Last Updated On October 23, 2020

beagle in a dog harnessIf you have never paid the humble dog harness much attention before, you might be missing out. Harnesses often bring to mind badly-behaved dogs, but the truth is that this little piece of equipment can become a great training tool.

Do you have a dog that won’t stop pulling during walks? Using a harness can not only stop that, but it can eventually teach him (or her) to walk properly.  It can also be a wonderful addition or alternative to a collar for dogs with medical conditions (such as collapsing trachea) where pressure on their throat can lead to other concerns. A harness is also a good option for dogs like pugs, who risk their eyeballs protruding from the sockets if too much pressure is put around their neck.

Besides, harnesses can be extremely useful if you walk more than one dog at once and need complete control over them at all times.

dog wearing a green harness

Comparing Dog Harness vs. Collar

Harnesses have a number of benefits over the traditional dog collar most pet owners are used to. These include:

  • Better control over your dog, which is especially important if you’re walking on a busy road, when surrounded by large crowds, etc.
  • Discourages pulling, because it teaches dogs that the action doesn’t give him any advantage. With a collar, pulling moves the dog forward, so he feels like the action is working. With a harness, pulling often does nothing but get the front legs off the floor – definitely not a result your dog will find effective.
  • Helps to stop the dog jumping. If you have a pet that jumps up against people, a dog harness is a good way to stop the action without worrying about choking him in the process.
  • Ideal for puppies, which might get tangled or hurt themselves while pulling on a regular collar and dog leash.
  • Helps control dogs that are easily distracted. This is key when you’re hiking with your dog or in areas where getting distracted could result in injury or the dog getting lost.

Harnesses can also be great allies if you have a dog that needs a little assistance during walks or getting up after a break. With a harness, you can simply pull up and provide lifting assistance when necessary and without causing discomfort or pain. Finally, a major advantage of the dog harness is that it is unlikely to come off accidentally. Collars can come undone when a dog pulls too hard, but a harness embraces the entire body so pulling won’t affect its hold on your dog.

Are Harnesses Ideal for Every Dog?

While there’s no reason to avoid a dog harness, some animals dislike the feeling of it and will need some time to adjust. If you’re planning on using a harness with your dog, starting early is the best option. Otherwise, you might find that the whole on/off process of using a harness is not quite as simple – especially if your dog refuses to cooperate. Harnesses are also not a replacement for collars, because one of the main uses of a collar is to carry identification. Even if your pet is microchipped, he should always wear an ID tag with contact information. Remember, if your pet gets lost without a collar, he might be taken for a stray. A collar usually sends a quick signal that an owner was around at some point and might prompt faster action when your pet is found. Harnesses come in different sizes and fits, so make sure you take your pet along when shopping for walking equipment for your dog. That way you’ll be able to try on several options and see what fits him best.

Types of Harnesses

  • The most common type of dog harness is the one that hugs the chest. It’s an ideal choice for larger dogs and those with a stronger pull, where you need maximum control.
  • Another option is the Gentle Leader® Headcollar, a type of harness that actually closes around the nose and applies pressure on the back of the neck when a dog pulls. This prevents pulling just as other harnesses, but has the added benefit of acting as a muzzle and preventing excessive barking.
  • Then there’s the Ruffwear harness, which is wonderful for dogs with back issues or those that enjoy more rugged hiking experiences.