When Is A Dog Harness A Better Choice Than A Collar?

Every dog has his day — and hopefully has a collar, too. Dog collars are the point of attachment not only for a leash, but also for crucial identification and vaccination tags. Often a collar is enough: enough comfort for the pooch and enough control for you. For some animals, though, a collar can be a training hindrance or even a health hazard. Read on to learn when and why a dog harness may be preferable.

When To Use A Dog Harness:

If your dog pulls or jumps excessively:

Front-facing harnesses, sometimes called front-clip harnesses, on which the leash attaches to a hook on the chest, are ideal training tools. Your gentle tugs shift the pup's attention away from the stimulus causing him to leap or lunge. A tightening harness, which also clips in the front, works in a similar fashion, but additionally tightens around the pup's chest when it pulls. These can be effective for particularly stubborn dogs, but also risk causing pain, so check with your vet before using them. (Note also that standard back-clip or back-facing harnesses won't do much to deter pulling.)

If your dog's breed is brachycephalic (or if it has brachycephalic airway syndrome):

That scientific term just means your dog has a shortened head — think pugs, boxers, bulldogs, and the like. The flattened shape of their noggins can slightly restrict airways, leading to that signature snorting, snoring, and noisy breathing. A neck collar puts further strain on their airways and should be avoided.

If your dog's breed is prone to tracheal collapse:

Tracheal collapse is a disease affecting the cartilage in the airway, which can cause the airway to close (listen for an animal's honking cough). The disease usually afflicts toy breeds, especially terriers, though brachycephalic breeds are also prone. Again, neck collars can strain compromised airways.

If your dog has a narrow skull or thick neck:

There's probably no need to tell you about this scenario, as you've likely experienced it: your trusted friend pulls backward and the collar slips right off her head.

If you walk your dog in heavily trafficked areas or in hazardous wild terrain:

Harnesses give you more control when you walk your dog, and they do so with ease and minimal exertion on your part. For this reason, harnesses are often preferred for hiking or running with your dog.

If your dog has glaucoma:

A collar tightened around the neck not only puts pressure on an animal's airway, but also on his eyes. This can exacerbate existing glaucoma or speed its development.

If your dog has arthritis or mobility issues:

A chest or back harness allows you to physically help your dog rise, change direction, or climb stairs with only a gentle tug on her leash.

If your dog spends a lot of time in the car:

Traveling with your dog in a car is exciting for them. But a restless pooch is a danger to the driver, and therefore everyone on the road. Many chest harnesses come with attachments that clip onto existing backseat seatbelts, keeping everyone safe, and providing the comfort of boundaries for the dog as well.

Now that you know how your dog may benefit from a dog harness, it’s important to remember that many dogs simply dislike the feel of a harness. In that case, unless he's in danger without one, keep him in a conventional collar. Even if your pooch doesn't mind the dog harness, if he has excessive or long hair, those flowing locks can get tangled in a harness's straps and clips, compromising his comfort and your own sanity.

Whether you choose a standard dog collar or a dog harness, ensure your pup can always be identified. If you use a harness but remove it indoors, keep your dog in a tagged collar as well, and have him microchipped. You may also consider personalizing the collar or harness with his name and your telephone number. Whether you choose a harness or collar, consider one with reflective bands so she can be seen at night. Consult your vet about the appropriateness of a harness for your puppy.

For some dogs a harness is superfluous, for others it can bring great comfort. For still others a dog harness can prolong life—choose the solution that’s best for your dog.

Shop Dog Collars And Leads

You may also like:

Nylon vs. Leather Dog Collars

How to Hike Safely with Your Dog

Tips for Caring for Your Senior Dog