Dog Harness vs. Collar for Dogs

Written by: Karuna Subbiah



Time to read 7 min

If you are a pet parent looking for the perfect walking gear for your dog, you might be wondering about things like, “Harness vs collar for dogs which is betteris a harness better than a collar for a puppy, Is a dog harness better than a collar?” 

Whether you're a seasoned dog parent or a first-time pet parent, understanding the pros and cons is vital in choosing the right option to ensure your dog's comfort, safety, and overall well-being.

Harnesses and collars are tools for walking and identifying dogs, but they're quite different. Choosing between them can affect your dog's walks, training, and health.

In this guide, we'll talk about both harnesses and collars. We'll look at what's good and not-so-good about each.

By thinking about what your dog likes and needs, you can pick the right one. This way, you and your dog can have happy walks together!

Distinguishing Between Dog Harness and Collar

Dog harnesses and collars are both essential training tools for dog parents, serving different purposes and catering to specific needs. While both provide a means of identification and control, their designs and functionalities differ significantly.

1. Harness: A Supportive Restraint

A dog harness covers the dog's chest and shoulders, distributing pressure evenly on the surface area of the dog’s body and minimising strain on the neck. There are different types of harnesses available in the market, some of them including:

  • Vest Harnesses: These are the most common type, providing a comfortable and secure fit.

  • Back-Clip Harnesses: These attach at the back of the harness, offering better control for pullers.

  • Front-Clip Harnesses: These attach at the front of the harness, gently redirecting the pull behaviour.

Harnesses are generally preferred for walking, training, and activities where control is crucial. 

They distribute pressure evenly, reducing strain on the dog’s neck and trachea, especially for brachycephalic breeds with shortened snouts. Harnesses also offer better control over harness pull, preventing choking and discomfort.

2. Collar: A Lightweight Identifier

dog collar is a simple loop that fits around the dog's neck. It is primarily used for identification, attaching ID tags and leashes. Collars come in various styles, including:

  • Basic or Flat Collars: These are the most common type, made from nylon, leather, or other materials.

  • Martingale CollarsThese tighten gently when the dog pulls, preventing choking.

  • Choke Collars: These tighten with pressure, which can be dangerous if used incorrectly.

Collars are suitable for everyday wear, identification, and quick leash attachment. They are lightweight and easy to put on and take off. However, for walking and training, harnesses are generally preferred due to their comfort and control benefits.

Harness vs. Collar for Dogs Pros and Cons

Dog wearing a harness and sitting

When deciding between a harness and a collar for your canine companion, understanding the pros and cons is crucial. Each option comes with its unique set of advantages and limitations, impacting factors such as comfort, control, and overall well-being. 

Explore the merits and drawbacks of both harnesses and collars to make an informed choice tailored to your dog's specific needs.

Harness for Dogs: Pros and Cons


  • Reduced strain on the neck and trachea: Using a harness helps dogs feel more comfortable because it spreads the pressure evenly on their chest. This is great for dogs with breathing problems or those who like to pull on the leash.

  • Enhanced control during walks and training: Also, harnesses give you more control when walking or training your dog. It makes it easier to guide them and stop them from pulling too much.

  • Comfortable and secure fit: Properly fitted harnesses should fit snugly without restricting movement, ensuring your dog's comfort and safety.

  • Suitable for various activities: Harnesses aren't just for walks. You can use them for other things like hiking, jogging, or going for a ride in the car.


  • Matting and irritation: If not properly fitted or maintained, harnesses can cause matting and irritation, especially in dogs with long or thick fur.

  • More difficult to put on and take off: Harnesses typically require more effort to put on and take off compared to collars, which can be a hassle for some pet parents.

  • Not ideal for all activities: Harnesses may not be the best choice for activities that require quick manoeuvring, such as agility or competitive obedience.

Collar for Dogs: Pros and Cons

Dog wearing a collar


  • Lightweight and comfortable: Collars are generally lighter and more comfortable for everyday wear, allowing your dog to move freely.

  • Easy to put on and take off: Collars are easy to put on and take off, making them good for everyday use.

  • Suitable for identification and everyday use: They can also hold ID tags and leashes, making them good for walks and errands.


  • Neck strain and injury: Collars can hurt your dog's neck and throat, especially if they pull a lot or have breathing problems.

  • Discomfort and irritation: Collars can also make your dog feel uncomfortable, especially if they have sensitive skin or neck problems.

