Collar or harness: which is better for your dog?
Taking your four-legged companion for a walk is one the best things you can do for the physical and emotional well-being of your dog. The problem is, using the wrong type of leash can have negative implications for you and your dog.
A poorly fitted collar could be causing your canine physical or emotional pain without you even realising.
Using a simple buckle collar fittest correctly around the neck to display a dog’s ID tag is a great idea, but not for attaching to a lead. Your dog's neck is more delicate than you might think.
Walking a dog with a neck-collar leash can be painful to those who pull or lunge, especially if their walker pulls abruptly on the leash. This can put pressure on a dog’s trachea, spinal cord, vertebral discs or oesophagus - so should most definitely be avoided.
If a neck-collar leash is damaging their necks, why don’t they stop pulling?!
Dogs are not humans and do not operate behaviourally in the same way as humans. It would be logical for a person to stop an action when it is painful, but for dogs - their brains work quite differently. Dogs often do not display or react to injury in the same ways as humans.
According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), when it comes to both safety and comfort, using a harness is always the best way to walk a dog. A harness will alleviate pressure on your dog’s neck and it also makes it easier to pull them out of harm’s way if they get into trouble. There’s various different types of harnesses that you can choose from, with a number of suggestions on the PETA website.
It is of course also important to teach your dog how to behave on walks and in public - through some basic training.
Let’s consider a little more about why it’s dangerous to take your dog for a walk using a neck-collar leash…
The neck is a sensitive part of the body for a dog - full of nerves and passing arteries. The oesophagus and trachea are also located in this area. As you might expect, any damage to this part of the anatomy can have grave consequences.
Applying pressure or tension as a result of a collar increases injury risk.
Taking your dog for a walk using a neck-collar lead can lead them to develop back problems.
This type of lead can cause a dog to walk with a forced posture and tugging can press on their vertebrae, cause muscle strain and other lower back injuries.
When a dog pulls on a lead and its guardian responds by pulling harder the opposite way to “correct” their behaviour, the impact of the collar pushing on the dog’s neck puts pressure on nerves in that area. This can cause cramp that can reach as far as dog’s legs.
Repeated stress on the neck can lead to long-term medical issues - including damage to the thyroid glands, tissues around the neck area and salivary glands, says Dr. Barbara Hodges, a veterinary advisor from the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, USA.
These jerk movements for a dog wearing a neck-collar lead can cause serious issues including spinal cord injuries or neurological problems.
Tugging on a lead attached at the neck changes a dog’s posture, causing an unequal distribution of weight across the body while walking. This can cause joint pain that can lead to chronic issues.
When a dog pulls on a lead, this forces the human guardian to walk with an unnatural posture, which can lead to back problems.
Also be careful not to wrap your fingers tightly around the lead, as trapping your fingers can cause bruising or even tissue damage if a dog tugs too hard or unexpectedly.
Excessive straining from walking with a neck-collar lead can put your dog at risk of strangulation. This can lead to a restriction in the oxygen supply to the brain.
Glaucoma is a common eye condition where there is an insufficient drainage of fluid in the eye.
If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness. It’s caused by increased intraocular pressure in the eye.
Excess strain on the neck from a collar can temporarily increase the intraocular pressure in dogs eyes. Pulling on a lead attached to a dog’s collar can aggravate this, meaning it can put a dog’s eye health at risk.
Coughing is common when a dog is pulling on their lead and the collar is putting pressure on their windpipe. While this is a common problem, it might be a good idea to consider some lead training or use a harness to reduce the chance of this behaviour resulting in damage to your dog's neck or windpipe.
Neck strain from a neck-collar lead can lead to respiratory problems and a chronic cough.
Even if a collar does not lead to any serious injuries or illness, the wrong collar can simply be irritating for a dog. Irritation can cause a dog to be aggressive towards you, other dogs or other people.
Regular pain as a result of pulling on a lead can cause behavioural issues in dogs. Pain from lead jerks can cause a dog to become irritable, break things at home, bark uncontrollably or even refuse to be stroked in certain areas of their body, or not at all.
Lead strain can not only cause the dog a lot of physical discomfort, it can really change a dog’s character.
When a dog pulls on its lead, this forces it to move in an unnatural way, which makes an encounter with other dogs a confusing experience. A dog communicates using body language - and with a neck-collar lead, this is not possible.
The lead forces the dog to approach another in a very direct manner, leaving no space to communicate their intentions. This confusion can create tension and could lead to a frosty response of a fight.
When a dog approaches another four-legged friend restrained by a neck-collar lead, they will approach with an unnatural posture that lacks normal body language signals. As dogs communicate a lot via body language, with a lack of ability to communicate effectively over a sustained period of time, this may cause the dog to become less sociable, scared or aggressive.
Electrified collars used for training dogs are banned in the UK and some other countries. These are harmful, compromise a pet’s welfare and do not offer a suitable solution for behavioural problems.
A harness disperses pressure over a larger area of a dog’s body, reducing strain on the neck and back.
They come in different shapes, styles and sizes so it’s important to do your research to make sure you get the right fit for your furry friend.