• By: Laura Lynn O’nan, Humane Education Coordinator

Collars or Harness?

Just as people do, dogs come in a variety of shapes and sizes with varying needs and personalities. When it comes to taking your dog on a walk, it is important to know what equipment works best for them. A simple collar may work for one dog, but another dog may need a harness.

There are three things to consider when choosing what kind of walking equipment will be best for your dog: training and behavioral goals, the size and conformation of your dog, and any medical conditions that impact your dog’s ability to use a typical collar or harness.

The collar is the most commonly used type of walking equipment for dogs. They are relatively inexpensive to buy making them a top sold dog accessory. They come in many colors and designs. Some have sparkles and jewels, where others are more basic. Before purchasing a collar based on its looks, you must first consider if it’s right for your dog. Some breeds of dogs have larger necks than heads, making them a bad candidate for a traditional collar. It will simply slip off their head if they were to back away from you and pull. An energetic dog may not be suited for a collar either. Their excitement may cause them to jump and pull against the collar, which puts too much strain on their neck, restricting the airway and risking an injury.

Although a properly fitting dog collar can be used for control, a harness is often a better option, especially for energetic dogs. A harness can be more comfortable for your dog, because it distributes pressure evenly around the dog’s body. It can provide control for excited dogs or dogs that lean against the lead. In addition, certain breeds of dogs with short muzzles are prone to breathing problems and benefit from a harness, because it won’t restrict their airway if they pull on the lead.

Whether your dog wears a collar or a harness, there are still a few things to consider while shopping. You don’t want a fit too loose or too snug. Well-fitting gear keeps your dog safe by your side and free of any irritation. You should be able to fit your index and middle finger comfortably yet snugly between the equipment and the dog. A harness or collar that is too tight can dig into the dog’s skin resulting in sores. If it’s too loose your dog could slip out and run off. Also consider the material a collar is made of. Breathable material to prevent chafing and soreness on your dog’s neck is best. If you notice any irritation, check with your vet to determine if the material is irritating your dog due to an allergy, or if the collar or harness is fitted properly.

One option is not better than the other. Colors and designs may be distracting, but don’t let them steer you away from what is best for your dog. Be open to trying new things in order to fit your pup with the gear that works for you both. If you need help picking out a new harness or collar or a new dog, contact us at manager@woodfordhumane.org, or call 859.873.5491.

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