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Harness Vs. Collar: Which One to Use?

If you’re researching information for a new dog or are just curious about the differences between harnesses and collars, look no further. There seems to be an abundance of products, tips, and advice all about getting your dog to walk well.

Who knew something so natural could be such a point of disagreement amongst dog owners? Overall, everyone agrees that a well-trained dog who doesn’t pull on their leash or get tangled up by moving sideways during a walk is a much more pleasant dog to walk than the opposite.

However, many owners think that the simple purchase of a special harness or choke collar will solve all their problems, and that’s not the case. Good habits and training with positive reinforcement and lots of repetition are needed to get your puppy or untrained adult dog on the road to walking success.

So what are harnesses and collars good for?

Collars: Pros Vs. Cons

A collar is a classic dog accessory that isn’t just used for walking. Whether or not you choose to walk your dog with a collar, all dogs should wear some form of identification every day, all day, and a collar is an easy way to do that. If someone finds your dog wandering the town, the first thing they will check for is a collar with a tag and contact information. Because of this, we highly recommend getting a good collar and tag for your dog.

Beyond identification, there are some cons to using a collar when walking your dog, especially if they are untrained. First, a collar can easily slip over your dog’s head when they are struggling with following the leash, which is bad on two fronts - first, because your dog is now loose, and second, because they are without identification.

A collar may also be a bad idea because it can cause throat and breathing issues, especially for dogs already prone to that. When they pull on their leash and collar, a lot of pressure is placed on their airways, which can have long-lasting consequences. Small dogs have also been known to become injured when well-meaning owners jerk their leashes too hard on walks.

Harnesses: Pros Vs. Cons

That leads us to the next option - a harness. Harnesses have become extremely popular amongst dog owners and there are a variety of styles to choose from, from fashionable to reflective. Harnesses attach to the leash either on the dog’s chest or on their back.

Harnesses are popular for all the reasons that collars are not recommended. A dog cannot slip out a properly worn harness and they will not injure their neck and airways pulling on the leash.

Owners also like harnesses for training their dogs to walk because they force the dog to walk alongside their owner as opposed to pulling and straining at a leash and collar. Granted, it may still take some patience and work to teach your rambunctious pup to follow your lead, but a harness cuts out a lot of the encouragement to pull that a collar brings.

There are other small reasons a harness can be recommended - if you have an elderly dog that can use some help when they stand, you can assist that motion but lifting up on their torso via the harness. A harness offers a much bigger area for reflective materials while walking your dog in the evenings.

Which One to Choose?

Most experts would agree that a harness would be the best choice for a dog learning to calmly walk with their owners. It keeps the dogs secure, under control, and in a place to learn to follow rather than dominating the walk.

Ideally, a harness could just be a tool to train your puppy or dog to walk - eventually, you may find that your dog doesn’t strain at the leash on walks, and you could trust them enough to simply walk alongside you on a collar and leash.

Walking is the skill you never knew you’d have to teach your dog, but it is one that can reap many benefits if special care and attention are given to the skill. Many owners think that a choke-style collar could be effective in teaching their large dog to walk calmly, but we think there are more gentle, positive ways to teach your dog to walk, and a harness can be an important tool in that process.

Now that we’ve helped make that decision, it’s time to go shopping! If you have a larger dog, we recommend a strong harness where the leash attaches in front over the chest. If you have a smaller dog, a back attachment for the leash is generally recommended.

Once you’ve chosen the proper gear, you’re ready to launch on the learning to walk experience with your dog! A little patience and repetition will go a long way in helping walks become one of your favorite parts of the day - and we think it’ll become your dog’s favorite part too!

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