Imagine for a moment that you’re a cute little doggo. You can’t wait for your favorite time of the day – walk time! You see your human getting your leash ready and you’re brimming with excitement thinking about going outside and exploring the world. But then, instead of putting your usual collar on you, they slip a harness over your head. A whole new world!
What would be your preference – to trek into new harness territory or stick to your familiar collar? The truth is, there are many pros and cons when it comes to choosing between each walking accessory.
The best choice depends on dog breeds and sizes, such as massive adult dogs or toy breeds. It also depends on how well your pupper has done with leash training in general.
Let’s take a closer look at each option to decide what is best for your special doggerino.
Is It Better to Use a Harness or a Collar?
In general, harnesses are better for dogs than collars, since they reduce pressure on your dog’s neck. This can be helpful for dogs with flat faces or thick necks, such as French bulldogs or Boston terriers.
Pups with breathing issues and dogs that regularly lunge on their leash could be seriously hurt.
However, it’s best to have a customized solution for your furry friend. Read on for some pros and cons on dog collar vs harness.
The Pros of Using a Dog Collar
Walking dogs with collars has been the traditional method for years and here are a few reasons why:
Collars Are Affordable: People mainly use collars to walk dogs over harnesses is because they’re more affordable. You can find a decent collar for around $15, or even less on sale.
Collars Are Portable: Another advantage of dog collars is that they’re small and easy to transport. You can easily slip a collar into your pocket or bag before heading out for a walk.
Collars Don’t Restrict Movement: If your dog likes to run and play, a collar might be the better option. This won’t restrict its movement like a harness can. He will appreciate being on a “loose leash”!
Collars Are Great For ID Tags: Dogs should have some form of identification, and all collars are designed to easily attach ID tags. This immediately lets anyone who finds your pup know how to get in touch with you.
The Cons of Using Dog Collars
There are some drawbacks to dog collars that you should be aware of before making your purchase:
Collars Can Cause Neck Injuries: One downside of dog collars is that they can put too much pressure on your dog’s neck, which can lead to injuries over time. This is more likely to happen with small dogs who have delicate necks.
Collars Can Fall Off: Another con is that they can fall off if your doggie wriggles out of them or it isn’t tight enough. And if a dog does this once, he may learn how to pull the same trick in the future.
Collars Aren’t Ideal for Dogs That Pull: If your dog likes to pull, a collar can actually make the problem worse by choking them when they do.
The Pros of Using a Dog Harness
So maybe a harness might be the better choice for your furry friend, but what exactly are the benefits?
Even Distribution: Walking a dog with a harness can help distribute the force of a leash better than a collar. If your dog likes to pull on his leash, a harness will give you more control and make walks more enjoyable for both of you.
Great for Dog Training: Harnesses can also be helpful when training as they provide better control if your dog pulls. By attaching the leash to the front of the harness, you can redirect your dog’s attention back to you when they start to pull. This is especially for dog owners going through puppy training.
A More Comfortable Fit: harnesses sometimes come with a mesh lining that makes them more comfortable to your doggo when it gets too hot on walks or hikes.
Less Likely to “Slip Out”: It’s happened to us all before; that terrifying moment when the collar is too loose, your stubborn pupperino is tossing his head back and forth, and suddenly he’s slipped out of the collar and is running away. If you have a Houdini-esque dog, a harness might be a better option, since it’s more difficult for them to wiggle out of it.
The Cons of Using Dog Harnesses
You might be thinking that this dog collar vs harness debate is moot and that the latter sounds like the perfect solution. Here are a few disadvantages to consider as well:
Dog Harnesses Can Pinch Dogs: If the harness is too tight, it can actually pinch your dog’s skin around the legs and cause discomfort. This is especially true for dogs with short hair, as the harness can rub against their skin and irritate it.
If the harness is too small, it can actually put pressure on your dog’s shoulders and cause pain. Make sure you can slip a finger or two under the harness straps to ensure a comfortable fit.
Harnesses Can Be Hot: Another downside of dog harnesses is that they can make your pup hot in the summer months. If you live in a warm climate or are going to be doing a lot of walking in the heat, make sure the harness helps them stay cool. Otherwise a collar might be the better option.
Harnesses Can Be Tricky to Put On: Putting a harness on a wiggly pupper can be tricky, especially if they don’t like things going over their head. In this case, it might be best to try a different style or size or even a collar.
Harnesses Can Be Expensive: Depending on the style and quality, harnesses can be more expensive than collars. If you’re on a budget, a collar might be the better option for you.
Do Dogs Need Collars if They Have a Harness?
The short answer is: no, your dog does not need a collar if she has a harness. In fact, in some cases, it might be better for your doggie to only wear a harness. However, in some situations, having a dog harness and collar is a good idea.
For example, when we bring Indy to a dogsitter, she’d wear both a collar with ID tags and a harness. This way, if she somehow manages to escape without her harness on, she will still have ID tags on in case she gets lost.
Should You Leave a Dog Harness on All the Time?
No, you should not leave a dog harness on all the time. Just like with collars, it’s important to give your pup a break from their harness to avoid skin irritation.
When you’re not using it, store the harness in a safe place where your pup can’t get to it. We like to hang Indy’s harness on a hook on the back of our door, so that it’s handy and detangled.
Is a Collar or Harness Better For a Puppy?
Flat collars are a great solution for your young pup. This helps them get used to the feeling of it as well as makes sure the tags are proudly displayed.
However, a harness helps to align your puppy’s body and direct their attention best.
It’s a good idea to use both at first, so after a while you can determine which is best for your dog.
Best Harnesses and Collars for Your Dog
Now it’s time for you to test these bad boys out! Here are my top recommendations so you can make your informed decision in this dog collar vs harness battle:
This light-up collar is a fun choice and also a great safety precaution. Both the collar and a separate leash come with embedded LED lights that will make your pup visible when walking outside in the dark.
Check out our detailed post about walking your dog at night here.
These bright & high visibility, lighted dog collars are the must-have accessory for safer night walking. They're also weatherproof and come in 6 colors & 6 sizes, to fit your doggie's neck and sense of style.
This high-quality harness is easy to take on and off, making it a great tool for any pup going on its first few harness walks. It’s also nicely padded and has reflective material that can help keep your furry friend safer after dark.
This reflective, no-pull dog harness is fitted with 2 leash clips, it's adjustable and has soft padding for a comfortable pupperino. It's the necessary accessory for safer night walks when you'd rather use a harness than a collar.
Some owners are worried that a dog collar isn’t as comfortable or durable as a harness, but this one from ROAM is different. It’s made of premium double-layered nylon and also has a quick-release buckle for safety.
This harness has the martingale loop, which is a great training tool for pups that pull on the leash. This front clip harness applies gentle pressure around their chest and shoulders when they start to tug, which will train them not to pull as hard.
This PetSafe Easy Walk No Pull Dog Harness is ideal to help your dog to stop pulling and choking when you go on walks. It's fitted with a Martingale front clip, it was created by a veterinary behaviorist and is trusted by a million dog parents and trainers each year.
So… dog collar or harness?
So, what’s the verdict? If you’re still undecided about dog collar vs harness, consider your pupper’s individual needs and personality. There’s no right or wrong answer – it all comes down to what works best for the two of you. Make sure to try out a few different options to see what your doggie likes best.
For a whole lot of collar alternatives, check out this article from The Humane Society of the United States.
Happy dog walking! 🐾