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    Harness vs. Collar: What is The Right Choice for Walking Your Dog

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    Your dog loves to go on walks, and, if you have a strong bond with your pooch, so do you. Getting out and exercising is great for your pup’s health—not only does walking keep your dog physically fit, but it is also great for its mental health and stress management.

    However, like many dogs, yours might get excited at times and try to run off to investigate things during walks. Excited dogs are fun to play with, but can be challenging to control, especially on busy streets or when people are nearby. To help keep your pooch close, it’s necessary to walk it using a leash. This begs the question, then—what do you use to attach the leash: a collar or a harness?

    The answer will largely depend on your dog and its needs. Some dogs pull on leashes too aggressively during walks and should be kept in a harness to prevent bodily injury and provide you more control. More relaxed pups will be able to manage walks just fine using standard collars. There are pros and cons to both choices, so let’s explore them to figure out which is best.

    Collars

    Most dog owners equip their pups with a collar the second they bring them home for the first time. Available in many styles, fabrics and colors, collars are customizable, cute and ideal for hanging identification tags in case of emergencies. Most collars can be worn at all times, so dogs get used to them quickly and have no trouble staying comfortable with one on.

    If your dog is typically relaxed while on walks or is very well trained, it will be less likely to pull hard on its leash or jump up on passerby, and a collar should suffice. If your dog doesn’t behave as well, a collar might not be the best choice for a walking accessory.

    Collars can end up hurting your dog’s neck if it likes to jump or pull too often. The repetitive and forceful restriction of its neck and airway can lead to damage over time. For dogs with existing neck injuries or respiratory problems, in particular, collars should be avoided to prevent further injury or tracheal collapse.

    Additionally, some dogs are excellent escape artists and somehow wriggle out of collars. If your pooch has a large neck and a small head, its collar will probably be ineffective at restraining it while out on a walk.

    Harnesses

    A good alternative to a collar is a harness, which will wrap around your dog’s chest, shoulders and back. Like collars, harnesses come in a variety of styles and fabrics, so you can find one that fits your dog most comfortably. Some harnesses cover more of the body, while others are more strappy. Regardless of the style you choose, the important thing is that a harness will not put pressure on your dog’s neck.

    A harness is a good choice for dogs that tend to pull hard on their leashes during walks. The harness actually discourages pulling because it puts pressure on the front of the body and restricts movement. Because your dog can’t get anywhere when they pull, you can use the harness as an effective training tool, especially for young and excited puppies. A front-clasp harness can also provide additional control, since it helps you redirect your dog’s attention more easily.

    The harness training method also makes walking your dog easier on your body, because you won’t have to pull back as hard. This way, you can minimize stress on your arm and shoulder holding the leash while exercising greater control over your dog’s movements.

    A harness is also a better choice for dogs with existing neck injuries or those that are prone to tracheal collapse. Small dogs, puppies and some specific breeds are more likely to get hurt using a collar if they pull, so you should use a harness to try to avoid potential injury as much as possible.

    However, harnesses do have some downsides, as well. Because a harness is more restricting on your dog’s body and can cover more surface area, your dog might find it uncomfortable to wear regularly. To help your dog get used to the harness, first make sure it is the proper size. Then, try having your dog wear it around the house every so often to get familiar with the way it feels. You can also try using positive reward systems to help ease the transition from collar to harness.

    Which is the right choice?

    Whether you opt for a collar or harness will depend on your dog’s walking style and comfortability levels. If you are concerned for your dog’s neck and throat because it tends to pull and choke itself on its collar, you might want to switch to a harness and see how your dog responds. For puppies, you may be able to start walking with a harness and switch to a collar later in life.

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    Dr. Janice Huntingford

    Pet Wellbeing's own Dr. Jan has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years. Since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, she's founded two veterinary clinics and lectured extensively on pet herbal therapy, nutraceuticals, acupuncture, rehabilitation and pain management.

    Dr. Jan has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities, helping us to formulate all of our supplements. She is an essential part of Pet Wellbeing.

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