When choosing a collar or a harness for your dog, the most important rule is: it’s for your dog, the one and only, unique, special, unmistakable individual. So think about your training goals, the size and personality of your dog and, most importantly any medical issues your dog has (or is prone to).
If your dog has health issues, ask your vet what’s best for him. For many toy breeds a back-attaching harness is better, it does not make the pressure on the chest problematic (big breeds are less sensitive to this). But they won’t be good if your dog pulls as when the dog pulls on it his attention is re-directed from you. The front-attaching ones, like collars, direct your dogs attention towards you when pulled (pulling itself is another, separate matter). Harnesses might be a better option for dogs like pugs, who, when too much pressure is created, risk that their eyeballs will protrude from sockets. They are also a better choice if your dog has respiratory problems or neck injuries. They might also give you more control, but they are not a replacement for training. Some dogs, however, simply don’t like them, especially when they’re not used to them.
Collars are quick to put on and you can easily attach your dog’s ID tag and/or any medical or vaccination information. Traditional ones can easily be adjusted as your dog grows, so they are more economical. The leather ones get better with age (more personalised, too) as the oil from the dog’s coat softens them. Rolled ones are better for dogs with long coats, flat ones for short-haired dogs, martingales are perfect for dogs whose necks are wider than their heads. They are not ideal for training, especially with a more boisterous dog, the risk of neck injury is definitely something to take into consideration.
Obviously, you can use both a harness and a collar interchangeably -some dogs distinguish between work (harness) and play (collar) thanks to this technique. There is also a hybrid option: the head halter, that looks like a fabric muzzle-one strap runs around the back of the head with another strap around the muzzle. It’s many trainers preferred option.
There are many specialist harnesses on the market (I have successfully used some for dogs with back problems), so ask yourself, your dog and your vet, do your research and enjoy the experience.
Lily’s wearing made-to-measure harnesses (‘norwegian racing dog’ type) as she’s a small, fearful dog who for the first three years of her life didn’t go outside at all. When she arrived here she had a harness and a collar each with a lead attached and we were advised not to take them off (ever) as she wouldn’t let us put them on again. I got rid of the ‘problem’ within about five days.Oh. I took both the harness and the collar off immediately. I’m a rebel, me. And I like a challenge. My vanity and weird need to compensate to her for things she didn’t have makes me buy too many harnesses in various colours, with funny patterns and cartoon characters. She’s not bothered, sensible as she is, she knows two would be sufficient (one would always be in the wash, Lily loves running in the mud).
I’m trying not to promote any brands here as it’s my (very) personal blog. If you want to know what Lily and I like, I don’t mind answering, simply post a question in the comments section.