Collar Vs Harness - Which is Best for my Dog?

As dog owners, we all want to ensure our pet is safe and comfortable when out on walks. The big debate is often around whether or not we should be using collars or harnesses, so let’s explore why this is such a hot topic. The discussion tends to run down two threads, which is better for behaviour/training and which is best for health?  


Collar or Harness For Walking? 

If your dog is still learning how to behave on a lead and walk calmly beside you, as should be the aim, you might be looking for the best way to train them or support them as they learn. 


The things to bear in mind here are that an excited dog, one that is still learning, will likely run or pull. The challenge in this scenario is ensuring that you can appropriately guide and restrain your furry pal, without incident or injury. A more mature, trained dog that can walk calmly alongside you and needs little to no control or intervention, will likely function with a collar well.


Collars can be useful in lots of ways, such as identification and in the sense that most dogs are indifferent to wearing a traditional flat collar - so there is little to no stress for the dog in putting one on. Many collars also come with a release so if your dog were to get their collar caught it would come away, reducing risk of asphyxiation or harm.  It is worth noting that the opposite challenge to this is appropriate fit - many larger and smaller dogs can find wrestling free of collars easy. 


There have however been lots of warnings and discussions about collars in recent years, as when a dog runs or pulls they can cause pain or injury to the neck and sometimes the thyroid - so it is something to be aware of. Dogs with respiratory issues may also find walking with a collar restrictive to the point of discomfort. 


Harnesses are increasing in popularity because their positioning and design naturally alleviate some of the risk of injury owing to pressure on the neck. It is arguably easier to gently pull back a pulling dog with a full support harness. They can be useful during the training period to encourage and guide your dog to walk nicely alongside you, providing firm support that is more evenly distributed. 


What About Collars vs Harnesses for Dog Health?

We’ve established that there are some concerns with collars around asphyxiation, pain or discomfort and in some cases thyroid issues. But, both harnesses and collars need using with care if dogs are playing or being boisterous as either could cause issues when playing if caught up on something. 


We also have to consider health or wellbeing when choosing what is best for our dogs. Some dogs barely notice collars and need little to no restraint when walking once they are mature, so in this instance a collar is a perfectly suitable tool to help with walking and identification. 


From a health perspective, dogs with known respiratory challenges or eye issues like pugs, may be better suited to a harness as this removes pressure on the neck and reduces risk of increased pressure and eye protrusion. 


If your dog is used to a collar and you try to change to a harness, the very act of putting on a new device that feels more invasive has the potential to cause them stress, which we want to avoid Important health considerations for harnesses include ensuring that the one you choose is well fitted and suited to your breed of dog. Ill-fitting harnesses can cause dogs to shift their weight across to their hind legs, which if it continues over a long period, may alter their gait and cause them issues in the future.


There are lots of factors to consider when making this choice, ultimately, you know your dog well and their ability to walk with or without restraint depends on their level of training. Just bear in mind how they walk with you, their social skills with other dogs, and any pre-existing medical conditions or considerations.


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