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Dog Harness Vs. Collar: Which One Should You Use?

Collars and harnesses are both great to have for dogs in different circumstances. However, you might be wondering which is better for your dog. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each so you can decide the right one for you.

Benefits of Collars

Collars are a standard purchase for new dog parents. They’re a great way to make your dog easily identifiable in case they get lost. Here are some of the benefits of collars for dogs:

  • Allows you to attach ID tags or rabies tags around your dog’s neck.
  • Simple backup identification method in case your dog is lost and not yet microchipped.
  • Different styles are available for walking your dog depending on their temperament.
  • Encourages dogs to walk by your side instead of pulling.
  • Can be worn at all times.

Benefits of Harnesses

Harnesses are an excellent option for walking dogs safely and comfortably. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Less strain on your dog’s neck for increased comfort during walks.
  • Prevents your dog from slipping out and escaping.
  • Alleviates back pain by evenly distributing weight across the dog’s chest.
  • Avoid injury for dogs who tug excessively at the leash.
  • Good for dogs who prefer not to wear collars all the time.

Should Your Dog Use a Collar or Harness

A great option is to have your dog wear a comfortable collar at all times and use a harness for walks. The collar allows you to attach ID tags and contact information in case your dog is lost. However, collars have the tendency to cause throat discomfort when used for walks, particularly for dogs who tug on the leash.

If your dog was trained to walk by your side without pulling, this may not be an issue. However, most dogs will tug some amount when out on a walk, and the tension from the collar can be painful or cause injuries.

For walks, a well-fitted harness is a great way to prevent discomfort or injury. You can keep your dog’s collar on all the time, and use their harness as needed to take them out on their daily walks.

If you have a puppy, you may want to leash train them with a collar instead of a harness. Harnesses with a hook on the back can encourage puppies to pull instead of walking by your side.

A good solution is to teach your dog side-by-side leash walking using the hook in their collar and then transition to a harness when their training is complete. A harness that attaches to the leash at the chest instead of the back can also be helpful for preventing dogs from pulling during their walks.

How to Tell if Your Dog’s Harness Fits

When choosing a harness for your dog it’s important to make sure it is the right fit for them. For small dogs, you should be able to fit one finger between your dog’s skin and the harness. For larger dogs, you should be able to fit two fingers.

A properly fitted harness will be much more comfortable for your dog and will reduce any chance of them slipping out if it’s too big or getting injured if it’s too small. You may notice the following with an ill-fitting harness:

  • Chafing or irritation on your dog’s skin where the harness rests.
  • Your dog refuses to walk in the harness.
  • The harness slips around excessively when your dog walks.
  • Your dog is able to wiggle free from the harness.

Just like choosing a crate size for your dog, choosing the right harness size makes a world of difference for your dog’s comfort.

How to Harness Train Your Dog

If you’ve decided that a harness is a good choice for walking your dog, it’s important to train them to use it so that it becomes natural and comfortable for them. Some dogs will take a bit more time to get used to the feel of the harness, especially if they’ve only been trained to walk on a leash attached to their collar.

Step 1: Introduce the Harness

The first step is to give your dog a day or so to get used to their harness. Putting it in their bed or another area that they frequent is a great way to let them check it out and get used to the smell. Just keep an eye on them so they don’t mistake it for a new chew toy!

Step 2: Use Positive Reinforcement

The next step is to get your dog used to the feel of the harness and to have them associate it with positive feelings. Try gently rubbing the harness on your dog’s back and sides and when you do give them their favorite treat. This will show your dog that the harness means good things are coming their way.

Step 3: Make adjustments to the Harness

Once your dog is used to the smell and feel of the harness, you can go ahead and put it on them. Make adjustments as needed according to the tips above about fitting the harness properly. Use lots of treats and verbal praise as you put the harness on your dog.

Step 4: Take it for a Test Run

Once the harness is on, try clipping on the leash and walking around the house with your dog. If they take to it quickly, they’re ready to head outside for their walk. If your dog is uncomfortable, first check that the fit is correct then go back to step 2.

Try slipping the harness on for a few seconds, giving your dog a treat, then taking it off. Repeat this process in short increments throughout the day until your dog is comfortable with wearing the harness.

You may also consider clicker training your dog to help speed this process along. It’s a great positive reinforcement method that can help with harness training. Most dogs will learn that the harness means they get to go out for their walk, which is the ultimate treat. Once they associate the harness with walk time, they should be happy to have it on.

For busy days when you have to cut your dog’s walks short, an Endura pet door is a great way to allow them more exercise and outdoor time throughout the day! National Pet Day is right around the corner, so check out some ways to celebrate like getting your dog a brand-new pet door.

Elizabeth Muenzen

Written by

Content Specialist

Pets: My dog Benji is mixed Yorkie, Poodle, Chihuahua, and MaltiPom (YorkiPooChiMaltiPom?), yet he mysteriously bears no resemblance to any of these breeds.
Fun stuff: I love to cook!

Content Specialist

Pets: My dog Benji is mixed Yorkie, Poodle, Chihuahua, and MaltiPom (YorkiPooChiMaltiPom?), yet he mysteriously bears no resemblance to any of these breeds.
Fun stuff: I love to cook!

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