why do some dogs walk better on a harness than a collar 1
why do some dogs walk better on a harness than a collar 1

Have you ever noticed that some dogs seem to walk better on a harness than a traditional collar? It’s a common observation among dog owners, but have you ever wondered why this is the case? In this article, we will explore the reasons behind why some dogs prefer walking on a harness and the benefits it can provide for both them and their owners. So, if you’ve ever struggled with your dog’s leash manners or are simply curious about the science behind it, keep reading!

Benefits of using a harness for dog walks

Walking your dog is an essential part of their daily routine and is crucial for their overall physical and mental well-being. However, many dog owners struggle with their furry friends pulling and choking on walks, which can make the experience not only unpleasant but also potentially harmful for the dog. This is where using a harness can make a significant difference.

Reduces choking and pulling

One of the primary benefits of using a harness for dog walks is that it reduces choking and pulling. Unlike collars that put pressure on the dog’s neck when they pull, a harness distributes the force evenly across the chest and shoulders. This design prevents the dog from choking and allows for a more comfortable and enjoyable walking experience for both you and your canine companion.

Distributes force evenly

Harnesses are specifically designed to distribute the force of your dog’s pulling across a larger area, such as the chest and shoulders. This even distribution prevents any one part of your dog’s body from bearing the full impact of their pulling. By reducing the strain on specific areas, harnesses help prevent injuries and discomfort.

Prevents neck and trachea injuries

Collars put pressure on the dog’s neck, which can lead to neck and trachea injuries, especially in dogs that pull excessively. Harnesses, on the other hand, eliminate this risk by removing the pressure from the neck and evenly distributing it across the body. This is particularly beneficial for dogs with respiratory issues or breeds prone to tracheal collapse.

Offers better control and stability

Harnesses provide better control and stability during walks, especially for larger or stronger dogs. The chest and shoulder straps of a harness allow you to have more leverage and control over your dog’s movements, making it easier to guide them and maintain their focus. This added control can enhance both your safety and your dog’s while out on walks.

Comparing harnesses and collars

When choosing between a harness and a collar for your dog, it’s essential to understand the differences in design and functionality.

Harness: Design and functionality

A harness typically consists of multiple adjustable straps that secure around the dog’s chest, shoulders, and sometimes the abdomen. It is designed to distribute the force of pulling across a larger area and offers better control. There are various types of harnesses available, each with its own unique features and benefits.

Collar: Design and functionality

A collar is a single strap that fastens around the dog’s neck. While it provides a convenient attachment point for a leash, collars can put pressure on the neck when the dog pulls, leading to potential injuries and discomfort. Collars are commonly used for dogs that have been leash-trained and are not prone to pulling.

Understanding the walking behavior of dogs

To better comprehend why some dogs walk better on a harness than a collar, it’s essential to understand their natural walking behavior and specific sensitivity.

Natural instinct to pull

Dogs have a natural instinct to pull, whether it’s due to excitement, an urge to explore, or simply a desire to lead the pack. This instinct is present in various breeds and can make walking on a collar challenging and potentially unsafe.

Sensitivity and comfort issues with collars

Some dogs may have specific sensitivity or discomfort around their necks, making collars less suitable for them. This can be caused by previous experiences, health conditions, or their individual anatomy. In such cases, a harness can provide a more comfortable alternative and minimize any potential discomfort.

Influence of breed and size

The breed and size of your dog can play a significant role in their walking behavior and the suitability of a harness versus a collar. Larger or stronger breeds may require the added control and stability that a harness provides, while smaller or more delicate breeds may benefit from the reduced strain on their neck and trachea offered by a harness.

Why Do Some Dogs Walk Better On A Harness Than A Collar?

Factors to consider when choosing between a harness and collar

When deciding between a harness and a collar for your dog, several factors should be taken into consideration.

Dog’s size and breed

As mentioned earlier, the size and breed of your dog can influence their walking behavior and the type of equipment that suits them best. Larger and stronger breeds often benefit from the added control of a harness, while smaller breeds may find the reduced strain on their neck more comfortable.

Behavior and training level

Consider your dog’s behavior and training level when choosing between a harness and a collar. If your dog is prone to pulling, a harness can provide better control and redirect that behavior. However, if your dog is already leash-trained and does not have significant pulling issues, a collar may be suitable.

Walking environment

The environment in which you usually walk your dog is another crucial factor to consider. If you frequently walk in busy areas, near traffic, or in areas where your dog may encounter distractions, a harness can offer better control and prevent any accidental slips or escapes.

Health conditions and injuries

If your dog has any pre-existing health conditions, injuries, or sensitivities around the neck or trachea area, a harness may be a more suitable option. Harnesses distribute force more evenly and reduce the risk of exacerbating any existing issues.

Different types of harnesses

There are several different types of harnesses available, each designed with specific features to cater to different needs and preferences.

Back-clip harness

A back-clip harness has the leash attachment point located on the dog’s back. It is a popular choice for well-behaved dogs that do not have significant pulling issues. Back-clip harnesses offer comfort and ease of use, making them suitable for leisurely walks and casual outings.

Front-clip harness

A front-clip harness has the leash attachment point located on the front of the dog’s chest. This type of harness provides better control and can deter pulling behaviors as the pulling force redirects the dog towards you. Front-clip harnesses are often recommended for dogs that have a tendency to lunge or pull during walks.

