Harness or Collar? What is best for your furry friend?
Harnesses are becoming increasingly popular with dog owners, but why? And what is best for your precious pup? Below are the pros and cons of collars and harnesses, and how to choose the right equipment for your dog.
A traditional collar that does not constrict in any way can be fine for dogs that do not pull on the lead and have no history of respiratory problems. They can be left on at all times, come in a wide range of colours and styles, are easy to fit, and most dogs find them quite comfortable. As a collar with ID must be worn at all times by all dogs in the UK, walking your dog on a collar is easy and convenient and requires no additional equipment.
However, collars do have downsides when it comes to walking your dog, especially in relation to health issues. Dogs that pull on the lead (even if only slightly) are at higher risk of neck injury when walked on a collar. Collars on dogs that pull have also been linked to hypothyroidism (from trauma to the thyroid gland in the neck), ear and eye issues (due to increased pressure) and behavioural problems. Startled or frightened dogs can also slip out of collars with relative ease, and collars provide very little control, so they are difficult to use when trying to train your dog.
If you do decide to walk your dog on a collar, make sure that it fits well and is comfortable for your dog - you should be able to comfortably slide two fingers under the collar, but it should be no looser than this. If your dog has a neck that is larger or the same size as their head, you will need a special slip or martingale collar to prevent them slipping out of it. Hounds (such as Greyhounds, Lurchers, Whippets etc.) that are walked on a collar should wear martingale or hound collars, in order to protect their windpipe.
For dogs that pull on the lead, or dogs with health issues, a harness may be the better option. Harnesses are fantastic for small or short-faced breeds as they are especially susceptible to pain or injury from pressure around the neck. Harnesses provide better control, and so work better for training and with dogs that pull on the lead.
Harnesses can either be back-clipping or front-clipping (or both). Back-clipping harnesses have a lead connecting clip between the shoulders and are a great option for dogs who do not pull on the lead. They take the pressure off the neck and collar and are a good general harness and are excellent for small breeds that can sometimes find front-clipping harnesses uncomfortable. However, back-attaching harnesses can actually encourage pulling in some dogs, and so are not ideal for reactive dogs or strong pulling dogs.
Front clipping harnesses have a lead connecting clip on the chest and are excellent for large dogs or dogs who pull on the lead. These harnesses give excellent control, as the dog’s centre of gravity is located at the chest, so when the dog pulls, the harness will turn the dog around towards the handler. These harnesses often also have a back-clip, allowing you to connect a double-ended lead to both the chest and back clips, giving ultimate control. Front-clipping harnesses are excellent for training and are a very useful tool with reactive or strong pulling dogs.
Pulling and jumping up are not ideal with either a collar or a harness, so if you struggle with either of these things, simply switching to a harness will not solve your problems – a reward-based training plan will also need to be in place, however a harness can help you with this. A regular (flat) collar with the owner’s name and address is a legal requirement in the UK for all dogs (Control of Dogs Order 1992) as is a microchip (since April 2016). Whilst your dog must wear a flat collar and ID at all times, you do not have to walk your dog on a collar unless you choose to. You can shop all collars, leads and harnesses here.