should my dog wear a collar and a harness 3
should my dog wear a collar and a harness 3

In the ongoing debate of whether dogs should wear a collar or a harness, the question arises: why not both? At first glance, it may seem excessive to outfit our furry best friends with both accessories, but upon closer examination, it becomes evident that each serves a distinct purpose. While collars are commonly associated with identification and everyday leash-walking, harnesses offer a more secure and comfortable alternative for dogs who tend to pull or have neck sensitivities. So, should our dogs wear a collar and a harness? Let’s explore the benefits of combining these two essential doggy accessories.

Should My Dog Wear A Collar And A Harness?

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Should my dog wear a collar and a harness?

As dog owners, we want to ensure the safety and well-being of our furry friends when taking them for walks or engaging in outdoor activities. One common question that often arises is whether dogs should wear a collar or a harness. Both options have their pros and cons, so let’s explore them to help you make an informed decision for your beloved canine companion.

Pros of using a collar

Identification purposes

One of the primary reasons to use a collar on your dog is for identification purposes. A collar provides a visible location to attach identification tags, which can be invaluable in the event that your dog gets lost. This makes it easier for strangers or animal control officers to contact you and return your furry friend home safely.

Easy to put on and take off

Collars are generally simple to put on and take off, making them a convenient choice for daily walks. They typically have quick-release buckles that allow you to easily adjust the fit and remove the collar when necessary. This ease of use is especially beneficial when you need to quickly restrain or release your dog.

Allows for quick control

Collars can be an effective tool for exercising control over your dog. They allow for quick corrections and guidance, which can be helpful during training sessions or when you need to redirect your dog’s attention. With proper training and use, a collar can help reinforce good behavior and discourage unwanted pulling or lunging.

Traditional and widely accepted

Collars have been used for centuries and are considered a traditional accessory for dogs. They are widely accepted in most communities and are the go-to option for many dog owners. If you prefer a more traditional approach, a collar can provide a sense of familiarity and conformity.

Cons of using a collar

Risk of injury to neck and throat

One of the main cons of using a collar is the potential risk of injury to your dog’s neck and throat. Dogs that tend to pull on their leash may experience discomfort, strain, or even damage to their trachea or cervical spine. This risk is particularly significant for breeds prone to respiratory issues or those with delicate neck structures.

Can encourage pulling

In some cases, using a collar can actually encourage pulling behavior in dogs. When a dog feels pressure or discomfort around their neck, they may instinctively pull against it, exacerbating the problem. This can create a frustrating cycle where pulling becomes a learned habit, leading to more and more strain on the neck and throat.

Not suitable for all breeds or sizes

Collars may not be suitable for all breeds or sizes of dogs. Dogs with short or thick necks, such as Bulldogs or Pugs, may have difficulty fitting into a standard collar properly. Additionally, some smaller breeds may be more prone to tracheal collapse, making a collar less than ideal for their safety and well-being.

Pros of using a harness

Distributes pressure evenly

One of the primary benefits of using a harness is that it distributes pressure evenly across your dog’s chest and shoulders, reducing the strain on their neck. This can be particularly beneficial for dogs with respiratory issues or those prone to pulling. By distributing the force of leash tension, a harness helps to ensure your dog’s comfort and safety.

Decreases risk of injury

Harnesses are designed to minimize the risk of injury to your dog’s neck and throat. With the pressure being redirected to the body rather than concentrated around the neck, the chances of damage to delicate structures are significantly reduced. This makes harnesses a favorable option for dogs susceptible to neck or throat injuries.

Provides better control for certain breeds

Certain breeds, such as brachycephalic breeds or small dogs, may benefit from the increased control offered by a harness. Some dogs have a tendency to slip out of collars, especially if they have a smaller head or neck. A harness provides a more secure fit, preventing escape and giving you better control over your dog’s movements.

Prevents escape

For dogs that are natural escape artists or have a strong prey drive, a harness is often a more suitable choice. The design of a properly fitted harness makes it more challenging for dogs to wriggle free or slip out of their restraint. This added peace of mind can allow you to enjoy outdoor activities with your furry friend without worrying about them running off.

Should My Dog Wear A Collar And A Harness?

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Cons of using a harness

May take time for the dog to get used to

Introducing a harness to your dog may require patience and time for them to get used to wearing it. Some dogs may find the sensation of having their body restricted by a harness uncomfortable initially. It is important to gradually acclimate your dog to wearing a harness, using positive reinforcement and rewards to create a positive association.

Additional cost and maintenance

Compared to collars, harnesses can be slightly more expensive and may require additional maintenance. Depending on the type of harness you choose, you may need to wash or clean it regularly to prevent odor or dirt buildup. Additionally, if you decide to use both a collar and a harness, there will be the added cost of purchasing both items.

May not be suitable for all activities

While harnesses are generally suitable for most outdoor activities, there are certain activities where a harness may not be the best choice. For example, if you plan on participating in agility training or other high-intensity activities, a harness may restrict your dog’s movement and hinder their performance. In such cases, consult with a professional to determine the most appropriate gear for the activity.

When should my dog wear a collar?

During walks and outdoor activities

A collar is most commonly worn by dogs during walks and outdoor activities. It provides an easily accessible location for attaching a leash and allows for quick control and guidance. Remember to always use a collar that fits properly and does not cause discomfort or restrict your dog’s breathing.

