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Whether you’re looking to buy a collar or harness for a new puppy or replace one that’s wearing out, it’s important to understand the difference between the two.

There are a variety of collars and harnesses that work for different dogs in different circumstances. Here are some key differences between the two options to help you make the best choice for your dog.

Dog Collars Are a Widely Available Option

Standard dog collars, known as flat collars or flat-buckle collars, are among the most readily available dog products. But there are many other different types of collars to try, such as martingale collars or rolled collars. 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 aren’t the best choice if your dog pulls a lot when walking, but work well for dogs with sensitive skin, wrinkles, or rolls.

When purchasing 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).

Italian Greyhound shaking hands with a new person.
©jtai -

Which Dogs Should Use a Collar?

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.

For puppies who are just learning to walk on a leash, it’s best to stick with a standard dog collar. Many dog trainers recommend that you begin leash training with a 4-foot leash and flat collar. Plus, the variety of dog collar styles and materials available makes them easy to put on and take off, comfortable for your dog, attractive, and long-lasting.

However, dog collars aren’t the best option for all dogs. 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. Also, if your dog tends to tug on their leash when walking, a dog harness may be a better and more comfortable option.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel meeting a Yorkshire Terrier at the park.

Dog Harnesses Are a Comfortable Alternative

Considering buying a dog harness instead of a dog collar? There are many options to choose from, each with their distinct advantages.

A standard body harness with a back attachment is a popular choice for use with small dogs. These harnesses can prevent potential throat damage if your dog pulls and make it less likely that your leash will get caught under your dog’s legs.

Front-clip harnesses are another option to consider. When your dog pulls on the leash, the harness gives you leverage, since it’s attached to the front of your dog’s body. If your dog tends to tug on their leash, you can also 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.

A head halter harness is a good choice for large dogs that tend to pull on a leash. These harnesses allow you to control your dog’s head, working just like a horse halter does on a horse. Out of all the harness options, this one would likely give you the most control when walking your dog.

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).

French bulldog puppy in a harness sitting in tall green grass on a leash for a walk.
©kozorog -

Which Dogs Should Use a Harness?

While a dog harness can offer more control than a standard collar, it often requires a lot more strength from you, depending on the size of your dog.

Harnesses can be a more comfortable option for your dog. Plus, if your dog tends to pull or tug at their leash, harnesses can discourage pulling and help prevent your dog’s leash from getting caught under their legs. dog harnesses can also help avoid injury (such as throat damage) in small dogs and alleviate dog back pain.

However, dog harnesses can be harder to put on and take off and may require you to use more physical strength than a dog collar when walking your dog, depending on their size. As with collars, if a harness is too big, your dog may be able to wiggle out and escape. Dog harnesses that are too tight can also be painful or uncomfortable for dogs, especially in hot weather.

Related article: Choosing the Right Collar for Your Dog
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