Collar vs. Harness: Which Should I Choose for my Dog

Collar and harnesse are the two most popular choices for pet owners to control their dog. But which do you pick to attach your leash to when bringing your dog on a walk? What are the benefits of each and are there any downfalls to choosing one over the other? Let’s try to get to the bottom of this question once and for all.

The Simple Collar

A plain and simple collar is the most common choice for dog owners around the world. Every one of us knows what a dog collar looks like. They can be made from natural materials like leather or manmade synthetics such as nylon. Collars are fastened around a dog’s neck using a buckle or a clip and are usually adjustable to allow a snug fit.

Dog collars come in a variety of colors and styles, letting you choose one that suits your pup’s personality. Most dogs adapt very well to wearing a collar if it’s introduced when they’re young. It can be useful to have your pup wear one inside as it allows you to easily guide them around the house if needed. Just make sure it’s well-fitted to avoid it catching on anything!

When you want to go on a walk, collars come with a handy metal ring for you to attach your leash to. However, despite their popularity, a simple neck collar isn’t the best choice for a stroll with your favorite canine friend.

Why is a Collar Not a Good Choice?

So, why are more and more vets advising against attaching the lead directly to your dog’s collar? It is quite simple. Hauling and tugging on a collar can cause significant injury to a dog’s neck area. This can happen when your canine lunges forward due to excitement or even when you give him or her a gentle pull to guide them in the right direction.

Dog Collar Injuries

Several different collar-related neck injuries can happen when walking your dog. Strong tugs that happen when your pup suddenly hits the end of the leash could lead to serious issues. These include dislocation of cervical vertebrae, whiplash, bruising, and neurological issues.

But your dog doesn’t have to experience a sudden pull on the leash to be injured. Constant, strong pressure on the neck can also result in bruising, sensitivity, headaches, and, in some cases, a collapsed trachea! You may see outwards signs of the pain they’re experiencing from collar injuries or you might not. Dogs don’t always react to injuries like we do and their wild instincts tell them to keep any pain hidden.

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Do ‘Gentle’ Collars Exist?

There are several dog collars on the market that claim not to injure your dog when they pull. They usually come with extra padding and are much wider to more evenly distribute the pressure on your pup’s neck. However, a study by researchers at Nottingham Trent University found that even these ‘gentle’ collars pose a danger to your dog’s health

The scientists attached these collars onto a fake dog neck and placed pressure sensors underneath them. They then measured the amount of pressure put onto the ‘neck’ when the leash was pulled. In all cases, a simple tug on the leash had the potential to significantly injure a real dog.

Can I train my Dog not to Pull?

What is clear from all this is that pulling on your dog’s neck is not good. So why not train your pup not to pull, keep a loose leash and continue using their collar for walks? Yes, in theory, this could work.

But the risk is always there that something completely out of your control could cause them to pull. It could be a squirrel crossing your path or your dog might get a fright from a back-firing car and run away from you. The safest option is to ditch the classic collar/leash combo and buy your pup a harness ASAP.

Benefits of Using a Dog Harness

A good quality harness designed with your dog’s anatomy in mind has all the benefits of a collar without the potential for injury. Just like collars, dog harnesses come in a wide range of colors and styles to suit any pup.

The basic nylon harness has a lightweight design and a metal ring on the middle of your dog’s back for attaching the leash. In its most simple form, a harness will take the pressure off your pup’s neck and distribute it evenly across the front of his or her chest. This is much safer and is far less likely to injure your dog. Your pup may also be less likely to pull hard on a harness because they aren’t feeling the intense pain that a collar inflicts.

In addition to preventing injury, dog harnesses are also more secure and offer better control than collars. If your canine is a collar escape artist, they will have a much harder time slipping free from a well-fitted harness.

Front clip dog harnesses are specially designed with chronic pullers in mind. The leash attaches to a ring at the center of your dog’s chest. This will gently spin them around and redirect their attention towards you when they try to pull away. Eventually, they will stop hauling the leash entirely. But be cautious, spinning your dog around all the time could injure their joints. To keep your pup safe, introduce this style of harness slowly and in low-pressure situations.

Final Thoughts

The final verdict on the collars vs. harnesses debate has a clear winner. Putting the safety of your dog first is of the utmost importance when bringing them out on walks. Using a dog harness allows you to protect your dog by keeping them safe from injury while also maintaining control and security.

The right choice is clear. Find the perfect harness for your pup and introduce them to it. After that, resist the urge to quickly clip the leash onto the collar. Your canine friend will thank you for it.

– Felix