There are a lot of different options out there for collars and harnesses for walking your dog. To choose the best one for your dog take into account your dog’s shape and size as well as their level of leash manners.
What to Look for in a Collar or Harness
- Constructed of high-quality materials that won’t stretch out or break
- Well-fitted so your dog can’t slip out of it.
- Does not cause your dog pain, discomfort, or harm.
Flat collars are the standard collars for dogs that consist of a flat strip of fabric with a buckle or snap closure and are the most common thing dog owners use for walks. Flat collars tend to be easy for dogs to back out of and don’t do anything to discourage your dog from pulling.
All neck collars, including flat collars, put pressure on your dog’s trachea and cervical vertebrae if the dog pulls, if you jerk the leash, or if you’re using a retractable leash. This can cause breathing difficulties as well as tension and micro trauma. While all dogs should be taught loose leash walking and the handler should avoid jerking the leash and not use a retractable leash, neck collars make it easy for accidental damage to occur.
Martingale collars are similar to flat collars but have an additional loop of material that allows the collar to tighten around the dog’s neck when the dog pulls. When properly adjusted, this prevents the dog from slipping out of his collar without tightening so much that it chokes them.
While they do do a good job of preventing a dog from escaping, martingale collars still have the issue of potential damage to your dog’s neck and they don’t really do anything in the way of discouraging pulling.
Choke And Prong Collars
Many veterinarians, dog trainer, and other pet professionals recommend against using a choke or prong collar on your dog. These types of collars do prevent dogs from slipping out and can be used to train your dog not to pull, but the intent of these collars is to cause your dog pain. At best they are an unpleasant experience for your dog, at worse they can lead to aggressive behavior or seriously injure your dog. With so many other options for keeping your dog secure and teaching them to walk politely on leash that won’t cause your dog any trauma, there is no reason to use a choke or prong collar to walk your dog.
Head collars are similar to the halters that horses wear. Head collars have two straps one that goes high around the dog’s neck just behind their ears and another that goes over their muzzle, and the leash is a attached to the bottom of the muzzle strap. Head collars are very effective at preventing pulling. If your dog tries to pull when wearing a head collar, their head is pulled down and they do not have the leverage to be able to pull the full weight of their body. Not all dogs enjoy the feeling of a head collar on their face, and it can take some time and desensitization training for them to become accustomed to it. Head collars can be easy for dogs to slip out of, so you should always use a coupler to attach the head collar to your dog’s neck collar, or better yet, harness, to prevent your dog from being able to get loose.
If you want to avoid putting pressure your dog’s neck, a harness is a logical choice. Harnesses are also much harder for the average dog to slip out of than most collars. Most harnesses that you’ll find at your local pet supply store have a ring on the back to attach the leash to. Since a dog’s shoulders are stronger than their neck, dogs have an easier time pulling in these back-clip harness than they would in a collar. Therefore, for your safety as well as your dog’s safety, it’s very important to teach your dog how to walk loosely on a leash instead of allowing them to pull in their harness.
Often called no-pull harnesses, front-clip harnesses actually discourage your dog from pulling. As the name implies, you clip the leash to the front of the harness. Having the clip on the front of the harness gives your dog less leverage for pulling; if your dog tries to pull, they’ll be turned back toward you instead. If you use a front-clip harness, be sure to get one that places the front clip high on the dog’s chest rather than one that comes into contact with his forelimbs, as these can cause your dog discomfort in his front legs when walking and may lead to repetitive strain injuries.
What kind of collar or harness do you find works best for walking your dog?