Heather Heinel, owner and CEO of Park City Dog Center and Triple R Dog Training shares which is better for your dog – a collar or a harness.

There are so many types of collars and harnesses available these days that it can be overwhelming trying to determine which one is best for your pup! There are several factors to consider when selecting a collar or harness, such as your dog’s activity level, what types of activities your dog will be doing while wearing the product, your dog’s level of obedience training, as well as his or her breed and size.

To ensure the best fit, it is important to measure your dog’s neck when selecting a collar, and rib cage when selecting a harness. Some dog owners may prefer to have a collar with identification tags attached for daily wear and then have a separate harness or head collar for walking or other outings.

There are several types of materials used for traditional collars such as nylon, polyester, leather, and biothane. Once you select your collar and place it on your dog, make sure that it is snug enough that it will not slip over his or her head but also loose enough that you can place a finger between the collar and your dog’s skin easily.  

Consider removing your dog’s collar when he or she is relaxing indoors or in their crate. However, a collar with identification tags is always highly recommended for any outing or outdoor activity.

Harnesses can also be a great option for walks, especially for breeds with short or “squished,” noses as they can have difficulty breathing when using a traditional collar and leash combo. There are many different harness options available. Some are even designed to help with those overly excited pups that tend to pull on the leash.

Head collars can be another great option for dogs that tend to pull on the leash. Head collars typically fit around your dog’s muzzle with a separate strap that clips behind the ears. Head collars are designed to give dog owners more control when walking their dogs by gently pulling the dog’s head to the side if he or she pulls forward. They are designed to allow your dog to comfortably open their mouth for panting, a drink of water, or treats, despite looping around the muzzle.

Be sure to wash your dog’s collar, harness, and/or head collar routinely with gentle soap and water. Watch for any skin irritation such as excessive itching, redness, irritation, or hair loss. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is possible the product does not fit your dog properly, or your dog may be sensitive to the materials used to make the product. Remove the collar, harness, or head collar if any of these symptoms occur, and make an appointment with your veterinarian.

If you are struggling to search for the perfect option, your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer may be able to help guide you further for your dog’s individual needs. Keep in mind, it may take a little trial and error to find what works best for you and your dog. Below are a few examples of some of the many different styles available.

My personal favorites are the Gentle Leader head collar and the Easy Walk Harness. I have an exuberant Golden Retriever who loves to pull while on walks, and these have been wonderful for us. They are very lightweight, fit well, and my dog is very comfortable in them.

More dog lovers’ favorites:

Halti Headcollar

Quick Fit Dog Harness

Front Range Dog Harness

Lifetime Harness

For even more ideas, check out The Daily Dog’s dog harness Buyer’s Guide—written by a CPDT-KA Fear Free Certified dog trainer—and top picks.