A dog harness or collar – how to choose your walking equipment?

Dog walk harness

I’m sure all dog owners have pondered whether to choose a dog harness or a collar as your walking equipment. Either option can work, but it’s important to think about several key points before choosing.

I’ve listed some benefits of both harnesses and collars below, but to ensure the best walking health for your dog, it is always good to check with your vet which option will be the best for you.

Benefits of using a harness

A dog harness provides a completely different alternative for leash attachment than a collar. Instead of circling tightly around the dog’s neck, a harness typically loops loosely around the dog’s neck as well as around the torso.

A harness can provide alternative locations for leash attachment, such as on the dog’s back or at front and these different harness types are used for different purposes. Front attaching dog harnesses are excellent to use with dogs that pull – you can read my review of top 5 front attaching dog harnesses here.

Why choose a harness for your dog? There are several reasons for this.

1. Dispersion of pressure. The main difference between a harness and a collar is that pressure is dispersed differently. With a harness pressure is dispersed on a broader area than with a collar resulting in less localized pressure. Intense localized pressure can be unhealthy.

2. Choking. If the dog pulls and yanks, using a collar can result in a high amount of stress on the dog’s neck and a harness will provide a healthier option. For pulling dogs, front-attach harnesses are optimal.

3. Very large or small dogs. If your dog is very large, using a harness may provide you with more control. On the other hand, if your dog is very small and fragile, using a harness may be safer due to dispersion of pressure.

4. Car safety. A dog can be secured in a car using a dog seat belt, which is attached to the back link of the harness. A harness will be a safer option than a collar if your dog is flung off the car seat, for example as a result of quick braking.

Woman walking a dog

Why go for collar?

Some dogs just don’t like harnesses and then your only option might be using a collar. A collar is fine for dogs that don’t pull hard. Other benefits of using a collar is that it’s quicker and easier to put on and the dog can wear a collar continuously, which is not possible with a harness. A collar might also be more suitable for long-haired dogs as their fur might get tangled in a harness.

Collars also provide a spot to attach an ID tag so you might want to consider putting a collar on your dog for continuous use and use a harness when walking your dog.

Special needs for some breeds

For some breeds harnesses are recommended over collars. These are breeds that have respiratory problems such as Pugs and French Bulldogs. Also, breeds that are prone to ocular prolapse (I.e. their eyeballs protruding out if too much pressure is applied to the neck) should wear harnesses. Breeds prone for ocular prolapse include breeds with squished faces, such as Pugs, Toy Spaniels, Shih Tzus and Pekingeses.

If you’re unsure of the type of walking equipment you should use with your dog, consult your vet.

Alternating can be fun

My puppy is a puller even after all the training we’ve done, so I use a front-attach harness with him. It works wonders! With this type of harness, he walks nicely on a loose leash and walking is very enjoyable for both of us. The only problem I find with this type of harness is that if he’s trying to eat something off the ground, it’s more difficult to pull him away from it. However, I wouldn’t change to any other type of harness or use a collar, as I find my puppy is the most secure with the current option.

Sometimes when we go for a visit to a friend’s house and we’re not planning to do a lot of walking, I swap from using a harness to a collar. We have multiple nice collar options for my puppy and I like the variety that different types of collars offer. Alternating between a collar and a harness can be an option if your dog is fine with these changes.

Cute collar

Enjoying the walk is the key

In the end, walking with your dog should be fun and relaxing. My recommendation is to choose the best option that works for you and your dog. If you’re unsure and want to ensure the best health and safety of your dog, talk to an experienced dog trainer or your vet.

To many happy barks & walks