Harness vs Collar for Dogs (Pros and Cons)

Big or small, pure or mixed-breed—all dogs need to be taken for walks. But which leash attachment should you use? Harness or collar?

Whether you are a new pet owner and don’t know which one to go for, or have been one for years and need a change, take a look at the pros and cons of both and settle the harness vs collar for dogs dilemma once and for all. 

Harness vs Collar for Dogs: Which is Better 

Is a harness better than a collar? Not necessarily. 

Truth is that whether a harness or a collar is the right choice depends on your dog’s size, age, breed, health issues, and activity level. 

For instance, a harness would be better suited to dogs like pugs who are known to have breathing issues, whereas a collar may be a better choice for overexcited dogs since it provides more control for the owner. 

The purpose is another definitive factor. While harnesses, which take off excessive pressure from a dog’s neck, can be a great choice for walks, collars are more convenient for owners who leave pets in the yard—you can attach an ID tag on the collar, or even a GPS tracker, making it easy to locate a missing, lost or stolen pet. 

Here is a closer look at the pros and cons of both collars and harnesses. 

Dog Harness: Pros & Cons

A harness is like a body collar for dogs, covering their chest, shoulders, and upper back. The best harness for a dog is usually either:

  • A front-clip harness—a great choice for dogs that pull, or
  • A body harness—typically used on smaller breeds and puppies whose delicate necks and spines cannot handle the strong tug of the collar. 

Harness vs Collar for Dogs (Pros and Cons)

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Pros of a harness for dogs

  • More comfortable for dogs 

One of the biggest benefits of a dog harness is that it distributes pressure over a larger area of the dog’s body rather than just its neck. 

This way, if a dog moves abruptly, like when it starts to chase after something or jump on people, you can halt its progress by gently pulling on the leash rather than giving a hard tug on its neck that can cause discomfort, pain, or even injury.

  • Can discourage pulling

With collars, dogs pull and move forwards, but with harnesses all pulling does is get the front legs off the ground, making them especially useful for owners who have overexcited dogs (such as puppies or smaller breeds). 

Keep in mind that only no-pull harnesses (or front clip) can achieve this effect—a back-clip harness can actually encourage pulling. 

  • More secure than collars

Harnesses are fastened more securely around a dog’s body, meaning that agitated pups are less likely to slip out of it than a collar. This in turn lowers the chances of your dog getting into dangerous situations, such as running off in traffic or getting lost on a hike. 

  • Easy on dogs’ backs

Vets recommend harnesses for dogs with spinal issues or breeds prone to slipped discs, such as dachshunds and other long-bodied canines. Similarly, older dogs with bad hips and orthopedic problems might feel more comfortable with a harness since it could help them get up and move with less effort. 

  • Easy on dogs’ trachea

Harnesses are a better option for canines with a collapsing trachea, neck problems, restricted airways, or other breathing issues where pressure on the throat can make the condition worse. 

What’s more, using a harness on a dog that is prone to these conditions can stop them from arising. 

If you have a brachycephalic breed, like a bulldog or French bulldog, a harness is a must. These breeds have flat faces and are more prone to respiratory problems that might be managed better with the use of a harness than a collar. 

Cons of dog harnesses 

  • They have to be removed daily 

Unlike collars, harnesses are more complicated to fasten and take more time. As a result, it might be hard to fit a harness on a nervous dog without calming it down first. What’s more, a dog cannot sleep in a harness since it poses a choking risk, so, unlike a collar, you will have to remove it and put it back on every day. 

  • There is no place for a dog tag

An ID tag is essential when your dog is out—whether in the yard or on a walk. Since harnesses don’t have a convenient place for a dog tag, you will have to buy an extra ring or use a collar and a harness (although this might make your pup feel irritated).

  • They might feel uncomfortable 

Since a harness covers a wider area of your dog’s body, it can get a tad uncomfortable, especially in hot weather. In fact, some harnesses are not recommended for use in summer since they might cause chafing or a skin reaction on more sensitive dogs. Using a harness for a prolonged period of time can also lead to tangles and matted fur in long-haired dogs. 

When should you use a dog harness?

Owners of canines prone to breathing issues or who have a history of tracheal collapse, spinal issues, or orthopedic disease should definitely go for a harness rather than a collar. 

When is a harness not a good idea?

Dogs who have sensitive skin or a skin condition should avoid harnesses as they might cause chafing and overheating, worsening their condition. They are also not a good choice for prolonged use, particularly no-pull harnesses, as they could interfere with the natural walking gait of your dog.

Buying a harness: What to remember 

  • To ensure your dog’s comfort, as well as the effectiveness of a harness, it must fit. Even though most have adjustable size options, you should try the harness on your dog at least once before buying it to see if their natural range of movement isn’t restricted.
  • It might take some time for your dog to get used to the harness. Reward him every time you successfully take a walk with the harness on or try enticing him with a treat to get him to put his head through the neck hole. It’s a little sneaky on your part, but it works. 
  • Make sure you know how to put on a harness properly. Do a few test runs before you take the dog out and check that everything is attached. 

