Collar or Harness? The Benefits of Both

Dec_2014_1Is a collar or harness better for walking your dog? Despite what you may have seen on TV or on other dogs in the neighborhood, the decision depends on your dog’s training and your goals.

Do you want to train your dog to stop pulling or is he already trained? Is your dog’s breed known for having issues with the spinal column or trachea? Read on for options and tips.

Content with Collars

The most common recommended collars are traditional buckle or snap collars, break-away collars and head collars. (Choke chains and prong collars are best used by owners with dog-training experience.)

The traditional buckle or snap collar is a good everyday collar to hold ID tags. It’s also acceptable for walking your dog on a leash, but consider first if your dog is trained to walk without pulling or if the breed has a potential medical condition.

Benefits of a collar

  • Fits your dog’s neck exactly.
  • Fairly inexpensive.
  • Can be worn all the time.
  • Can be used to hold ID tags or rabies tags.
  • Safe for most dogs, except small breeds or those with spinal/tracheal issues.

Bring out the toys

Collar considerations

  • Your dog might outgrow it and need a new one.
  • It might get caught on something. (Breakaway collars allow a quick release.)
  • It won’t curb your dog’s leash pulling without training.
  • Not appropriate for walking dogs that are predisposed to…

–  Wobbler syndrome (Doberman pinschers, Great Danes and other breeds)

–  Spinal cord disorders or Chiari malformation (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and other toy breeds)

–  Slipped discs in the spinal column (Dachshunds, French bulldogs)

–  Hydrocephalus or water on the brain (toy breeds and dogs with shortened heads)

–  Collapsible trachea (Yorkshire terriers and other small breeds)

For big dogs who pull on their leashes, a head collar or head halter is a safe option for training. Similar to a horse halter, it fits over the dog’s head and helps you lead the direction of his forward movement. Although it’s often mistaken for a muzzle, it isn’t. Your dog can still open his mouth, bark and drink. It shouldn’t be used with a retractable leash however, as it may jerk the dog’s head.

Happy with harnesses

You and your dog may be just as happy with a harness for walking. Since it doesn’t apply pressure on the neck or against the trachea, it’s a good option for many dogs, especially puppies, small dogs and toy breeds. While a regular harness is not considered the best choice for training and may even increase leash pulling, a front-clip harness can help in that area as well.

Benefits of a harness

  • Safe for dogs predisposed to medical conditions or spinal/tracheal issues.
  • Comfortable for most dogs.
  • Appropriate for small dogs.

Harness considerations

Keep in mind that if your dog isn’t trained to walk without pulling, a regular harness won’t help and may even increase the problem. One option for training is a front-clip harness or no-pull harness. Because they clip in front and restrict full extension of the front legs, they’re designed to discourage pulling. This a short-term training tool, however. Once your dog is trained, switch to a regular harness or collar.

For more advice or to check the fit on a dog collar or harness, visit your local store and ask an associate for help.