dogs during walks are harnesses and collars. While both serve the purpose of keeping our beloved pets safe and under control, there are distinct differences between the two.

In this post, we will explore the different characteristics of both harnesses and collars and discuss which option might be better suited for your canine companion.

Dog Harnesses: A Supportive and Safe Option

A harness is a dog-walking accessory that fits around the dog’s torso and supports its chest and shoulders. Here are some key benefits of using a harness:

  • Control and Safety: Harnesses distribute pressure evenly across the dog’s body, reducing strain on the neck and throat. That makes them particularly beneficial for small breeds, puppies, and dogs with respiratory issues, such as brachycephalic breeds.
  • No Choking or Pulling: Unlike collars, which exert pressure on the neck, harnesses prevent choking or injury to the dog’s throat if they pull or lunge forward. That makes them ideal for dogs that tend to pull on the leash or exhibit strong pulling behavior.
  • Enhanced Training: Harnesses provide greater control over the dog’s movements, making them useful for training. They discourage pulling, jumping, and other undesirable behaviors by redirecting the dog’s attention to its body’s center of gravity.

Dog Collars: A Traditional and Simple Choice

Collars have long been the go-to option for pet parents. Here are some features and benefits of using a collar:

  • Simplicity: Collars are straightforward and require minimal effort to put on and take off. They consist of a band that encircles the dog’s neck and typically include a buckle or a quick-release mechanism for easy fastening. Walking your dog on a leash and collar often requires less physical strength than using a harness.
  • Identification and Tags: Collars often have a dedicated space to attach identification tags, making them an efficient way to display crucial information such as the dog’s name, owner’s contact details, and proof of vaccination. Pet parents who use a harness usually have to get creative with their dog’s ID tags. However, you can microchip your pet to avoid the issue altogether.
  • Off-Leash Freedom: For well-trained dogs that walk politely on a leash, collars offer the convenience of off-leash activities. Collars can also be used with a leash for added control when necessary.

Which Is Better: Harness or Collar?

The decision between a harness and a collar ultimately depends on your dog’s size, breed, health conditions, and behavior. Consider the following factors when making your choice:

  1. Size and Breed: Small or toy breeds and dogs with respiratory issues benefit from the reduced strain on the neck provided by a harness. Conversely, collars may be more suitable for larger, well-behaved dogs.
  2. Pulling Behavior: Harnesses (particularly front-clip harnesses) can reduce a dog’s tendency to pull. If your dog pulls on the leash, a harness is generally a better option as it discourages pulling and provides better control over their movements. Harnesses also make it tougher for the dog to escape compared to collars. So a harness may be the best option if your pup is wily or adventurous.
  3. Achieving the Proper Fit: Harnesses may be more difficult when it comes to putting them on and taking them off, at least until you get used to them. The right fit is incredibly important because dogs can escape from a loose harness or experience pain if the harness is too tight. However, even with the right fit, it may take time for your pup to get used to a harness. Finding the right fit for a collar is also just as important.
  4. Health Conditions: Dogs with neck injuries or respiratory problems may require a harness to avoid exacerbating their condition. Consult your veterinarian to determine the best option for your dog’s health needs. Unfortunately, even healthy dogs develop issues from using a collar, such as back pain or throat damage, especially if they are pullers.
  5. Training Needs: A harness can offer better control and redirection during training sessions if you’re training your dog or working on specific behaviors. Generally, starting your puppy’s leash training with a harness and then moving on to a collar is best.

Harnesses vs. Collars: The Bottom Line

Both harnesses and collars have their merits and are suitable for different situations. Assess your dog’s individual needs and consult with professionals, such as your veterinarian, pet sitter, or dog trainer, to make an informed decision. Remember, your furry companion’s comfort, safety, and well-being should always be the top priority when choosing their walking gear.


Melanie Haynes



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