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Collar vs Harness: What is best?

I bet you have been given a million different answers on what people feel is the best equipment to walk your dog on. Ultimately it boils down to what you and your dog feel most comfortable on but here are a few pointers to help you decide.

 

Unfortunately, there isn’t any equipment that magically stops pulling on the lead. Some equipment may give you more control than others but this is more of a personal opinion. If a piece of equipment is preventing the dog from pulling then the likelihood is it is causing a level of discomfort which could be stressful for your dog. This may then lead to your dog associating things outside the house such as dogs or people with something negative. The only way to stop pulling on the lead is to train your dog. It is much nicer to teach them that opting to walk nicely is rewarding and enjoyable rather than them being worried about the consequences of pulling.


Harnesses distribute the pressure better across your dog's chest which makes it less painful for them to pull on the lead but it doesn’t make them any more likely to pull. You can teach a dog to walk nicely on the harness just as easily as on the collar. Harnesses are often harder to escape from as they have additional straps and multiple attachment points means you can increase your level of control with a double-ended lead. They are also easier to grab if you’re out hiking or need to catch your dog. However, they can be trickier to get the perfect fit with and they can also cause matting in longer dogs fur.

 

There is actually some science to help with your decision too.

 

Collars have been found to cause a significant increase in the dog’s intraocular (eye) pressure compared to harnesses particularly if the dog is already suffering from a pre-existing eye condition. Another study also concluded that no collar that they tested can provide a low enough pressure on the dog’s neck not to cause injury if the dog pulls or receives a lead jerk either from the dog itself or from the handler. The pressure applied to the neck was much higher than values known to cause tissue damage and death in humans. However, both Y-fronted and T-shaped harnesses have been found to restrict forelimb movement but it is unknown what effect this could have long term.

 

The science also concludes currently that there are no differences in stress behaviours for dogs walked on a collar vs a harness.

 

My Personal Opinion

I think if the dog is trained to walk nicely on the lead, it doesn’t matter whether the dog is walked on a collar or a harness. If using a collar, I prefer a thicker band to distribute any pressure more widely.

For a dog that is still learning to walk nicely on the lead or for certain breeds with known neck/back issues or issues with the respiratory system, eye or brain pressure then I think a properly fitted Y-fronted harness is the safest option.




Here are the full paper references in case anyone wishes to read further:

Carter, A., Mcnally, D. and Roshier, A. (2020) Canine collars: an investigation of collar type and the forces applied to a simulated neck model. Veterinary Record.

Grainger, J., Alison, P., Wills, V. and Montrose, T. (2016) The behavioral effects of walking on a collar and harness in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 14, 60-64

Lafuente, M. P., Provis, L. and Schmalz, E. A. (2018) Effects of restrictive and nonrestrictive harnesses on shoulder extension in dogs at walk and trot. Veterinary Record.

Shih HY, Phillips CJC, Mills DS, Yang Y, Georgiou F, Paterson MBA. (2021) Dog Pulling on the Leash: Effects of Restraint by a Neck Collar vs. a Chest Harness. Front Vet Sci. 

 

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