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Harness Vs. Collar - Which Is Best for Your Dog?

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Hope co-owns dog supply shop Golly Gear and 2-Minute-Trainer. She believes that dogs deserve the best because they give their best to us.

Harness vs. Collar

Booker (Boston Terrier) looks cute in either a dog collar or harness. But which is better for him?

Booker (Boston Terrier) looks cute in either a dog collar or harness. But which is better for him?

Controlling collars

People have controlled dogs for hundreds, if not thousands, of years by using collars around the dogs' necks. It's the picture most people are used to seeing, but that doesn't mean it's best for the dogs.

If your dog walks calmly by your side, regardless of circumstances, then it probably doesn't matter what he/she wears. But if your dog likes to explore on every walk, or is apt to chase fleeing bunnies, squirrels, or even birds - a collar may not be the safest choice for your dog. Think about the force and stress it puts on a dog's neck and spine when they go dashing off after that "SQUIRREL!"

Even a dog who pulls relentlessly while on leash may be causing damage to his neck, throat, and spine. Small dogs in particular are prone to "Collapsing Trachea" syndrome. This is damage to the cartilaginous rings in the trachea and results in a persistent cough. Once the cartilage is compromised, it does not heal on its own. While the condition isn't generally life-threatening, the cough may occur for the rest of the dog's life.

Those who favor collars over harnesses emphasize the superior control they have using a collar, rather than a harness. Many of these people also support the use of choke collars (also known as slip collars, training collars, or chain collars), prong collars, electronic collars, and martingale (limited slip) collars. All of these "work" by inflicting pain, or the threat of pain, on the dog.

Does this mean dogs shouldn't wear collars? Of course not! Collars are great for carrying I.D. tags, and for fun, fashion statements for dogs. And, as mentioned, if the dog walks calmly on leash, he/she probably doesn't need anything more.

Harnesses for every dog

Different kinds of harnesses for different kinds of dog-walking styles. There's one for every dog.

Different kinds of harnesses for different kinds of dog-walking styles. There's one for every dog.

Harnesses for whatever your dog's walking style

The beauty part of dog harnesses, aside from how cute dogs look in them, is that there's a style to fit every dog. Even though dogs come in every size and shape, there's a harness that's perfect for your dog.

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Some dogs can't stand anything going over their heads. You can either train your dog to accept over-the-head harnesses and clothes, or you can find step-in styles that would be a no-fuss option.

There are dogs who don't like you to touch their paws. For these guys, a vest-type harness that goes over the head is perfect.

There are no-escape harnesses, no-choke harnesses, walking harnesses, car-seat harnesses, even backpack harnesses. And you can find just about any of them in colors and patterns to fit your lifestyle.

There are also no-pull harnesses. Some of them, that have the leash attach at the dog's front, can cause long-term damage to the dog's shoulders.

When trying a harness on your dog, it should fit snugly, but allow complete freedom of movement for the dog. Check if it's too tight around the "arm holes" as well as the neck and girth. Make sure the pinch clasp or buckle doesn't chafe a sensitive area and that your dog can sit and lie down comfortably while wearing it.

When shopping for a dog harness, consider:

  • Does my dog pull?
  • Does my dog have any health issues?
  • What kind of fur does my dog have? Does he/she tend to mat?
  • How hot does my dog get? or is he/she cold all the time?
  • Does my dog care about the sound of hook-and-loop tape? or pinch clasps?

Another consideration when buying a dog harness is sizing. There is no standardization in the pet product industry. Companies make up their own sizes, based on their product mix. If a company only makes harnesses for small dogs, their "Extra Large" may fit a 20 lb. dog, not a 75 lb. dog.

The most important measurement for a proper-fitting harness is the dog's girth, or chest measurement. Measure all the way around, just behind the dog's front legs. The neck measurement is good to know, but secondary. Most harnesses are designed to fit snugly, with only one or two fingers (laid flat) between the dog and the harness.

© 2022 Hope

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