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Collars, Leashes, and Harnesses for Dogs
Dog collars, harnesses, and leashes may not be the most glamorous accessories in the canine world, but a sturdy collar and leash might be the two most important purchases you ever make for your dog. Sub-par parts and faulty design can spell immediate peril to your companion’s well-being. Whether you’re near a busy intersection, deep in the woods, or training your dog, he’s only one material failure away from losing you. A dependable Orvis dog collar or harness and leash are essential for enjoying a carefree outing with your canine companion. Explore our collection to find the best options for your dog.
Types of Dog Collars
- The Flat Buckle Collar – The most common type of dog collar, the flat buckle consists of a strip of material, usually leather or nylon, with a quick-release clasp or a metal buckle.
- The Martingale Collar – The martingale consists of two loops—one goes around the dog’s neck like a regular collar, and another, smaller loop is situated at the back of his neck and includes a D-ring for leash attachment. The martingale collar tightens against a dog’s neck when he pulls or tries to back out of it. Unlike a conventional metal choke or prong collar, the soft, nylon martingale has a limited tightening range, and thus offers a gentler option for training a dog or correcting undesirable behavior. The martingale should be removed when you can’t supervise your dog, as the loop can catch on an object and cause asphyxiation.
Dog Collar Fasteners: The Side-Release Clip vs. The Buckle
- A clip, or side-release collar has a sturdy plastic clasp that snaps together. The advantages of a clip-style fastener are chiefly convenience and safety—if your dog’s collar catches on an object or becomes entangled with another dog during play, removing the collar is quick and simple.
- A buckle collar secures like a belt buckle; the main advantage of a buckle collar is its security—fasten it, and it’s not going anywhere. But it takes longer to remove in an emergency.
Materials: Leather vs. Nylon Collars
Nylon, or leather—which is the better material for your dog?
The nylon dog collar is most often flat, typically made in woven nylon mesh, and comes in many colors and patterns. Leather collars are typically made from cowhide and come flat or rolled, and often (though not always) fasten with a buckle instead of a side-release clasp.
Nylon is lightweight, incredibly durable, easy to adjust and wash, comfortable for most dogs, and generally costs less than leather. But some dogs are allergic to nylon, and leather outlasts it. Leather breathes; it’s safe, natural, and organic, and the oils in your dog’s coat will help soften and break in his leather collar. Leather is also costlier than nylon, can be a tad more difficult than nylon to keep clean, and for some dogs—especially puppies—makes an appealing chew toy.
How to Clean a Nylon or Leather Dog Collar
Most nylon dog collars are machine washable, but you can also drop the collar into a bowl filled with hot water and a little dog shampoo, and allow it to soak for 10 to 20 minutes. Then scrub it lightly with a soft-bristled brush, rinse it under hot water, and lay it flat to dry.
Check your dog’s leather collar for washing instructions. If you don’t find any, follow these steps: Dip a toothbrush into a bowl of soapy water, or a baking soda and vinegar preparation, and then gently scrub the collar clean. Rinse and blot it right away, and hang it to dry. Avoid soaking a leather collar in water. If you elect to use a commercial leather cleaner, check first to make sure it isn’t toxic for dogs.
Safety Features: Personalized and Reflective Dog Collars
Personalizing your dog’s nylon collar with embroidery or his leather collar with embossing or engraving is the safest bet he’ll find his way home to you should he go missing for this simple reason: The person who finds him is most likely to check his collar for a phone number first. Hang tags and microchipping complete the doggy ID triumvirate, but the personalized collar is the best first line of defense. Our personalized collar is an excellent tool to make sure your pet can always find his way home if you become separated—with your contact information embroidered on his collar, you’re just one phone call away from a happy reunion.
If you walk or run with your dog in the twilight hours, a reflective collar or rechargeable LED collar makes him more visible to passing motorists. Pair these two types of safety collars for maximum visibility.
Types of Dog Leashes
- The Standard Leash – Most often a flat lead made in woven nylon, the standard leash can also be leather or other roped material; it is typically six feet in length and ideal for dog walking.
- The Short Leash – Measuring up to four feet in length, the short leash can be useful for controlling a dog in a crowded urban setting.
- The Longline Leash – Sometimes called a check cord (15 or more feet), this can be a valuable training tool for fieldwork or for practicing instant recalls.
- The Slip Leash – Offers a lead-and-collar-in-one solution and adjusts to fit any size neck; a good option for the dog who pulls habitually. Most professional trainers and handlers prefer this style of leash for the control it offers and the feedback it gives the dog.
Note: If your dog is petite, make sure the leash you choose is sized to match his smaller proportions, and that its clip won’t whap him in the face or jaw.
When to Use a Dog Harness
A harness may be a better choice than a collar for some dogs; we offer convenient step-in designs, rugged, trail-ready harnesses, personalized reflective harnesses, and car-restraint harnesses for travel. Use a dog harness:
- For Training – The dog who jumps or pulls to excess may benefit from wearing a harness with a clip on the chest. Attaching his leash to the front of the harness gives you better control.
- For Health & Safety – A brachycephalic breed (Pug, Boxer, Bulldog, or similar) has a shortened head and snout with a slightly restricted airway. A harness makes a safer option for these breeds because it won’t restrict airflow. For the dog with glaucoma, a conventional collar puts pressure on his airway and on his eyes, potentially accelerating this condition.
- For the Escape Artist – A dog with a narrow head (a Greyhound, for example), or who has a thick neck in relation to his head, can easily escape a collar—when you’re headed outside for an adventure, clip the leash to his harness, and enjoy peace of mind.
- As a Car Restraint – This type of harness is an ideal travel accessory for any dog who routinely rides in the car, and adjusts to fit him comfortably and securely; its accompanying tether attaches to the back of the harness on one end and to the car seat belt system on the other. Bonus: it doubles as a harness for walking once you reach your destination.
- For the Older or Arthritic Dog – A dog harness with the point of attachment at the chest or the back allows you to physically assist a dog with compromised joints, helping him rise, navigate steps, or change direction more comfortably.
Measuring Your Dog for a Harness
Using a cloth measuring tape or a length of twine, and starting at the ridge between his shoulder blades (the withers), draw the tape or string around his chest, just behind his front legs, and back up to his withers on the other side. Pull the tape or string snug, but not tight. Note the measurement. Repeat this two more times—you may get a different measurement each time, but you’ll have a good idea of his girth.
Some harness styles require additional measurements: You may need to obtain the circumference of his neck at its thickest part (just above the withers), or measure from your dog’s neck to the rear of his rib cage.
Avoid using your dog’s weight as the sole metric when you’re determining harness size, as a small breed and large breed can weigh the same but have sharply different chest measurements. The harness should fit snug, but not tight—you should be able to slide two stacked fingers under it, as you would your dog’s collar. It should not fit so loosely that it shifts from side to side, nor so tightly that it pinches or binds when he walks.
Remember: Even if you’ll clip a leash to your dog’s personalized harness for adventures, he’ll still need a conventional collar for his hang tags. Consult your veterinarian for help determining the best option for your dog.
Fashion statement, safety gear, training tool—however you view your dog’s collar, it’s still arguably the single most important piece of equipment you’ll buy for him. It’s the surest way for him to find his way home if he goes missing, if you’ve done your due diligence and added crucial identification to it with personalization. Explore Orvis dog collars, leashes, and harnesses and find the best options in these essential accessories, made to our high standards and yours.