  • Limited control: Collars can make it harder to train your dog or control them when they pull.

Choosing the Right Option for Different Scenarios

While choosing between a collar and a harness one of the aspects that should be considered is the age of your dog. Whether you have a puppy or an adult dog factors into your choice significantly as well.

Is a Harness Better than a Collar for a Puppy?

When deciding between a harness and a collar for your puppy, consider the following factors:

  • Growing puppy's needs and comfort: Harnesses are more comfy for puppies because they spread the pressure evenly across their chest and shoulders, protecting their delicate necks.

  • Gentle handling and training techniques: Harnesses provide better control without putting unnecessary pressure on the puppy's neck, allowing for gentler training methods.

  • Gradual introduction to different walking aids: Start by using a harness for walks and training, and then gradually introduce a collar for identification and everyday use.

Harness vs. Collar for Large Dogs

Large dog breeds often have stronger pulling tendencies, making harnesses a more suitable choice.

Specific considerations for large dog breeds:

  • Increased risk of neck strain and injury: Harnesses spread out the pressure, so your dog's neck won't get hurt.

  • Need for a sturdy and well-fitting harness: Choose a harness that's made for big dogs, so it's strong and fits well.

  • Importance of proper control and training: Harnesses help you control your dog better, so walks are more fun and safer.

Health and Behavioural Implications

Dog pulling at its collar while walking

When considering the well-being of our furry friends, the choice between a dog harness and a collar involves careful consideration of health implications and behavioural effects. 

Let's delve into the potential impacts, ensuring pet parents can make informed decisions tailored to their dog's individual needs.

Are Collars Bad for Dogs?

Collars, commonly used for leash attachment and ID tags, can pose risks to a dog's neck, especially during leash training. Tight collars may lead to pressure on the dog's neck, potentially causing discomfort or exacerbating medical conditions. 

To lower these risks, it's crucial to choose the right size and opt for wider collars that distribute pressure across a larger surface area. Regularly check for any signs of irritation or discomfort and, if needed, consult a vet for guidance.

Are Harnesses Bad for Dogs?

While harnesses offer advantages, improper usage may have health implications. Ill-fitting harnesses or those positioned too high on a dog's body can lead to chafing or restricted movement. 

To ensure responsible harness use, select the appropriate type for your dog's size and activity level. Regularly inspect the harness for signs of wear or discomfort, and adjust it as needed. 

Harnesses should comfortably distribute pressure across the dog's body, avoiding concentrated stress points.

Do Dogs Behave Better with a Harness?

Behavioural changes often accompany the switch from a collar to a harness. Dogs prone to pulling may benefit from the added control a harness provides, discouraging dogs from pulling and promoting a more controlled walk. 

While individual responses vary, many pet parents observe positive changes in their dogs' behaviour with the introduction of a harness

Harness vs. Collar for Dogs' Shoulder Blades

Dog wearing a harness and standings on a grassland

The impact on a dog's shoulder blades is a crucial consideration. Collars, if excessively tight or misused, may put strain on these sensitive areas. 

Harnesses, when fitted properly, distribute force more evenly, reducing the risk of shoulder strain. Ensuring a comfortable fit for your dog involves selecting the right harness style and adjusting it to avoid any rubbing or discomfort around the shoulder blades.

Expert Opinions and Recommendations

Veterinary professionals offer valuable insights into the harness vs. collar debate. It is a wise decision to consult a vet for help if you can’t decide between a collar and harness for your dog. 

Do Vets Recommend Collars or Harnesses?

While both options have their merits, vets often recommend harnesses for dogs prone to respiratory issues or those needing extra control during walks. 

Consulting with a vet can provide tailored recommendations based on a dog's specific health and behavioural characteristics.

Do Dogs Need Both Harness and Collar?

Dog wearing a collar and a harness, sitting

In certain situations, using both a harness and a collar can be beneficial. For example, attaching a leash to a harness for walks while keeping an ID tag on a collar ensures a comprehensive approach. 

Combining both options addresses different needs, providing versatility in managing a dog's safety and well-being.

Summing It Up

In conclusion, navigating the harness vs. collar decision involves considering various factors related to health, behaviour, and expert recommendations. By prioritising a dog's individual needs and characteristics, pet parents can make informed decisions that contribute to a happy, healthy, and well-adjusted furry companion.

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