Walking into the harness section of your local pet supply store can feel daunting at times. It seems like there’s almost as many ways to attach a lead to a dog as there are designer dog breeds! If you’ve racked your brain sorting out your peke-a-poos from your cockapoos and the thought of getting your head around an easy walk vs a gentle leader fills you with dread, don’t worry!
The tremendous diversity of control sources (collars, harnesses, et cetera) can be broken down into a few attributes that define their role and what they are best suited for.
First, let’s talk some general points:
Why a harness?
There are a variety of reasons to use a harness over a collar.
First is control. Larger, stronger dogs might need a bit of extra guidance than a simple flat collar can provide.
Second: a harness will not put added pressure on the neck and trachea of a dog. Brachycephalic breeds (e.g. pugs, bulldogs, Boston terriers) will benefit most from this, as it is best to avoid putting pressure on their airway.
Other reasons can include keeping your dog from getting tangled in their lead, and preventing a dog from developing dreams of becoming the canine Harry Houdini and giving you the slip.
Harnesses stop my dog from pulling, right?
Well, yes and no. If your dog pulls, putting a harness on them won’t magically stop pulling. Harnesses are a tool, first and foremost. Different types of harness will give you different ways of handling your dog and redirecting their energy: if you use a headcollar, when your dog pulls and puts tension on the lead, it will redirect their head (and therefore focus and momentum) down and towards you, the handler.
Regardless of your control device, these tips from the AKC are a great place to start with training your furry friend’s leash habits.
Let’s talk about the types of control device. The main categories we’re going to talk about today are flat collars, martingale collars, front-clip harnesses, back-clip harnesses, vest harnesses, and headcollars.
When you think of a dog collar, this is almost certainly what you picture (unless you happen to be a greyhound owner— more on that in a moment). Every dog should be wearing one of these whenever they’re outdoors, complete with ID, rabies, and registration tags. These are not always great primary control devices, however: they can put excess pressure or force on the neck/trachea and the buckles can in some circumstances fail, leading to a loose dog.
For more reading on dog harnesses, check out the following posts:
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