- Harnesses are usually the best choice for walking dogs because they don’t put pressure on the neck.
- But collars are generally more comfortable and have a place to hold an ID tag.
- You should use a harness and not a collar if you have a dog prone to breathing issues (like a pug).
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
No matter what type of dog you have, one thing’s for sure: They need to go out on walks. The two types of leash attachments that you can use are harnesses and collars.
Whether you just got a new dog and aren’t sure which to use or you are looking to switch things up, it’s important to know the pros and cons for both dog harnesses and collars before making a decision.
The pros and cons of dog harnesses
A harness straps around your dog’s chest.
Pros of harnesses
Harnesses reduce pulling: Harnesses cover the dog’s chest, shoulders, and upper back, which disperses pressure over a larger surface area than a collar giving you better control over your dog, says Carly Fox, DVM, Staff Doctor at New York City’s Animal Medical Center.
The 4 best no-pull harnesses recommended by dog trainers, walkers, and rescuers
To reduce pulling even further, you can use a no-pull harness. “When the dog pulls, the tension on the leash causes them to turn back toward the owner. Dogs cannot move forward unless they slow down,” says Travis Arndt, DVM, director of the Animal Medical Center of Mid-America.
Harnesses do not put pressure on your dog’s neck: Since harnesses fasten over the dog’s chest and not around the neck, they do not put pressure on the trachea.
The best dog harnesses in 2021, according to professional dog trainers
This makes them ideal for pets that have neck problems, a collapsing trachea, or restricted airways, says Arndt. A harness can also help prevent these issues from arising.
Harnesses tend to be more secure: Harnesses are generally better at preventing accidents because they fasten more securely around your dog’s body. While dogs can easily slip out of their collars and potentially run into traffic or another person’s yard, harnesses offer much more security and safety, says Fox.
Cons of harnesses
Harnesses are less convenient: A collar can just slip on, but harnesses take more time to fasten.
Harnesses may not have a place for an ID tag: Some harnesses don’t have a place to carry a tag. It’s best to get a harness with a ring for a tag—or use both a collar with a tag and a harness when out walking.
Harnesses can be uncomfortable: Harnesses are bulkier than collars, so they can be more uncomfortable for your dog. Some dogs really don’t like wearing harnesses, so it can take time for them to get used to walking with one.
When you should use a harness
There are a few situations where you should absolutely be using a harness over a collar. Fox says four situations you should use a harness in are:
- If your dog is a brachycephalic breed: Brachycephalic breed dogs typically have flatter faces and, as a result, respiratory issues that may be better managed with a harness. French Bulldogs and Bulldogs, are two examples.
- If your dog has a history of tracheal collapse: This is a medical condition where the trachea will fold in on itself causing trouble breathing and a cough. Don’t use a collar because it applies further pressure and can worsen the condition.
- If you have a breed with risk factors for spinal problems: Long-bodied breeds such as dachshunds are very prone to slipped disks, a condition called intervertebral disc disease or (IVDD). Taking pressure off the neck and back by using a harness can help prevent further damage.
- If you have a large dog with a history of orthopedic disease: Dogs with orthopedic disease can have a hard time getting up to walk so a harness can help you get them up and move around more easily. The pros and cons of collars
The pros and cons of collars
A collar is worn around the dog’s neck.
Tara Gregg / EyeEm/Getty Images
Pros of collars
Collars are more convenient: The main benefit of collars is that they can be left on at all times, says Fox, as opposed to a harness, which should only be worn during walks.
The best dog collars of 2021
And even if you choose not to leave your dog’s collar on at all times, it’s still much easier to snap a collar on and off than a harness.
Collars hold ID tags: Collars typically come with a metal ring where you can attach your pet’s ID tag with your address and/or phone number in case the dog gets lost.
Cons of collars
Collars are not safe for dogs with certain medical issues: Avoid using collars to walk dogs with medical issues such as glaucoma, a history of proptosed eye, neck injuries, or spinal malformations, says M. Leanne Lilly, DVM, DACVB, Assistant Professor of Behavioral Medicine, Veterinary Clinical Sciences, at The Ohio State University.
She says you should check with your vet to see if your dog is healthy for a collar.
Collars are not safe for dogs that pull: If your dog constantly pulls against their collar, they can injure themselves or reduce the airflow they are getting. “All collars, when attached to a leash, create pulling on the trachea and vertebrae of the neck. With excessive pulling there is a risk of reducing airflow into the dog or creating pain by causing pressure on the pet’s vertebrae,” says Arndt.
Collars should not be used by certain breeds: Collars should not be used on toy breeds and brachycephalic breeds, says Arndt. Examples of toy breeds:
- Chinese Crested
- Italian Greyhound
- Toy Poodle
- Yorkshire Terrier
Examples of brachycephalic breeds:
- French Bulldogs
- Boston Terriers
When you should use a collar
A collar may be more convenient to use if you’re going on a short walk or stepping outside quickly. It is okay to go on longer walks using a collar if your vet gives you the green light to do so.
Whether you use a harness or a collar for your dog depends on your dog’s health, and ultimately, your vet’s recommendation. Be sure to consult your vet to have a clear answer on which you should use to make sure that you keep your dog as healthy and safe as possible.
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