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Collar vs Harness which is best

31/05/2019 - Dog Training Advice

What does your dog wear for walkies? We’re looking at doggy dress codes and how they improve your pet’s quality of life.

If you’ve ever trained your dog with Best Behaviour, you’ll know that I’m quite particular about what dogs wear to class. Check chains, slip leads, prong collars and extending leads are not allowed at all.  All dogs need to wear either a flat collar, or a harness. The harness is my favourite and here’s why:

You and your dog’s comfort
I can’t stress enough that for the sake of your dog’s health and your own, training your pup to walk calmly beside you with a loose lead is a must. However, while you are still working on that, a harness can be a useful tool to ensure you and pup are comfortable when walking.  You may hear outdated information about using choke chains or ‘training collars’, but as we all know that would cause fear, pain and discomfort if tugged or pulled, and we certainly wouldn’t want that for your dogs.

Choose a harness with a lead attachment on the dog’s back and chest. It’s definitely worth buying a properly fitted harness for dogs of any size and age.


Perfect for use with a long lead
If your dog’s recall is a work in progress, you might choose to use a long lead for training and allowing a bit of freedom in an open space. There’s a knack to using a long lead and not all dogs and owners “get it” straight away.  If your dog decides to run, he can get quite a bit of speed up before reaching the end of the line. To avoid any unpleasant experiences we recommend training recalls on short leads first and progressing to the long lead when they are becoming more competent at recalling.

We always recommend using a long lead with a harness, to avoid any accidental jolts to the neck area.

Harnesses for better canine health
Most assistance dogs, security dogs and dogs working in the public realm wear harnesses. Why? It’s certainly not for control, these dogs are incredibly well trained and focussed. No, they wear harnesses for the sake of their health. Let’s look at the veterinary evidence.

A harness reduces the risk of neck injuries in dogs
According to a study by veterinarians,
“91% of dogs who had neck injuries had also been exposed to jerking on the leash by the owner or been allowed to pull hard on the leash for long periods of time.“
“Injuries include bruising, whiplash, crushed trachea (windpipe), damage to larynx, fractured vertebrae.”
Anders Hallgren

Of course at Best Behaviour we’re training dogs NOT to pull on the lead and we’re teaching owners that jerking on the lead is not the way to improve behaviour. However, a well fitted harness keeps pressure off the dog’s neck so is less likely to cause injuries whilst the training takes place.

Can a harness really help avoid eye problems in dogs?
Would you think to associate eye problems with what your dog is wearing? Here’s a quote from a veterinary white paper that might make you think again.

Again, from veterinary research “Neck pressure caused by a collar caused a significant increase in base-line eye pressure. This did not occur with the use of a harness. This type of intraocular pressure can cause serious injury to dogs already suffering from thin corneas, glaucoma or eye injuries”
Pauli et al


Put into simpler terms, if your dog has an underlying problem with his or her eyes, pressure from a collar can make them much, much worse. Nothing beats loose lead walking for reducing pressure from a collar, but we all know that not all dogs are perfect when they first start learning.

To avoid painful eye problems: 1. Brush up on your loose lead walking and 2: switch from a collar to a well-fitting harness.

Thyroid Problems
“The collar rests on the area of the neck where pressure is applied to the lymph nodes, mandibular and thyroid gland as they are pushed against the trachea and oesophagus. Trauma can occur whenever the dog or owner pulls on the leash”

“Trauma > Inflammation > destroyed cells as immune system tries to remove inflamed thyroid cells >deficit of thyroid hormone > hypothyroidism > depleted immune system”
Dr Peter Dobias

Gosh, there are a lot of technical terms in that quote.  In simple terms a dog’s neck does an awful lot more than just hold its head in place.

There are some important structures in a dog’s neck….just as there are in your neck.  When a dog’s collar is too tight or jerked.. The pressure could damage the windpipe, the thyroid gland and the immune system enough to pose a very big risk to the dog’s health. It only takes one jerk to start causing damage.

Choosing the perfect Harness for dog training and walking
There is a wide array of doggy harnesses on the market. Different colours, different shapes, different fabrics and varying amounts of padding. Which is best for your dog?

My advice would be to buy the very best you can afford and think about your dog’s comfort rather than making a fashion statement.

My own choice of harness is the Perfect Fit. It has a “Y” shaped front which means no pressure on the dog’s neck, biceps muscles or supraspinatas tendon (the one which allows your dog to extend its front legs).  

The Y shaped harness allows the dog to move freely. It’s super comfy for the dog and gives owners peace of mind.

If your dog pulls on the lead, we cover lead walking in our puppy and dog training classes  as well as lots of other behaviours that improve your dog’s focus, listening skills and desire to stay by your side.
Remember a pulling dog, is one that finds it’s environment more rewarding than you, that’s why we focus on giving you and your dog a great relationship so your dog always wants to be by your side.

If you want to find out a bit more on how this all works check out our blog on reward based training.

Reward based dog training – how it works

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