Dog Collars: Pros & Cons 

Collars are an essential accessory for every dog owner—the best collars for dogs are versatile, convenient, and incredibly affordable. 

Plus, they are the easiest way to show that the dog has an owner. They allow for easy attachment of identification tags, while some models come with GPS tracking integrated in the collar enabling you to find your pet no matter where they are. 

Harness vs Collar for Dogs (Pros and Cons)

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Pros of dog collars 

  • More convenient 

As opposed to a harness, a dog’s collar can be left on your pet all the time. It will not irritate the dog’s skin or coat, nor will it interfere with its natural movements—a harness, however, can easily get caught in the pup’s legs. 

Even if you choose to take the collar off, it is easier to snap it back on in an instant. 

  • ID tags can easily be attached

A metal ring on collars makes it easier to attach your pet’s ID tag, which contains your address and phone number. This will ensure that your pet is returned to you safely if it ever gets lost or stolen. 

  • They require less physical strength (from the owner)

A collar can give you better control of your pet. What’s more, walking a pet with a collar requires less strength on your part than walking a dog with a harness since the leash is fastened around the neck giving you more leverage.

  • Lots of choices

While there are options with harnesses, collars are known to come in tons of varieties, from style, material, color, and design. Plus there are several different types of collars from martingale collars (no-slip collars) to rolled collars that stop the fur from tangling or becoming matted. 

Cons of collars for dogs 

  • They may hurt your dog’s neck

A narrow collar can seriously injure your dog’s neck or back and pose major trauma due to sharp tugging or pulling. Put simply, a collar is not a good choice for dogs that pull, dogs that suffer from tracheal collapse, or ones that have fragile necks and spines.

You should always check with a veterinarian before using a collar, especially if your dog has had back and breathing issues in the past. 

  • Not very secure

Some dogs can easily slip out of their collars if the fit is not tight enough—a common issue with breeds like greyhounds and whippets, whose necks are bigger than their heads. 

  • Collars are not suitable for certain breeds 

As mentioned above, canines of certain breeds should not use a collar. These include, but are not limited to toy breeds (chihuahuas, toy poodles, or Yorkshire terriers) and brachycephalic breeds (pugs, bulldogs, and boxers). 

When should you use a collar?

A collar is a good choice for short walks or dogs that spend a lot of time outside—they don’t restrict your doggo’s movements and are generally more convenient for owners and dogs. 

When is a collar a big no-no?

Toy breeds, puppies, or dogs with back and neck issues would be much better off with a harness as it won’t put pressure on dogs’ throats and spines or interfere with their breathing. 

Buying a collar: What to remember

  • The collar must be the right size just like the harness—too tight and it will be uncomfortable, too loose and your pet might easily slip out. If you have a small dog make sure that there is room for one finger between your dog’s neck and the collar, or two for bigger dogs. 
  • Choke collars and prong collars (so-called corrective collars) can lead to injury or strangulation, so make sure to avoid these. 
  • Go with a standard collar made of leather, nylon, or cloth—these are the safest and most comfortable for your pooch. 

Harness vs Collar for Dogs: The Bottom Line 

Both types of equipment have certain advantages and disadvantages so which one you go for mainly depends on your dog’s breed and health issues. If you can’t decide which is better for your dog, talk to a licensed veterinarian—they will advise you on the best choice based on your pup’s weight, size, temperament, and health requirements. 


Why are harnesses bad for dogs?

Although they are harder to fit on a dog and might cause mild discomfort, especially for dogs with sensitive skin, harnesses are not bad for dogs. That said, harnesses should not be worn all day as prolonged use might impact your dog’s natural posture and gait. Similarly, a dog should not sleep in a harness as it poses a choking risk.

Are dog harnesses safe?

Yes, harnesses are absolutely safe. In fact, many experts recommend using a harness for everyday walks rather than a collar. Puppies should also be trained using a harness instead of a collar. With a collar, the force of the pull is on the neck and spine which can hurt or damage these delicate areas in young doggies. 

Is a harness good for small dogs?

A harness is suitable for dogs of all sizes and breeds, but it is particularly recommended for toy breeds like Yorkies and chihuahuas whose necks and backs can be hurt when pulling on a leash with a collar. 

Is a harness or collar better for puppy training?

Dog trainers and experts recommend a harness for puppy training. Coupled with positive reinforcements and possibly a retractable leash, a harness makes it easier to encourage your puppy to walk by your side. What’s more, using a harness vs collar for your puppy will stop it from pulling on the leash too strongly and injuring its neck or back, which is a real possibility with a collar.

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