If you’re a proud owner of a large breed puppy, you may have wondered whether a harness would be a better choice than a collar when it comes to walking your furry friend. This article explores the benefits of using a harness for large breed puppies and why it may be a more comfortable and safer option for their growing bodies. From preventing neck injuries to providing better control, read on to discover why a harness could be the perfect choice for your large breed puppy’s walks.

Benefits of using a harness

Reduces strain on the neck

Using a harness instead of a collar can greatly reduce the strain on a large breed puppy’s neck. Collars, especially with the constant pulling and tugging during walks, can place excessive pressure on the neck and potentially lead to discomfort and injury. A harness, on the other hand, distributes the force evenly across the body, reducing the strain on the neck and preventing any potential damage.

Prevents injuries and potential damage to the trachea

Large breed puppies are more prone to tracheal damage due to their size and strength. When using a collar, there is a risk of the puppy pulling and yanking on the leash, which can lead to injuries and damage to the delicate trachea. A harness, by providing support and distributing the pressure over a larger area, helps to minimize the risk of injury and protect the puppy’s trachea.

Restrains pulling behavior

One of the important benefits of using a harness is that it can help in restraining the pulling behavior often observed in large breed puppies. Puppies are naturally curious and energetic, and they tend to pull on the leash when excited or eager to explore their surroundings. With a harness, the leash attaches to the back or chest, giving you more control and reducing the likelihood of your puppy pulling excessively during walks.

Provides better control and handling

Harnesses offer improved control and handling compared to collars, especially with large breed puppies. The design of a harness allows you to have a stronger grip on your puppy and maintain better control, particularly if your puppy is strong or has a tendency to lunge or bolt. This added control ensures the safety of your puppy and others around you, giving you peace of mind during walks.

Distributes pressure evenly across the body

Unlike collars that focus the pressure on the neck’s sensitive structures, a harness distributes the pressure evenly across the puppy’s body. This even distribution alleviates any additional strain that can be placed on specific body parts, reducing the risk of injury or discomfort. By spreading the pressure, a harness offers a more comfortable and safe walking experience for your large breed puppy.

Potential drawbacks of using a harness

May encourage pulling behavior

While a harness can assist in restraining pulling behavior, in some cases, it may inadvertently encourage pulling. Certain styles of harnesses, such as front-clip harnesses, allow puppies to gradually increase their pulling strength. This can lead to a counterproductive training experience, as the puppy may learn that pulling is still possible, even if it’s somewhat restricted. It is essential to select a harness and utilize training techniques that discourage pulling behavior.

May restrict the natural movements of the puppy

Some harness designs may constrict or restrict a large breed puppy’s natural movements. It’s crucial to choose a harness that allows the puppy to move freely and comfortably without impeding their gait or range of motion. Puppies need the freedom to explore and engage in physical activities while wearing a harness, so selecting one that offers the right balance of support and mobility is essential.

May cause skin irritation and discomfort

Improperly fitted or low-quality harnesses can rub against a large breed puppy’s skin, leading to irritation and discomfort. Look for harnesses made from materials that are soft, breathable, and hypoallergenic to minimize the risk of skin irritation. Regularly inspect the harness for signs of rubbing or chafing, and ensure that it is properly adjusted to fit your puppy correctly. Adjustments may be necessary as the puppy grows to maintain a comfortable fit.

May require proper fitting and adjustment

Harnesses, unlike collars, require proper fitting and adjustment to ensure their effectiveness and comfort. Large breed puppies, in particular, experience rapid growth and changes in body size, so it is important to regularly assess the fit of the harness and make adjustments as needed. This ongoing monitoring and adjustment can be time-consuming, but it is crucial to maintain a secure and comfortable fit that allows for growth and movement.

Considerations for large breed puppies

Size and strength of the puppy

When deciding whether to use a harness or collar for a large breed puppy, it’s important to consider their size and strength. Large breed puppies have the potential to grow into strong and powerful dogs, which may require a harness for better control and handling. Assess the size and strength of your puppy and choose a harness that can adequately accommodate their growth and provide the necessary control.

Growing body and development

Large breed puppies go through rapid growth and development stages, which can affect their body shape and size. A harness that properly fits a puppy when they are young may not fit them as they grow. It is crucial to choose a harness that is adjustable and can accommodate the changing body proportions of a large breed puppy. This ensures that the harness remains secure and comfortable throughout their growth period.

Temperament and behavior of the puppy

Consider the temperament and behavior of your large breed puppy when deciding between a harness and collar. If your puppy tends to pull, lunge, or exhibit unruly behavior during walks, a harness may provide better control and discourage these behaviors. On the other hand, if your puppy is well-behaved and walks calmly on a leash, a collar may be sufficient. Assess your puppy’s behavior and choose the option that best suits their needs.

