There’s a lot of conflicting info out there that can make being a dog parent really confusing at times! Today we’re tackling a common leash-walking question: is a collar or a harness better? And do harnesses really make your dog pull more? 

Both collars and harnesses have their place, so the short answer is that both are necessary for your dog. First, let’s look at when you may want to use a collar.

  • Collars are the easiest solution for identification of your dog. They usually have a ring for ID tags which can include a customized tag with your phone number, a microchip tag letting anyone who finds your dog know that they are microchipped, or vaccination and city registration tags. If you choose a fabric collar, you can even have your personal information embroidered on to avoid the clinking noise traditional tags cause.
  • Slip or martingale collars are a great tool for loss prevention. If you have a dog who is easily frightened, or has a smaller head, they can back out of a traditional collar. Martingale collars tighten when your dog tries to back out of their collar, and work great for a high flight-risk dog (aka a Houdini escape artist) in conjunction with a harness and safety strap to connect the harness and collar together. 
  • Collars are easy to put on, which can definitely be a bonus with a wiggly high-energy pup. They can also be left on all day, and are more comfortable for your dog to wear for long periods of time. However, keep in mind that collars especially those with tags can get caught in things so you may want to remove them if your dog won’t be supervised (and definitely remove them if they are in a crate)

So why would you want to use a harness instead? 

  • Collars can actually cause harm to your dog! Toy (very small dog breeds) and brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds should always be walked on harnesses. Harnesses prevent back pain and throat damage. 
  • Harnesses are better for strong pullers. If a dog pulls often on a walk, collars tighten on their vertebrae and airways, which can lead to pain and reduced airflow. A collar with a front clip is the most effective for dogs who pull strongly. 
  • Harnesses are safer for dogs that can slip out of collars, but you do want to make sure you have a properly-fitted harness. Too tight and it can cause pinching and discomfort, and too loose and they will still be able to slip out of it. 
  • If your dog suffers from tracheal collapse (a condition where the tracheal rings of cartilage collapse), harnesses offer a safer alternative to collars as they do not put pressure on the neck or throat. 

Generally speaking, harnesses are recommended as a safer option for your dog while also providing more control, but it is a good idea to use a collar in conjunction with a harness. Equally as important is choosing the right harness! Some harnesses can cause as much discomfort as a collar. You want to make sure that the harness doesn’t cause pressure or restrict your pup’s natural movement. Here are some of our favourite harnesses, but remember - each dog’s body shape is unique so what works for one dog might not for another. We recommend going for a Y-shaped harness as this option provides control while still allowing for full freedom of movement.

If you have a short-haired dog and find that harnesses rub, especially in their sensitive area behind their front legs, finding a harness that offers a soft under belly strap is key. The 2 Hounds Freedom Harness has a velvet strap that prevents chafing. 

If you have a high-level escape artist, the Haqihana Double H Harness has a unique design that makes it very hard for any dog to back out of, even those with a long and lean body shape. 

For a good overall harness that isn’t too tough on your wallet, you might want to look at Ruffwear’s line of harnesses. In particular, the Front Range Harness has both a front and a back attachment point and is quite easy to put on. 

Lastly, if you have a dog who is uniquely proportioned, the Blue-9 Balance Harness boasts 6 points of adjustability, more than most other harnesses we’ve seen! This can be especially handy for mixed breed dogs.

Let us know if this blog helped you find the right fitting harness for your pup! 

Stay healthy, stay happy, stay curious #healthygang!

Lots of love,

-The healthybud team