is a martingale collar better than a harness 4
is a martingale collar better than a harness 4

In the eternal debate of dog training tools, one question remains at the forefront of every pet owner’s mind: Is a martingale collar better than a harness? The answer is not as simple as one might think. While some swear by the superior control and gentle correction of a martingale collar, others argue that a harness offers more comfort and support for their furry friends. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of both options, so you can make an informed decision as to which is best for your beloved canine companion.

What is a Martingale Collar?


A martingale collar is a type of dog collar that is designed to provide gentle control over a dog without causing harm or discomfort. It is commonly used for dogs that tend to slip out of their collars or have neck sensitivity issues. The collar consists of a loop that tightens when the dog pulls, but unlike a choke collar, it has a limited tightening ability to prevent choking.


The design of a martingale collar typically includes a main loop made of nylon or other durable materials, which goes around the dog’s neck. Attached to the main loop is a smaller loop, called the control loop, which is made of chain, fabric, or other materials. The control loop is what tightens when tension is applied, creating a gentle and effective control mechanism.

What is a Harness?


A harness is a type of dog accessory that is designed to fit around a dog’s body, distributing pressure evenly and allowing for greater control. Unlike a collar, which goes around the neck, a harness wraps around the chest and abdomen of a dog. It is often used for training, walking, or restraining dogs, and comes in different styles and designs to suit various needs.


A harness is typically made of strong and durable materials, such as nylon or leather, and is designed to be adjustable to ensure a proper fit for the dog. It consists of multiple straps that wrap around the dog’s body, with a ring or clip at the back where a leash can be attached. Some harnesses also feature additional padding or reflective materials for added comfort and visibility.


There are various types of harnesses available, each designed for different purposes. Some common types include:

  1. Back-clip harness: This type of harness has the leash attachment point located on the back, which offers good control and is suitable for dogs that do not pull excessively.
  2. Front-clip harness: In a front-clip harness, the leash attachment point is located at the front of the dog’s chest. This type of harness helps to discourage pulling by redirecting the dog’s forward motion.
  3. Dual-clip harness: As the name suggests, a dual-clip harness has both a front and back leash attachment point, providing the option to attach the leash to either one for different training or control needs.
  4. No-pull harness: A no-pull harness is specifically designed to discourage pulling by applying pressure on certain areas of the dog’s body when tension is applied to the leash.

Is A Martingale Collar Better Than A Harness?

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Advantages of a Martingale Collar

Gentle Control

One of the main advantages of a martingale collar is that it provides gentle control over a dog’s movements. When the dog pulls, the collar tightens slightly, preventing them from slipping out without causing discomfort or harm. This can be particularly useful for dogs that tend to escape from traditional collars or have a natural tendency to pull.

Prevents Escaping

Martingale collars are specifically designed to prevent dogs from slipping out of their collars, making them a great option for dogs with narrow heads or those who can easily back out of regular collars. The design of the collar ensures that it remains snug around the dog’s neck even when they pull, reducing the risk of escape and keeping them safe and secure.

Better for Breeds with Neck Issues

Certain dog breeds, such as Greyhounds or Whippets, are known to have more sensitive necks and are prone to injuries when using regular collars. Martingale collars distribute the pressure more evenly across the neck, reducing the risk of strain or injury. They provide a comfortable and safe option for dogs with neck issues and can help to alleviate any discomfort during walks or training sessions.

Disadvantages of a Martingale Collar

Limited Control

While martingale collars do offer control over a dog’s movements, they have their limitations. Because they are designed to prevent choking, the tightening mechanism has a certain degree of give. This means that they may not be as effective for dogs that pull excessively or are difficult to control. In such cases, a different type of collar or a harness may provide better control.

Potential for Choking or Neck Injuries

Although martingale collars are designed to prevent choking, there is still a potential risk, especially if they are not used correctly or if the collar is improperly fitted. If the collar is too loose, it may not tighten enough to prevent escaping, while if it is too tight, it may put unnecessary pressure on the dog’s neck, potentially leading to discomfort or injury. Proper fitting and regular check-ups are essential to ensure the safety and well-being of the dog.

Is A Martingale Collar Better Than A Harness?

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Advantages of a Harness

Even Distribution of Pressure

One of the main advantages of using a harness is that it distributes pressure more evenly across the dog’s body, compared to a collar that focuses the pressure on the neck. This can be beneficial for dogs with respiratory issues or those prone to neck injuries. The even distribution of pressure helps to reduce strain and discomfort, making walks and other activities more enjoyable for the dog.

Greater Control

Harnesses offer greater control over a dog’s movements, especially for those who tend to pull or are strong and difficult to handle. The design of a harness allows for a more secure attachment point for the leash, giving the owner or handler better control and preventing the dog from pulling excessively. This can be particularly helpful during training sessions or when walking in busy or distracting environments.

Suitable for Dogs with Brachycephalic Syndrome

Brachycephalic breeds, such as Bulldogs or Pugs, often have breathing difficulties due to their shortened snouts. Using a harness instead of a collar can help to reduce pressure on their airways, allowing for better airflow and minimizing the risk of respiratory distress. A harness provides a safer and more comfortable option for these breeds, ensuring their well-being during walks or other activities.

