Search Menu

AKC is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to If you purchase a product through this article, we may receive a portion of the sale.

It might be time to buy a collar or harness for your puppy or dog for the very first time or replace one that’s wearing out. Either way, it’s important to understand that there are a variety of collars and harnesses that work for different dogs in different circumstances.

Here are some of the pros and cons of dog collars vs. dog harnesses for you to consider.

Pros and Cons of Dog Collars

Types of Dog Collars

  • Flat collar: Also known as flat-buckle collars, these are the most standard type of collar, so you’re likely used to seeing these. This is the most basic piece of dog-related equipment — a plain collar that snaps or buckles closed. Many people use this type of collar to keep identification and rabies tags on their dogs. This is a great option for dogs that aren’t prone to slipping out of the collar.
  • Martingale collar: This type of collar is a limited slip-type collar. It does tighten around your dog’s neck when there is tension on the leash, but it can only tighten as much as the adjustment allows. Martingale collars help protect against throat damage that can occur with traditional choke chains. This type of collar is perfect for dogs that tend to back out of their collars. You can see in the photo that the leash attaches to the control loop, which can tighten or loosen with tension on the leash.
  • Rolled collar: Typically leather, these dog collars are generally made of a piece of leather that is rolled up and stitched together by a machine. Rolled collars aren’t the best choice if your dog pulls a lot when walking, but work well for dogs with sensitive skin, wrinkles, or rolls.

Potential Pros of Dog Collars

  • These are among the most readily available dog products. Plus, dog collars are good for keeping ID tags around your dog’s neck.
  • There are different types of collars to try. Flat collars work for dogs that know how to walk on a leash without pulling. Martingale collars (limited slip collars) are great for dogs whose necks are about the same size as their heads and can slip out of flat collars. Rolled collars work well to hold your dog’s ID, but they won’t flatten or matt the hair underneath them.
  • Collars may give you better control and require less physical strength from you as you’re walking your dog than harnesses, depending on your dog’s size.
  • Many dog trainers recommend that you begin leash training for a puppy with a four-foot leash and flat collar and use positive reinforcement (think praise and treats) to encourage your pup to walk by your side.
  • The variety of styles and materials available makes them easy to put on and take off, comfortable for your dog, attractive, and long-lasting.

Potential Cons of Dog Collars

  • If the fit is too loose, your dog may be able to wiggle out and escape. This is especially true for dogs like Greyhounds and Whippets, whose heads are often smaller than their necks.
  • Make sure the fit of the collar isn’t too tight, which be painful for your dog.
  • Train your dog so they don’t tug on the leash (and the collar) when out walking. If your dog pulls too much, they might suffer back pain, throat damage, and other discomfort.

Tips For Buying a Dog Collar

Make sure you select the right size for your dog. You’ll know it fits if you can slip one finger between your dog’s skin and the collar (for small dogs) or if you can fit two fingers between your dog’s skin and the collar (for large-breed dogs).

Blue Tick Sugar Images

Pros and Cons of Dog Harnesses

Types of Dog Harnesses

  • Back-clip harness. A standard body harness with a back attachment is a popular choice for use with small dogs. A back-clip body harness prevents potential throat damage if your dog pulls, and makes it less likely that your leash will get caught under your dog’s legs. A body harness can offer more control than a plain collar, but requires a lot more strength from you, depending on the size of your dog. If you are using a long-line for exercise and added freedom, you should attach it to a body harness instead of a collar for your dog’s safety.
  • Front-clip harness. These look like a standard body harness, but the leash attaches to a ring situated on the front of a dog’s chest. Front-clip harnesses are used for walking. When your dog pulls on the leash, the harness gives you leverage, since it is attached to the front of your dog’s body.
  • No-pull harness: If your dog is notorious for pulling on your leash, you can try a no-pull harness. When they pull, pressure is applied to their chest rather than their neck to discourage them from pulling on their leash.
  • Head halter. This is a tool that was inspired by a horse’s halter. A head halter allows you to control your dog’s head, working just like a horse halter does on a horse. This tool gives you the most control while walking your dog. This is a good choice for very large dogs that pull, even with a front-hook harness. The head halter also gives you leverage, but requires less strength from the handler. You should never use any sort of long-line with a head halter because your dog can injure himself if a leash suddenly stops him.

Potential Pros of Dog Harnesses

Considering buying a dog harness instead of a dog collar? Some of the advantages of harnesses include that they may:

  • Be more comfortable for your dog
  • Help prevent your dog from slipping out
  • Be helpful for puppies that haven’t learned to walk on a leash yet
  • Help avoid injury (such as throat damage) in small dogs who are more likely to pull or tug at the leash
  • Help prevent your dog’s leash from getting caught under their legs
  • Help discourage pulling (if you use a front-clip harness)
  • Be better for dogs with tracheal collapse (a hacking cough often brought on by excitement, exercise, drinking water, or extreme temperatures)
  • Help alleviate dog back pain

Potential Cons of Dog Harnesses

  • Can be harder to put on and take off
  • May require more physical strength than walking your dog on a traditional dog collar, depending on the size of the dog
  • If a harness is too big, your dog may be able to wiggle out and escape
  • Dog harnesses that are too tight can be painful for dogs
  • Can be uncomfortable in hot weather
  • Harnesses that hook on the back can actually help train your dog to pull you, which is the exact opposite of what you want.
Pug in a step-thru harness eating a treat.
©Discovod -

Tips For Buying a Dog Harness

Check out our step-by-step guide covering how to put on a dog harness, which walks through the process of putting on three of the main types of dog harnesses (standard, step-in, and front-clip).

As with buying collars, you’ll need to make sure you select the right size harness for your dog. A harness fits if you can slip one finger between your dog’s skin and the harness (for small dogs) or if you can fit two fingers between your dog’s skin and the harness (for large-breed dogs).
Get Your Free AKC eBook

Tips for Responsible Dog Owners

This e-book is a great resource for anyone who's considering dog ownership or already owns a dog. Download for tips on how to be the best dog owner you can be.
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download