Head halter harness

A head halter harness, also known as a gentle leader or head collar, is designed to fit over the dog’s muzzle and neck, providing control similar to that of a horse’s halter. Head halter harnesses are particularly effective at controlling pulling behavior and can be beneficial for dogs that require additional guidance.

Tightening harness

A tightening harness, also known as a no-pull or anti-pull harness, has the unique feature of tightening when the dog pulls, discouraging pulling behavior. These harnesses are often used as a training tool to redirect and discourage pulling, but proper training and guidance are essential to ensure they are used correctly and safely.

Step-in harness

A step-in harness is designed to be easily put on by having the dog step into it and securing it around their body. These harnesses are suitable for dogs that are already comfortable with the harnessing process and offer simplicity and convenience.

How harnesses help with leash training

Harnesses can be invaluable tools when it comes to leash training and teaching your dog proper walking etiquette.

Provides more control and guidance

A harness offers superior control and guidance compared to a collar, especially for dogs that tend to pull or have a strong prey drive. The multiple straps and attachment points of a harness allow you to guide and redirect your dog’s movements more effectively during training sessions.

Redirects pulling behavior

For dogs that have a habit of pulling on walks, a harness can help redirect that behavior. Front-clip harnesses, in particular, encourage dogs to turn towards you when they pull, making it easier to regain control and guide them in the right direction.

Facilitates positive reinforcement training

Harnesses can facilitate positive reinforcement training methods, allowing you to reward your dog for good behavior while on walks. The comfort and control offered by a harness increase the likelihood of successful training sessions and reinforce positive walking habits.

Cautions and considerations when using harnesses

While harnesses offer numerous benefits and can greatly enhance your dog walking experience, it’s important to keep a few cautions and considerations in mind.

Proper fit and adjustment

Ensuring that the harness fits your dog properly and is adjusted correctly is crucial for their safety and comfort. A poorly fitting harness can potentially cause discomfort, chafing, or restrict your dog’s movement. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for fitting and adjusting the harness, or consult a professional if needed.

Avoiding excessive pressure

Although harnesses are designed to distribute force evenly, it’s still important to ensure that you do not apply excessive pressure to any one area. Constant pulling or tugging on the leash can strain your dog’s muscles and joints, so it’s important to maintain a balance and avoid unnecessarily harsh corrections.

Avoiding over-reliance on the harness

While harnesses can be excellent tools for walking and training, it’s important not to become overly reliant on them. Continued training and reinforcement of good walking behavior will help your dog develop the skills necessary to walk politely on a leash, regardless of the equipment used. Harnesses should be viewed as aids in the training process, rather than a long-term solution for behavioral issues.

Transitioning from a collar to a harness

If you’ve been using a collar for walking your dog and decide to transition to a harness, it’s important to introduce the harness gradually and acclimate your dog to the new equipment.

Gradual introduction and acclimation

Start by allowing your dog to sniff and investigate the new harness without actually putting it on. Gradually introduce the harness by having your dog wear it indoors for short periods of time, gradually increasing the duration. Use positive reinforcement and rewards to associate the harness with positive experiences.

Positive reinforcement techniques

During the transition period, use positive reinforcement techniques to reward your dog for wearing the harness and exhibiting desired behavior while wearing it. This will help create positive associations and make the transition smoother and more enjoyable for your dog.

Seeking professional guidance

If you’re unsure about the best approach to transitioning from a collar to a harness, or if your dog has specific behavioral issues, it may be beneficial to seek professional guidance. A certified dog trainer or behaviorist can provide valuable advice and support tailored to your dog’s individual needs.

Harnesses for specific dog needs and activities

In addition to standard harnesses for everyday walks, there are specialized harnesses designed to cater to specific dog needs and activities.

Running and jogging harnesses

Running and jogging harnesses are designed to provide maximum comfort, stability, and control during high-impact activities. These harnesses are typically lightweight, breathable, and feature reflective materials for added safety during low-light conditions.

Pulling and sledding harnesses

For dogs engaged in pulling or sledding activities, specialized pulling harnesses are available. These harnesses are designed to distribute the pulling force evenly across the dog’s body and ensure maximum comfort and efficiency.

Assistance and support harnesses

Assistance and support harnesses are specifically designed for dogs with mobility issues or disabilities. These harnesses provide support, stability, and assistance for dogs that may have difficulty walking or require help with balance.

Tracking and hunting harnesses

Tracking and hunting harnesses are designed to provide maximum control and freedom of movement for dogs engaged in tracking or hunting activities. These harnesses often feature additional attachment points for carrying equipment and are made from durable materials to withstand rugged terrain.

Water-based activities harnesses

For dogs that enjoy swimming or participating in water-based activities, there are waterproof and quick-drying harnesses available. These harnesses are designed to provide maximum comfort and ease of movement in water, while also ensuring proper buoyancy and safety.


Using a harness for dog walks offers numerous benefits for both you and your furry friend. It reduces choking and pulling, distributes force evenly, prevents neck and trachea injuries, and provides better control and stability. By understanding your dog’s walking behavior, considering factors when choosing between a harness and collar, and selecting the right type of harness, you can greatly enhance your dog walking experience. Whether you’re working on leash training, engaging in specific activities, or simply enjoying leisurely walks, a harness can be a valuable tool in promoting your dog’s safety, comfort, and enjoyment.

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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.