For identification purposes

Your dog should wear a collar with identification tags at all times, even when indoors. This ensures that if they manage to escape or get lost, they can be easily identified and returned to you. Make sure to include your contact information and consider adding a microchip as an extra layer of protection.

Should My Dog Wear A Collar And A Harness?

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When should my dog wear a harness?

For training and control

A harness is especially useful during training and control exercises. The even distribution of pressure makes it easier to guide your dog’s movements and redirect their attention effectively. Whether you are teaching basic obedience or working on more advanced commands, a harness can be a valuable tool in your training arsenal.

During certain activities

There are certain activities where a harness is particularly beneficial. For example, if you enjoy hiking, jogging, or biking with your dog, a harness provides better control and reduces strain on both you and your furry companion. Always consider the specific demands of the activity and choose a harness that suits your dog’s size, breed, and needs.

Combining collar and harness

Using a collar and harness together

In some cases, using both a collar and a harness at the same time can provide additional benefits. By attaching the leash to both the collar and the harness, you can have an extra level of control, especially for dogs who tend to pull or are difficult to manage. This combination can help distribute the force more effectively and reinforce your training efforts.

Benefits of combining both

The combination of a collar and a harness allows you to have identification tags readily visible on the collar while still providing the comfort and control of a harness. This approach takes advantage of the benefits each option offers, maximizing safety and convenience for both you and your dog.

Should My Dog Wear A Collar And A Harness?

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Choosing the right type of collar

Flat collars

Flat collars are the most common type of collar and consist of a simple band that fastens around your dog’s neck. They are suitable for most breeds and sizes and can be easily adjusted for a proper fit. It’s important to choose a collar made from durable materials and ensure it is neither too loose nor too tight.

Martingale collars

Martingale collars are a popular choice for dogs that may try to slip out of a traditional collar. They feature an additional loop that tightens slightly when tension is applied, preventing escape while still being comfortable for your dog. These collars are often recommended for breeds with smaller heads or dogs with a tendency to pull.


Headcollars, such as the Gentle Leader or Halti, are designed to fit over your dog’s snout. They provide control by redirecting your dog’s head and have the added benefit of reducing pulling behavior. It’s important to properly introduce and train your dog to accept a headcollar to prevent discomfort or frustration.

Prong collars

Prong collars, also known as pinch collars, consist of metal links with prongs that apply pressure to your dog’s neck when they pull. While some trainers and owners find them effective for control, they should only be used under the guidance of a professional and with utmost care to avoid causing harm or distress to your dog.

Choosing the right size and material

When choosing a collar, ensure that it is the appropriate size for your dog’s neck. Measure their neck circumference carefully, allowing enough space for two fingers to comfortably fit between the collar and their skin. Additionally, opt for collars made from durable materials, such as nylon or leather, that can withstand the wear and tear of daily use.

Choosing the right type of harness

Back-clip harnesses

Back-clip harnesses have a D-ring located on the top, between your dog’s shoulder blades. They are user-friendly and suitable for most dogs, providing a secure attachment point for the leash. These harnesses are great for everyday walks and activities that don’t require intense control.

Front-clip harnesses

Front-clip harnesses have a D-ring located on the front, at the center of your dog’s chest. They work by redirecting your dog’s forward motion when they pull, making it easier to keep them by your side. Front-clip harnesses are beneficial for dogs that are prone to pulling or need extra guidance during walks.

No-pull harnesses

No-pull harnesses, like the Easy Walk or Freedom Harness, are designed specifically to discourage pulling behavior. They usually have a front attachment point and additional features that apply gentle pressure or redirect your dog’s motion. No-pull harnesses can be a helpful training aid for dogs that are strong pullers.

Choosing the right size and material

Just like with collars, it’s important to choose the right size harness for your dog. Measure their chest size and girth according to the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure a secure and comfortable fit. Look for harnesses made from quality materials that are sturdy and long-lasting, as they will need to withstand regular use and potential pulling force.

Should My Dog Wear A Collar And A Harness?

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Step-by-step guide to fitting a harness

Measure your dog’s chest size and girth

To properly fit a harness, you need to measure your dog’s chest size and girth. The chest size is the circumference of their chest, just behind the front legs, while the girth is the measurement around the widest part of their ribcage. Use a soft measuring tape to obtain accurate measurements.

Adjust the harness for a secure fit

Once you have the measurements, choose the appropriate size of harness and adjust it for a secure fit. Start by placing the harness on your dog’s chest and fastening any buckles or clips. Ensure that the harness is snug but not too tight, allowing room for your fingers to fit between the harness and your dog’s skin.

Check for proper placement and comfort

After securing the harness, check that it is properly aligned on your dog’s body. The chest strap should rest directly behind their front legs, and the back straps should be parallel to their spine. Gently tug on the harness to ensure it stays in place and make any necessary adjustments. Observe your dog’s behavior to ensure they are comfortable and not showing signs of distress or discomfort.

In conclusion, choosing whether to use a collar or a harness for your dog is a matter of assessing your dog’s specific needs, behavior, and physical characteristics. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, and it may be beneficial to use a combination of both for optimal control, comfort, and safety. Always prioritize your dog’s well-being and consult with professionals or trainers for guidance if needed. With the right gear and approach, you can enjoy walks and outdoor adventures with your furry friend while keeping them safe and secure.

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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.