Disadvantages of a Harness

Encourages Pulling

While a harness provides greater control over a dog’s movements, it can also inadvertently encourage pulling behavior. Some dogs may associate the harness with the ability to exert more force, leading them to pull even more. Proper training and consistent reinforcement of leash manners are important to prevent pulling and establish good walking habits.

Difficult for Some Dogs to Get Used To

For some dogs, wearing a harness may take some time getting used to. The feeling of a harness around their body can be unfamiliar and may cause some discomfort or resistance at first. It is important to introduce the harness gradually, using positive reinforcement and rewards to help the dog associate the harness with positive experiences. With patience and training, most dogs can adapt to wearing a harness comfortably.

Is A Martingale Collar Better Than A Harness?

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Which Option Is Better?

Choosing between a martingale collar and a harness depends on several factors. It is important to consider the dog’s behavior and needs, as well as their breed and size. Consulting with a professional trainer or veterinarian can also provide valuable guidance in making the right decision for your dog.

Consider the Dog’s Behavior and Needs

If your dog tends to pull excessively or has difficulty being controlled, a harness may offer better control and prevent strain on the neck. However, if your dog is well-behaved on walks and only needs gentle correction, a martingale collar can provide suitable control without restricting their movements.

Consider the Dog’s Breed and Size

Different breeds have different physical characteristics and needs. Dogs with slim necks, such as Greyhounds or Whippets, may benefit from the additional security and control provided by a martingale collar, while brachycephalic breeds may find a harness more comfortable for their unique respiratory needs. Additionally, the size of the dog should also be taken into consideration when choosing the appropriate collar or harness.

Consult with a Professional Trainer

If you are unsure which option would be best for your dog, it is always a good idea to consult with a professional trainer or behaviorist. They can assess your dog’s specific needs, evaluate their behavior and training requirements, and provide expert advice on the most suitable collar or harness for your furry friend.

Using a Combination of Collar and Harness

While choosing between a martingale collar and a harness is a common dilemma for dog owners, it is worth considering using a combination of both for certain situations. This approach can offer additional training and safety benefits.

Training and Safety Benefits

Using a harness as the primary walking accessory provides better control and even distribution of pressure, reducing strain on the neck. However, having a martingale collar as a backup can provide a safety measure in case the dog manages to slip out of the harness or if extra control is needed in certain situations. This combination can be particularly useful during training sessions or when walking in busy areas.

Proper Fitting and Usage

When using both a collar and a harness, it is crucial to ensure proper fitting and usage to avoid any discomfort or injuries. The collar should be adjusted to provide a snug fit without being too tight, and the harness should be adjusted to sit securely on the dog’s body. Regular checks should be conducted to ensure both accessories are in good condition and fit correctly.

Is A Martingale Collar Better Than A Harness?

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Choosing the Right Martingale Collar or Harness

When choosing a martingale collar or harness, several factors should be considered to ensure the best fit, comfort, and safety for your dog.

Materials and Durability

Look for collars or harnesses made of high-quality, durable materials that can withstand regular use and potential pulling. Nylon, leather, or other strong materials are typically recommended for their durability and longevity.

Fit and Adjustability

Ensure that the collar or harness is adjustable to provide a proper fit for your dog. The size should be suitable for their neck or body measurements, and the collar or harness should be adjustable to allow for a snug but comfortable fit. Avoid collars or harnesses that are too loose or too tight, as they can pose safety risks and cause discomfort.

Comfort and Safety Features

Consider the comfort and safety features that the collar or harness offers. Padded straps or breathable materials can provide added comfort, especially for dogs with sensitive skin or those prone to chafing. Reflective or high-visibility features can enhance safety during nighttime walks or in low-light conditions.


In the debate between a martingale collar and a harness, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice depends on your dog’s specific needs and behavior. A martingale collar can provide gentle control and prevent escape, while a harness offers even pressure distribution and greater control. Consulting with a professional, considering your dog’s breed and size, and assessing their behavior and training requirements can help you make an informed decision. Alternatively, using a combination of both collar and harness can provide additional training and safety benefits. Ultimately, choosing the right collar or harness that fits properly and ensures your dog’s comfort and safety should be the top priority.

Is A Martingale Collar Better Than A Harness?

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Brian Moore
I'm Brian Moore, a veterinarian with over 10 years of experience. I graduated from the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2012. After graduation, I worked as a general practitioner in a small animal clinic for several years. In 2017, I opened my own veterinary practice, Moore Animal Hospital. I'm passionate about providing compassionate and high-quality care to all animals. I'm skilled in a wide range of veterinary procedures, including surgery, dentistry, and internal medicine. I'm also a certified animal behaviorist, and I take a special interest in helping animals with behavioral problems. In addition to my clinical work, I'm also active in the veterinary community. I'm a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the California Veterinary Medical Association. I'm also a frequent speaker at veterinary conferences. I'm dedicated to providing the best possible care for my patients and their families. I'm a compassionate and knowledgeable veterinarian who is always willing to go the extra mile. I'm originally from San Francisco, California. I'm married and have two children. I enjoy hiking, camping, and spending time with my family. I'm also a member of the local animal shelter and volunteer my time to help care for homeless animals. I'm excited to continue my career as a veterinarian and help even more animals in need.