Dog Harness vs Collar for Dogs?

This is a very, very common question we get from pet owners all the time.

Should you use a collar or a harness on your pet dogs?

Should this be different in the home than for going on walks?

As a caring and responsible dog owner, should you chose a harness over a collar for… Training, running, for different sizes, breeds, or ages of dog?

We will first give you a straightforward answer to this question and then look at the topic from different angles to help give you a complete understanding.

The simple answer is we recommend that you use BOTH a collar and a harness with your pet pooch.

So which is suitable and for what occasion? Let’s look at this question in-depth…

Dog Collar or Dog Harness – Advantages and Disadvantages?

As we just said, we think you need to use both on your dog, so let’s look at the benefits, pros, and cons of both collars and harnesses so you can understand when one is more suitable than the other.

NOTE – Click here if you want to find the best harness for dogs for your four-legged friend.

Pros vs Cons of Dog Collars

Pros of Dog Collars

Collars Can Be Very Cheap

If you are on a low budget, you can use nothing but a flat buckle collar that costs you a couple of bucks, and it will not harm your dog in any way whatsoever. Life will be a bit harder for you, but we know that sometimes money is tight and if you are short of cash, always remember a cheap, standard, flat collar from any old pet store is just fine and won’t cause any major issues.

Collars are Easy to Put on and Take Off

Collars are straightforward to put on and take off your dog, especially compared to some of the more fiddly dog harnesses.

Collars are (Mostly) Escape-Proof

If you have a well-fitted collar, it is very unusual, in fact, almost impossible for even an accomplished escape artist to get out of it.

Dog Collars Are Easy to Use

Once you put the collar on, you clip on the leash, and that’s pretty much it. Some dog harnesses have multiple adjustments, multiple attachment points, loops, clips, and buckles to contend with.

Collars Cover Very Little of the Dog’s Body

A collar goes around the dog’s neck. This means less friction, less potential impact on the dog’s natural range of motion, and less chance of trapping the dog’s body heat in and preventing cooling.

Adding ID Tags to a Collar is Really Easy

Just clip some dog tags (aka identification tags) to the collar nice and easily.

Collars are Easy to Size and Fit

For anything from toy breeds to very large dog breeds, finding a collar of the right size is really easy.

Cons of Dog Collars

Choking is Very Common

Even if your own dog isn’t an aggressive puller when being walked on a collar and leash, we are sure you will have seen many dogs that are like this. A dog can get a neck injury from pulling too hard against a collar in the worse case. Yes, dogs can still pull on a body harness, but the pressure is not on the dog’s neck or throat.

Control over the Dog Can Be Limited

As you can see from dogs choking themselves against a collar, you have limited influence and can be risking neck injuries. Dog harnesses with strong chest plates and back handles give you much more power in a much safer way.

It Is Not Safe to Pick Up a Dog by the Collar

It is not safe or kind to pick up a dog just by its collar, but most harnesses have a handle that is perfect for lifting a dog.

harness for dogs on a labrador retriever

Pros vs Cons of a Harness for Dogs

Pros of Dog Harnesses

Clip Harnesses Give Excellent Control Over the Dog

The great thing about the vast majority of canine clip harnesses are made to direct the dog by putting pressure against its chest. This means you can use the leash to raise the pup’s front legs away from the floor, which instantly reduces their pulling power. You also get a handle of the back of the dog’s harness, which you can grab to get even more control.

A Harness is Great for No-Pull, No-Choke Walking and Training

Most harnesses come with two leash attachment points, one on the chest plate and one on the back. This combination makes it much easier to train a dog, not pull on a leash. Also, the harness design with no neck-straps means if the dog does pull on the harness, it can’t choke itself.

They (Mostly) Have Reflective Trim for High Visibility Night Walks

The standard dog harness design almost always includes reflective stitching and trim to make walking much safer during dark hours.

Is It Very Safe to Pick Up a Dog by the Harness

Using the grab handle on the back of the harness, it is really easy to pick up (or partially lift) your dog with no pressure on its neck. This can be handy for anything from lifting the pup into the car to helping it up some rocks when running on the trails.

Cons of Dog Harnesses

Dog Harnesses Cover More of the Dog’s Body

Harnesses will cover more of your pet dog’s torso and legs. This can cause body heat to build, and if the harness isn’t fit right, it can also cause chaffing and sores.

A Harness is More Complicated to Put On and Take Off and Get Well Fitted

First, you have to take the time to measure the dog and buy the right harness. Then you have to use the adjustable straps to make it fit. Then each time you want to use it, you have to put the dog’s legs through the loops and buckle it in, again making sure the adjustment points are set to give the dog a good fit.

It Can Take Dogs Longer to Get Used to a Harness

Some pet dogs do not like or enjoy wearing a harness at first. They can all be taught to like them over time, but it might take a bit of patient effort.

Harnesses for Dogs Tend to Cost More Than Collars

You can still pick up a very cheap harness that will do the job, but a head-collar will always be cheaper than front-clip harnesses as a general rule.

body harness vs collar article

So When Should Your Dog Wear a Harness and When Should they Wear a Collar?

Having now looked at the advantages and disadvantages of collars and harnesses, which should help you chose for your pup, when and why?

You should use a harness if:

  • You need better control over your dog, such as a trip to the dog park.
  • If your pet pup pulls badly on the leash during walks, if you might need to pick up your dog or grab them for better control.
  • Also, in most situations, a front clip harness is a better training tool, so dog trainers often prefer it.

You should use a collar if:

  • You are on a very low budget and need the cheapest option.
  • If having a very quick and easy method of attaching a leash is important for you.
  • If your dog does not like the addition of webbing and straps from the harness.
  • Or if your dog is well behaved, does not pull on the leash, and is small enough for you to control without using a harness.

By the way – Some people ask if dogs can wear front clip harnesses all day long? The answer is yes, as long as they fit really well and are comfortable for the dog.

Some Thoughts from a Professional Dog Trainer

To wrap up this post, we have shared a video from a top-rated YouTube trainer.

He shares various thoughts on the collar vs. harness question and other topics related to dogs’ health well-being concerning taking leash walks with harnesses and collars.