Giving the discerning dog owner the "upper paw" on the best products, nutrition and training tips.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Collars vs Harnesses: Which is Best?

One of the questions we are often asked is "Which is better?  Collars or harnesses?"  Recently, the trend and preference for many dog owners has been the harness.  However, the real question they should be asking is "Which is better for My Dog?"

Just like people, dogs come in different shapes and sizes with varying needs and personalities.  What works best for one dog may not be ideal for another.  In this issue, we will discuss the pros and cons of collars and harnesses with the hope of better equipping you to make an informed and confident decision when it comes to your dog.

Choosing a collar or harness for your dog depends on 3 things:
1.  Your training and behavioral goals
2.  The size and confirmation of your dog
3.  Any medical conditions impacting your dog


Collars are certainly the most traditional approach when it comes to walking and training dogs.  Most people are familiar with the signature, necklace-like collar, however, collars come in alternate forms like the metal choke collar (not recommended) and the martingale.  We don't necessarily recommend the metal choke collar or its cousin the pinch-prong collar.  These styles can be potentially harmful for your dog and we feel there are more positive ways to train without choking your dog to get his/her attention.  The best options are really your classic collar and martingale.

So, when to use...

If your dog does not pull on leash and has no trachea or respiratory issues, then a collar is a good option for everyday.  Large or small, it really doesn't matter.  The only time a traditional collar is not recommended is for dogs that pull, lunge, or are at risk for tracheal collapse.

Traditional Collar

A martingale, also known as a slip collar or "greyhound collar", is great for dogs that tend to slip out of their collars based on their build.  Martingales function by gently closing around the neck when your dog pulls or backs up.  This allows the collar to be flush with the neck and prevent your dog from slipping out and getting loose.  This type of collar is a popular option for sight hounds, such as Greyhounds, Whippets and Afghan Hounds due to their structure.  The same also applies for dogs with thick necks, such as French bulldogs or pit bulls.  We actually use a fabric martingale on our Japanese Chin, Joey.  He has a thick neck with little to now differentiation between his head and neck, therefore, regular collars tend to slip off very easily.  Additionally, he has long hair that can get potentially tangled or pull in a harness...making the martingale a perfect option.

Martingale on Greyhound


Harnesses are a popular choice for many dog owners today.  This is partly due to misunderstandings with using collars and partly because of increased knowledge and awareness in regards to the impact that pulling and breathing complications can have on your dog.

So, when to use...

Dogs that pull and lunge excessively, are the best candidates for harnesses.  When dogs constantly pull ahead during walks or lunge suddenly, this can put strain on the neck and throat with potentially harmful affects over time.  Aside from pulling on the leash, toy breeds and dogs with short muzzles are also good candidates for harnesses.  Toy breeds, such as toy poodles or chihuahuas, are delicate and a collar can be damaging to their neck.  Breeds with short muzzles, such a pugs, also benefit from harnesses because of their predisposition to breathing complications and tracheal collapse.

So, if your dog meets one or more of the above, then a harness is a preferred option.  Now that you know you need a harness, you will need to decide what type is best for your dog.  Harnesses come in two common styles:  Front-Attaching Harness and Back-Attaching Harness.

For larger dogs, many trainers suggest a Front-Attaching Harness.  This type of harness attaches in the front of the dog between the legs and can offer more control as it gently tightens when the dog pulls and guides from the front.  Harnesses that clasp in the back will leave you with little or no control for a larger dog and may even make the pulling behavior worse as the dog will not feel the guidance necessary to correct pulling behavior.

Front-Attaching Harness

For many toy breeds, a Back-Attaching Harness is preferred.  It does not create the same pressure and tightening affect in the chest as the front-attaching harness would for a large breed dog.  Plus, toy breeds are smaller and more sensitive to pressure, making the front-attaching harness potentially more damaging and painful than effective.

Back-Attaching Harness

Lastly, if a collar or harness are not giving you the optimal blend of restraint and behavioral correction, then a hybrid option is the head halter.  A head halter looks like a fabric muzzle, but is not.  The head halter has a piece of fabric that runs around the back of the head and another strap that goes around the muzzle.

The Gentle Leader Head Halter is the most popular

As you can see, there are a number of options out there and there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to your pup.  We hope you found this post helpful and now have more information on what products will be the best fit for you and your dog.


A & A


  1. something few people know. The area between a dogs front legs is a stimulus area. Rubbing there will increase a dogs aggressiveness and if not neutered or spayed excite them sexually , male or female and increase their desire to dominate (watch dogs play bump and run). Any one who uses harnesses from sled dogs draught dogs and attack dogs is aware of this. A dog in a harness that rubs between the front legs will want to pull to create the stimulating effect. Only people who know how to handle a dog properly trained to perform in a harness should use them. Look carefully at a seeing eye dog, its harness in the chest area is high and does not go between the legs and a sled harness, draught harness and attack dog harness does.

    1. Interesting. But what if your dog is neutered? Does the rubbing still "increase a dog's aggressiveness?"

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  3. I today i am come up again with some interesting article please do read it.Training dog for a leash

  4. Great post! Bringing home a new dog, whether it’s a puppy or an adult, is like bringing home a new baby – you need to be prepared, and you need supplies. So, I was looking for articles on buying dog accessories and then I came across yours inspiring read. Thanks!

  5. Both are good in my view. It can be used anywhere as collars and harness are so stylish now a days and comfortable too.