The 'How-to' Dog Blog

When is it Safer to Use a Harness for Your Dog vs. a Collar?

When is it safer to use a harness for your dog vs. a collar?

No surprise, but, it depends…

With my own puppy, a rambunctious Weimaraner, I might use two different types of collars in one day depending on what we’re doing. For example, his harness is better for hiking and his training collar is best for walks in “busy” areas.

Each dog is different, but here are some examples where you might consider a harness vs. a collar.

When to use a harness vs. a collar

To signal to your dog he’s in “working mode.” I have a friend who puts a special harness on her dog whenever they’re doing nosework or tracking sports. This is so the dog knows it’s time to work and it’s OK to pull ahead and do her job. Another friend trains future guide dogs, and his puppies wear harnesses when they’re training.

For smaller dogs with delicate necks. Some dogs are just so tiny or prone to neck injuries that it’s safer and easier on their bodies to wear a harness. For that reason, some dog owners prefer a harness for attaching the leash. If you have a larger dog who pulls, you can even try a no-pull harness.

When you want to avoid pressure on your dog’s neck. Sometimes I just want to have fun and not worry about being in “training mode.” That’s when my dog wears his harness. So, it’s actually the opposite of using it for “working mode.” My puppy wears a harness on our rural hikes because I know he’s going to be running around like the “wild child” he is. I guess we use it for “fun mode!”

Supporting senior dogs. The right harness can help you assist your senior dog if she needs support getting up or going down stairs, hopping into the car, etc. Sometimes just pulling up on the harness a bit will steady the dog and help with balance.

For dogs who slip out of collars. If your dog slips out of most collars, I would first suggest a martingale collar, which tightens slightly under tension. If that doesn’t work, then the right harness is another good option.

When you want to encourage pulling. Probably not too often for most of us! For example, if you like your dog to pull you on rollerblades. You wouldn’t want him to pull you with his neck. Some dog owners also prefer a harness when biking with their dogs. Others teach their dogs to pull carts or sleds.

What it comes down to is what works for one dog is not necessarily going to work well for all dogs.

Sometimes a harness is not a safe option because it might mean the person walking the dog has limited control. It’s all about finding the right balance for your unique dog, and sometimes that means using different tools for different situations. To help with control make sure your dog is wearing their harness correctly.

What do you use for a harness or collar for your dog?

Let us know in the comments!

About Lindsay Stordahl

Lindsay Stordahl is a blogger for She has a black Lab mix named Ace and two naughty cats named Beamer and Scout. Lindsay owns a pet sitting business called Run That Mutt and also maintains the blog ... Add Lindsay to your Google+ circles at . You can follow Lindsay on Twitter @ThatMutt.