Comparing Dog Walking Harness to a Collar
A dog walking harness is a simple yet effective tool that you can use for training purposes as well as when taking your dog for his regular daily walk.
If you are considering choosing a dog harness over the traditional collar and leash combo, there are many considerations to keep in mind.
What breed and size is your dog? Does your dog tend to pull? What are the benefits of using one product over the other?
While both collars and harnesses are meant to keep a dog under control and abide to local leash laws, it is also true that they both work differently and some dogs may benefit more with one versus the other.
Using a Collar and Leash
There are many different types of dog collars on the market and many different materials are used to make them. The most common type is the buckle collar which is often made of cloth, nylon or leather.
The collar goes around the dog's neck and its main purpose is to control the dog. However, the collar is also useful for displaying identification tags and medical information. Some collars are also considered fashion accessories.
Following are some pros and cons of using a collar and leash:
Pros of Using Collar and Leash Combo
- Easy to find, available in most pet stores and affordable
- Identification tags, medical tags and proof of vaccination tags can be easily attached to the collar
- Collars are quite straightforward and easy to wear
- Some collars are meant to embellish the dog
- Some collars are made in such a way to prevent dogs from slipping out of them
- Some collars are made in such a way to reduce pulling
Cons of Using a Collar and Leash Combo
- Collars may cause damage to the trachea of certain breeds
- When misused, a collar can be uncomfortable, painful and may even cause a serious injury
- Some collars cause coughing and gagging when the dog pulls
- Dogs with slim necks are capable of slipping out of certain collars
- Some dogs may react with fear and escalated aggression when forced to wear a collar
Using a Dog Harness and Leash
A harness, unlike a collar, wraps around the dog's body with straps encircling the neck, in front of the shoulders and behind the front legs. When worn correctly, a harness makes it more difficult for the dog to slip out.
There are different types of harnesses on the market. Some harnesses may actually encourage pulling, while a dog walking harness is made in such a way to discourage it.
Following are some pros and cons of using a dog walking harness and leash:
Pros of Using Harness and Leash
- Does not put strain on the dog's trachea
- No more coughing or gagging when the dog pulls
- A dog walking harness discourages pulling
- When worn correctly, a harness makes it difficult for a dog to slip out
- A reflective dog harness helps make dogs visible in the night
Cons of Using a Harness and Leash
- Some harnesses actually encourage pulling due to the fact that dogs have an opposition reflex. Indeed, if we look at sled dogs, we will see that most of them wear harnesses!
- It may take a bit of time for the dog to get used to wearing a dog walking harness
- A harness is a little more complicated and time consuming to put on than a collar
- Requires some measurements to get the best fit
- A harness is not suitable for holding identification tags and may need to be worn with a collar
- The harness may cause rubbing and chafing in short-haired dogs
Types of Harnesses on the Market
Once you have decided that a dog walking harness is the right choice for your dog, you need to learn about the different types of harnesses on the market. Let's take a look at some types of harnesses so to distinguish a dog walking harness from a regular one.
A regular harness has a ring on the top side right behind the dog's shoulder blades where the leash attaches. These harnesses come in different materials: leather dog harnesses, fabric harnesses and nylon harnesses are a few examples. Because these harnesses put pressure on the front of the dog, this elicits an opposition reflex in dogs.
This type of harness, therefore, is not recommended for large dogs that pull a lot. They make a better choice for small breeds such as Yorkshire terriers, poodles and Pomeranians that are prone to tracheal problems.
Dog Walking Harnesses
This harness is characterized by a front-attachment ring that is located in between the dog's chest where the leash attaches. Because no pressure is put on the front of the dog's body, no opposition reflex will take place. When a dog pulls on this type of dog harness, pressure is distributed evenly across the body. With a front-connection harness and some training, even a large dog can learn loose-leash walking.
There are many varieties of dog walking harnesses with a front-connection attachment on the market. Some popular ones are Premier's Easy Walk harness and Soft Touch Concepts' Sensible harness.
How to Use a Harness Properly
Getting a dog used to wearing a harness takes some time. Not rushing and rewarding for cooperation will make the process less stressfull.
For the first walks, it helps to initially have the dog wear a collar along with the harness so to attach the leash to the collar and the top of the chest ring. This allows better control in case of unexpected behaviors.
Following is a step-by-step guide on teaching loose-leash walking with a dog walking harness:
- Attach the leash to the collar and front ring of the harness.
- Move away facing the dog.
- Remove the slack out of the leash.
- Take 2 to 3 steps backwards.
- Encourage your dog to follow you and reward for catching up.
- Walk a few more steps back and make sure you reward your dog for catching up. When your dog catches up, the leash becomes loose and your dog learns to associate the loose leash with rewards.
- Practice walking normally with your dog slightly behind you and remove the slack out of the leash.
- Encourage your dog to catch up and reward when the leash is loose and your dog is next to you.
- Continue practicing for brief sessions.
- Gradually move to more distracting areas. If your dog pulls ahead, stop walking and reward only when your dog turns towards you and the leash is loose.
Here is a brief video that demonstrates how to put on a dog harness.
If you are planning to invest in a dog walking harness to stop a dog from pulling, consider that it's not the harness per se that stops the pulling, but the actual training. It may, therefore, take some patience to actually see results after using a dog walking harness for the very first time.
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Want to learn more?
You may also want to consider this dog training guide. It offers solutions to numerous behavior problems associated with a dog leash, including pulling on the leash and fear of the leash.
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