Collar Versus Harness

You may have noticed that many dog owners are now choosing a harness for their dog rather than a collar. Is this the best option for your dog? We discuss the pros and cons of each option to help you decide which is the best choice for your dog.


The range of harnesses now available has grown hugely over the last five years. From anti-pulling to front and rear attachments, the choice can be overwhelming. Before making your purchase, we have provided a quick guide on the key design types. We have also highlighted the advantages and disadvantages of harness use.

Harness Types


These are designed to reduce a dog's ability to pull on the leash. To do this, a section of the harness tightens when the dog pulls forward. Do be aware that some tightening harnesses can cause pain, which may result in your dog being reluctant to go on walks. They can also associate you with the pain being experienced.

Front Attachment

These harnesses have the leash attachment in the center of the dog's chest. This then provides the owner with much more control over the direction in which the dog is going. You may find that you need to practice your leash skills with this one to ensure that it does not become tangled in your dog's front legs.

Back Attachment

For this version, the leash attachment is located on the top of the dog's back. If your dog already pulls hard, this is probably not the design you need. It is very easy for a dog to lean into the harness and power down the street.

Harness Advantages

  • One key reason for the use of harnesses is less physical stress from pulling for both the dog and the human. If your dog pulls on the leash, the pressure is now distributed to your dog's chest or back rather than around the sensitive neck area. This is very important for dogs that may have breathing issues related to their conformation, so those are breeds such as the Pug and Shih Tzu.
  • Harnesses come in a vast range of sizes, so it may also be easier to find the right fit for an extra small or an extra large dog. Some, such as the Perfect Fit harness, come in a modular design with three separate sections. This means that you could combine a small front section with a medium girth and a small base section if that is what is needed for your dog.

Harness Disadvantages

  • First off, harnesses are not an alternative to teaching your dog to walk a loose lead. Even those designed to reduce pulling are unlikely to eliminate it completely. Remove the no-pull harness and your dog will be pulling again.
  • Secondly, harnesses need to be fitted correctly. Too loose and your dog will be able to duck out of it and be free. Too tight and it is going to be uncomfortable for your four legged friend. More recently, there has been a concern that some harnesses which have a band across the dog's chest can restrict their movement and affect how they walk.
  • Unlike collars, harnesses need to be removed after each walk. If left on, they may cause chaffing under the dog's legs.

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Switching gears, collars are available in a vast range of designs and materials, with all pet stores stocking a good number of choices for the dog owner. Looking for something different? Websites such as Etsy provide a showcase for designers of personalized collars for your best friend.

Collar Types

Flat Collars

A traditional and straightforward option. The perfect choice for the dog who already walks well on a loose leash and they provide the attachment needed to secure ID tags. However, the escape artists will find it really easy to slip out of and if your dog is reactive, then it can be difficult to redirect or turn them if they only have a flat collar on.

Martingale Collars

Aside from the traditional collar, there is also the martingale collar. This is sometimes known as a half check collar. These collars do tighten when pulled, but with only part of the collar being adjustable. It can only tighten to a certain point avoiding a choking effect. With the wide range of adjustment, it means dogs such as sight hounds who have necks the same size or larger than their heads can be walked safely without the collar coming off.

Collars Designed to Choke and Inflict Pain

This last category is mentioned but not recommended. Teaching your dog how to walk a loose lead can take time, but it is an investment that will pay off throughout your dog's life as you get out and enjoy walks together. Any collar which is designed to cause pain runs the very real risk of damaging the relationship that you have developed with your dog and causing them physical injury.

Collar Advantages

  • Collars are a comfortable and secure way to keep ID tags and any required licenses on your dog at all times. Put on the collar and it can stay there, no need to remove after each walk.
  • Most puppies quickly get used to the sensation of having a collar on and adult dogs rarely seem to notice they are wearing a simple flat buckle collar.

Collar Disadvantages

  • Some dogs can become experts at ducking out of their collars; broad necked or small headed dogs have a higher risk of escape.
  • Collars are known to cause thyroid or trachea damage to dogs who pull on the leash. Collars push on the throat right in the area of the thyroid gland.
  • While collars can generally be left on, extra caution is needed for dogs who play flight to ensure that neither dog becomes hooked onto anything nor gets caught in the other dog's jaws.

We Have Reached the end of Our Walk

So, there is no one right answer in the collar versus harness debate. Carefully consider what your individual dogs needs are and steer clear of anything designed to cause pain. If you need some tips on ensuring walks are enjoyable for both you and your dog, seek out the help of a qualified and experienced trainer.