Many dog owners face a dilemma when choosing between collar and harness. Dogs would prefer if they would not have to wear neither collar nor harness but unfortunately, that is not an option. Both collar and harness have their advantages and disadvantages and might potentially harm your dog. In addition, there are several different types of collars and harnesses making the decision even harder.
Both collar and harness have the same purpose – to attach the dog on a leash but there is a big difference in control of the dog. The majority of cytologists agree that collars provide better control over the dog than harnesses, especially if the dog is reactive. However, a collar worn around the neck might not be appropriate for dogs that pull on the leash because the pressure is put on the neck muscles and dog’s spine which can cause serious injuries. Collars are also not appropriate for dogs with trachea problems.
A head halter, going around the back of the neck and over the snout might be more appropriate for dogs that pull on the leash because it prevents the dog to pull with full strength. Head halter also provides control over the dog without putting pressure on the neck but despite that it can cause serious neck injury if the dog suddenly jerks or pulls to one side. In order to prevent injuries a head halter should be used in combination with a collar or a harness.
Harness, consisting of two strips fitted around the chest and behind the front legs distributes the pressure more evenly when the dog pulls. Use of harness is particularly recommendable for puppies, smaller breeds and dogs with trachea problems. Harnesses are believed to be more comfortable to wear than collars but they are problematic in dogs that pull on the leash, especially larger breeds. It is recommendable to use both collar and harness for reactive dogs and in situations when control might be a safety issue.
Whether you choose a collar or a harness it is highly important that it fits to your dog. To make sure you get a properly sized collar (especially if purchasing online) rather add two or three inches to the length around your dog’s neck. For the perfect fit, make sure you are able to slip two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck and make sure you choose proper width. If being unable to slip two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck the collar is too tight and might obstruct your dog’s breathing. If you can fit more than two fingers between the collar and the dog’s neck the collar is too big and might slip off your dog’s head. If you own a Sighthound or Greyhound you should search for the Martingale Collar.
Choosing a properly sized harness can be a great challenge because harnesses do not follow universal design like collars. If purchasing a harness for the first time you are highly recommended to take your dog to the pet store and ask an employee to help you select a proper harness for your dog.