Training and leash manners

Training and leash manners play a crucial role in determining whether a harness or collar is more suitable for your large breed puppy. If your puppy is still in the early stages of training and requires more control and guidance, a harness can offer better support and handling. A collar may be more appropriate for a well-trained puppy that walks calmly on a leash. Evaluate the progress of your puppy’s training and choose accordingly.

When to switch from a collar to a harness

Age and growth stage of the puppy

The transition from a collar to a harness for a large breed puppy should be based on their age and growth stage. Puppies that are still growing and developing may benefit from starting with a harness at a younger age to establish good leash manners and prevent strain on their neck. As they grow and their strength increases, it may become necessary to switch from a collar to a harness for better control and handling.

Behavioral issues and pulling tendencies

If your large breed puppy exhibits behavioral issues or demonstrates pulling tendencies, it may be time to switch from a collar to a harness. Harnesses can provide more control and assist in managing these behaviors effectively. If your puppy consistently pulls on the leash or shows signs of becoming reactive or aggressive during walks, a harness may be a helpful tool to address these issues.

Health concerns or sensitivities

Certain health concerns or sensitivities may warrant the use of a harness instead of a collar for a large breed puppy. Dogs with respiratory or neck-related conditions may benefit from the reduced strain and potential damage that a harness provides. Additionally, puppies with sensitive skin or allergies may find the soft and breathable materials of a harness more comfortable and less irritating than a collar.

Training progress and comfort

The decision to switch from a collar to a harness should also consider the training progress and comfort level of the puppy. If your puppy is responding well to training and has developed good leash manners, a collar may be sufficient. However, if your puppy seems uncomfortable or shows signs of distress when wearing a collar, a harness can provide a more comfortable and secure alternative while maintaining control and safety.

Choosing the right harness for a large breed puppy

Size and adjustability

Choosing the right size harness for a large breed puppy is crucial for both comfort and effectiveness. Look for a harness that offers adjustability to accommodate the puppy’s growth and ensure a secure fit without restricting their movement. Consider the weight and recommended size guidelines provided by the manufacturer to select an appropriate harness that will provide optimal support and control.

Material and durability

The material and durability of a harness are important factors to consider, especially for large breed puppies. Look for harnesses made from high-quality, durable materials that can withstand the strength and energy of a growing puppy. Nylon or polyester blends are commonly used for harness construction and offer durability while being lightweight and comfortable for the puppy to wear.

Ease of use and comfort

A well-designed harness should be easy to put on and take off, guaranteeing a hassle-free experience for both you and your puppy. Look for harnesses with adjustable straps and quick-release buckles for convenience. Additionally, prioritize comfort by choosing a harness with padding in key areas, such as the chest or straps, to minimize any potential rubbing or discomfort during walks.

Additional features for specific needs

Consider any specific needs your large breed puppy may have when selecting a harness. For puppies that enjoy swimming or outdoor adventures, water-resistant or quick-drying materials can be beneficial. Reflective strips or attachments can enhance safety during nighttime walks. Some harnesses even offer handle attachments or additional harness rings for versatility or training purposes. Assess your puppy’s lifestyle and preferences to choose a harness that best suits their individual needs.

Harness training for large breed puppies

Introduction and positive association

Introducing a harness to a large breed puppy should be done gradually, with a focus on creating a positive association. Start by presenting the harness to your puppy and allowing them to sniff it, rewarding them with treats and praise. Once they are comfortable with the presence of the harness, gradually introduce them to wearing it for short periods inside the house, rewarding them for their cooperation and calm behavior.

Gradual acclimation to wearing the harness

Gradually acclimate your large breed puppy to wearing the harness by increasing the duration of wear over time. Begin by having them wear the harness for short periods and gradually extend the duration, all while ensuring a positive experience with treats and praise. Monitor your puppy for any signs of discomfort or distress and make any necessary adjustments to the fit or positioning of the harness.

Desensitization to the leash and walking

Once your puppy has become comfortable with wearing the harness, it is important to introduce them to the leash and the sensation of being led. Attach a lightweight leash to the harness and allow your puppy to explore and move around while you hold the other end. Gradually introduce them to walking on the leash, offering treats and encouragement for calm behavior. Practice in familiar and low-distraction environments before venturing into busier areas.

Reinforcing desired behavior and leash manners

During harness training, it’s crucial to reinforce desired behaviors and encourage good leash manners. Reward your puppy for walking calmly beside you, sitting or remaining still when requested, and exhibiting overall good behavior on the leash. Consistency is key in reinforcing these behaviors and building positive associations with wearing the harness and walking on the leash.

