​Dog Collars and Harnesses

Dog Harness November 22, 2021

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​Dog Collars and Harnesses

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Whether you have a new puppy or a senior dog, you’re probably always on the lookout for a good collar or harness. Although we use these items all the time with our dogs, they are often something we tend to take for granted. Fortunately, there are many good collars and harnesses available today for any kind of activity you plan to do with your dog. Here’s a look at some of the different kinds of collars and harnesses you can find.

​What kind of collar or harness is best for you and your dog?

As with dog leashes and many other items you need for your dog, there is a wide variety of collars and harnesses from which to choose. How do you know which one is best for your dog?

Material: As with leashes, collars and, to a lesser extent, harnesses, come in a variety of materials. You can find collars made in leather, nylon, and chain. Harnesses are mostly made from nylon. Leather is often the most comfortable material, especially if it is good quality. It will soften with wear and generally lasts a long time. Nylon can also be good quality and durable. Chain collars are long lasting but they are not recommended for continuous wear. Not only can they rub your dog’s skin and coat but there is often a risk of the collar catching on something and unintentionally choking your dog – more so than with the other materials.

Cost: In terms of cost, good quality leather collars are often the most expensive. Nice nylon collars are easy to find and don’t usually cost too much. Chain collars are usually fairly inexpensive unless you are buying a specialized collar for training.

Comfort: Leather and nylon collars are typically the most comfortable as long as they fit correctly. A chain collar can be comfortable for your dog but as mentioned above, they are not recommended for full-time wear.

Durability: Chain collars are the most durable since they are metal. Nylon collars are also durable though they can become frayed around the edges. Leather collars are also durable. Both nylon and leather collars can be tempting for dogs to chew.

Style: Leather collars are available in flat or rolled styles. Nylon collars come in a variety of styles such as reflective, adjustable, plain/flat, and breakaway. Chain collars are most often slip chains – useful for training purposes. There are also prong collars and pinch collars which can look cruel but actually spread the pull of the leash around the collar instead of concentrating it in one place. They are used for training or for large dogs that pull on the leash a lot. If you are unsure how to use one of these collars it’s best to work with a trainer.

Purpose: When choosing a collar or harness it helps to keep your purpose in mind. A good leather or nylon collar are good choices for walking your dog. Nylon is a good choice for daily walks. Some people prefer leather especially for large dogs. For clicker training, most trainers recommend a comfortable nylon collar. For leash training either a nylon collar or a chain collar can be used. Chain collars are useful for quick leash corrections. Many sporting dogs wear orange nylon collars in the field since blaze orange is supposed to warn hunters not to shoot in that direction.

​Special collars and harnesses

Along with the variety of collars that you can routinely find in stores and online, you can also find martingales and harnesses.

A martingale looks like a collar at the front of the dog’s throat but it has side rings that form a loop around the back of the dog’s neck. This can give the owner slightly more control over the dog. Martingales are usually made of nylon or nylon and chain. The leash attaches to the back of the martingale. These collars are normally used on smaller dogs. They are an alternative to a choke chain collar.

Harnesses are very popular with some owners, depending on the dog. They can be a good choice for small to medium-sized dogs, especially if you have a dog that is uncomfortable wearing a collar that pulls on the throat. A harness puts pressure on the dog’s chest instead of the neck.

You can also find something called a Greyhound collar though you don’t have to have a Greyhound to use this kind of collar. These collars are extra wide and comfortable. Many of them are made like martingales. They are a good choice for any dog, even very large dogs, that have a sensitive throat.

​Collar or harness?

You may be wondering whether you should buy a collar or harness for your dog. There are pros and cons for both collars and harnesses.

Collars pros and cons

Pros

  • Collars are ideal for keeping ID tags and rabies tags around your dog’s neck

  • There is a wide selection of different kinds of collars for different dogs

  • Collars give you good control and don’t require a lot of physical strength when you walk your dog, depending on your dog’s size

  • Many trainers recommend that you start leash training a puppy with a four-foot leash and flat collar using positive reinforcement

  • Collars are very easy to put on and take off; plus they are comfortable for most dogs, look nice, and most of them last a long time

Cons

  • If a collar is too loose a dog can wriggle out of it and escape. This is especially likely to happen with dogs that have heads that are slimmer than their necks

  • If a collar is too loose it can be painful for your dog

  • Pulling on a collar too much can cause your dog back pain, damage the throat, or lead to other discomfort

​Harnesses pros and cons

Pros

  • Harnesses can be more comfortable for some dogs

  • It’s harder for a dog to slip out of a harness

  • A harness can be a good choice for a puppy that hasn’t learned how to walk on a leash yet

  • A harness can help avoid throat damage and other injury for a small dog that pulls or tugs at the leash

  • Harnesses can help prevent the dog’s leash from getting wrapped around the dog’s legs

  • Harnesses can discourage pulling if you use a harness with a front clip

  • If your dog has tracheal collapse, a harness is a better choice

  • A harness is a good choice for dogs with back pain

Cons

  • ​Harnesses can be harder to put on and remove than collars
  • You may need more physical strength when walking your dog in a harness than with a traditional dog collar if you have a larger dog

  • If the harness is too big your dog may be able to wriggle out and escape

  • If the harness is too tight it can be painful for your dog

  • Harnesses can be uncomfortable in hot weather

  • Harnesses that have hooks on the back can encourage your dog to pull which is an undesirable behavior

You may find that you and your dog need more than one collar and/or harness for different activities. Your dog will also grow from the time he’s a puppy to an adult so he will need a larger collar or harness as he gets bigger. It’s a good idea to choose less expensive collars and harnesses while your puppy is young and growing and wait until he is an adult to splurge on more expensive items. There are lots of attractive collars and harnesses so there’s never a shortage!

A harness is often a good choice for a small dog or a dog that pulls a lot. Collars can be a better choice for larger dogs. Whichever choice you make, remember that teaching your dog to walk politely wearing a collar OR a harness, with a leash, is always important for safety reasons.

Carlotta Cooper is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine DN Dog News. She's the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, a Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) award winner. In addition, she is an American Kennel Club Gazette breed columnist and the author of several books about dogs. She has been reviewing pet foods and writing about dog food for more than 10 years.
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