Is a Dog Harness Better Than a Dog Collar?

Whether it’s time to buy a collar or harness for your puppy or dog for the very first time or replace one that’s wearing out, it’s important to understand that there are a variety of collars and harnesses that work for different dogs in different circumstances.

The Pros and Cons of Dog Collars

Pros of dog collars:

  • These are the most basic dog products available and are easy for keeping ID tags and rabies tags around your dog’s neck.
  • There are different types of collars to try — flat collars work for dogs that know how to walk on a leash without pulling; martingale collars (limited slip collars) are great for dogs whose necks are about the same size as their heads and can slip out of flat collars; rolled collars work well to hold your dog’s ID, but won’t flatten or matt the hair underneath them.
  • Collars may give you better control and require less physical strength from you as you’re walking your dog than harnesses, depending on your dog’s size.
  • Many dog trainers recommend that you begin leash training for a puppy with a four-foot leash and flat collar and use positive reinforcement (think praise and treats) to encourage your pup to walk by your side.
  • The variety of styles and materials available makes them easy to put on and take off, comfortable for your dog, attractive, and long-lasting.

Cons of dog collars:

  • If the fit is too loose, your dog may be able to wiggle out and escape; this is especially true for dogs like Greyhounds and Whippets, whose heads are often smaller than their necks.
  • If the fit is too tight, it may be painful for your dog.
  • Dog collars may contribute to back pain, throat damage, and other discomfort.

Considering buying a collar for your dog?

Make sure you select the right size for your dog. You’ll know it fits if you can slip one finger between your dog’s skin and the collar (for small dogs) or if you can fit two fingers between your dog’s skin and the collar (for large-breed dogs).

Warning: Avoid so-called corrective collars, like choke collars and prong collars, which can cause neck injury, pain, and even strangulation.

The Pros and Cons of Dog Harnesses

Pros of dog harnesses:

Considering buying a dog harness instead of a dog collar? Some of the advantages of harnesses include that they may:

  • Be more comfortable for your dog.
  • Help prevent your dog from slipping out.
  • Be helpful for puppies that haven’t learned to walk on a leash.
  • Help avoid injury (such as throat damage) in small dogs who are more likely to pull or tug at the leash.
  • Help prevent your dog’s leash from getting caught under his legs.
  • Help discourage pulling if you use a front-clip harness.
  • Be better for dogs with tracheal collapse (a hacking cough often brought on by excitement, exercise, drinking water, or extreme temperatures).
  • Help alleviate dog back pain.

Cons of dog harnesses:

  • Can be harder to put on and take off.
  • May require more physical strength than walking your dog on a traditional dog collar, depending on the size of the dog.
  • If a harness is too big, your dog may be able to wiggle out and escape.
  • Dog harnesses that are too tight can be painful for dogs.
  • Can be uncomfortable in hot weather.
  • Harnesses that hook on the back can actually help train your dog to pull you — the exact opposite of what you want.

Considering buying a harness for your dog?

Check out our step-by-step guide covering how to put on a dog harness, which walks through the process of putting on three of the main types of dog harnesses (standard, step-in, front clip).

As with buying collars, you’ll need to make sure you select the right size harness for your dog. A harness fits if you can slip one finger between your dog’s skin and the harness (for small dogs) or if you can fit two fingers between your dog’s skin and the harness (for large-breed dogs).

Courtesy of American Kennel Club