Tips for using a harness effectively

Proper fitting and adjustment

Regularly assess the fit of the harness to ensure it is secure and comfortable for your large breed puppy as they grow and develop. Adjust the straps as needed to maintain a proper fit without being overly tight or loose. Always check for any signs of rubbing, chafing, or discomfort, and make necessary adjustments or consider investing in a different size or style of harness.

Choosing the right leash and attachments

Pairing the harness with the right leash and attachments is essential for effective control and management during walks. Opt for a leash made from strong and durable materials, such as nylon or leather, that can withstand the strength of a large breed puppy. Ensure the leash attachments, such as clips or clasps, are secure and properly attached to the harness for added safety.

Consistency and reinforcement in training

Consistency is key when using a harness for a large breed puppy. Set clear expectations and stick to them during walks to reinforce good leash manners and behaviors. Be patient and reinforce the desired behavior with treats, praise, and encouragement. Consistent training and positive reinforcement will help your puppy understand expectations and make the most of the benefits a harness provides.

Regular maintenance and cleaning

Regularly inspect and clean your puppy’s harness to ensure it remains in good condition. Remove any dirt or debris that may accumulate, paying close attention to areas that come into direct contact with the puppy’s skin. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning and maintenance to prolong the harness’s lifespan and prevent any discomfort or skin irritation for your large breed puppy.

Common misconceptions about using a harness for large breed puppies

Harnesses are only for small or toy breeds

Contrary to a common misconception, harnesses are not only suitable for small or toy breeds. Large breed puppies, with their strength and energy, can benefit greatly from using a harness. A proper-fitting harness can provide the necessary control, distribute pressure evenly, and prevent strain or injury on the neck and trachea.

Harnesses will completely eliminate pulling behavior

While harnesses can help in restraining pulling behavior, it is important to understand that they may not completely eliminate it. Some puppies may still exhibit pulling tendencies even when wearing a harness. Combining the use of a harness with appropriate leash training and positive reinforcement techniques is key to effectively managing and reducing pulling behavior.

Harnesses are less effective for training purposes

Harnesses can be highly effective for training large breed puppies. The enhanced control and handling offered by a harness make it easier to guide and redirect the puppy during walks. Harnesses also allow for better communication and reinforcement of desired behaviors, making training sessions more effective and enjoyable for both the puppy and the owner.

Wearing a harness will make the puppy stronger or more aggressive

Another common misconception is that wearing a harness will make a large breed puppy stronger or more aggressive. The use of a harness does not have any direct correlation to the puppy’s physical strength or temperament. The harness serves as a tool to provide control, distribute pressure, and improve handling, regardless of the puppy’s strength or temperament.

Expert opinions on harnesses for large breed puppies

Veterinarians’ recommendations

Veterinarians often recommend using a harness for large breed puppies due to the various benefits it offers. They emphasize the reduction of strain on the neck, prevention of tracheal damage, improved control, and distribution of pressure. Veterinarians also stress the importance of proper fitting, regular maintenance, and combining the use of a harness with positive reinforcement training for optimal results.

Dog trainers and behaviorists’ perspectives

Dog trainers and behaviorists generally support the use of harnesses for large breed puppies. They appreciate the improved control, the ability to manage pulling behavior, and the positive impact that harnesses can have on training sessions. However, they stress the importance of proper training techniques and consistency in order to effectively address behavioral issues and establish good leash manners.

Experiences and testimonials from large breed puppy owners

Many large breed puppy owners have shared their positive experiences with using harnesses. They often highlight the increased control, comfort, and improved leash manners that their puppies have demonstrated after switching from a collar. Owners have found that harnesses provide a safer and more enjoyable walking experience for both them and their puppies.

Advice from professional breeders

Professional breeders often recommend using a harness for large breed puppies. They acknowledge the potential strain and tracheal damage that collars can cause, especially with growing puppies. Proper control and handling are considered essential during walks, and harnesses are viewed as a valuable tool to achieve this while minimizing any potential harm or discomfort.


Using a harness for large breed puppies offers numerous benefits, including reduced strain on the neck, prevention of injuries and damage to the trachea, and improved control of pulling behavior. However, it is important to consider potential drawbacks, such as the possibility of encouraging pulling behavior and the need for proper fitting and adjustment. Factors such as the size and strength of the puppy, their developmental stage, temperament, and training progress should be taken into account when deciding whether to switch from a collar to a harness. Choosing the right harness, conducting proper harness training, and following tips for effective use are essential for a positive experience. Addressing common misconceptions, considering expert opinions, and understanding the experiences of other large breed puppy owners provide valuable insights. Ultimately, the decision to use a harness should be based on the individual needs of the large breed puppy, with a focus on their comfort, safety, and overall well-being.

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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.