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Ask the Pet Vet: What’s better for dogs, a collar or a harness?

I am a big fan of harnesses for dogs. They are so much easier on the dog – especially dogs who tug while being walked. They are safer, too!

In fact, for brachiocephalic dogs (“smushed-faced” dogs such as Pugs, Frenchies, Bostons, Shih Tzus, Lhasas, and Chihuahuas), a harness instead of a collar can prevent several life-threatening conditions including trauma to the trachea causing it to collapse. These dogs have a difficult time getting air in because of their small noses; they can overheat quickly on walks because of this. The restriction of a collar can make this worse. Please use a harness instead. Also, it is easier to control a dog with a harness, even big dogs.

One type of leash I do NOT recommend is the long, retractable leash such as this one:
Frisco Nylon Tape Reflective Retractable Dog Leash, Black, Small: 16-ft long, 3/8-in wide
It is very difficult to control a dog with this type of leash and unfortunate events may occur. A regular nylon or leather leash with a good sturdy harness is best.

There are several harnesses I like.

For smaller dogs, the mesh harnesses are comfortable and work well unless your pup is a Houdini and can wiggle out of it. If so, it is best to go with a sturdier nylon harness. For large and giant-breed dogs, these are required. I recommend getting one that is adjustable. There are many styles, some of which are quite fashionable, but here are several examples on Amazon: this one is best for toy breeds, this one for small and medium breeds, and this one for medium and large breeds.

Ask the Pet Vet

Fido feeling under the weather? Fifi been having some tummy troubles? Worried about ticks? What’s better, wet food or dry food? Wondering how to clip your pet’s nails? Ask veterinarian Dr. Karel Carnohan your questions. Please include a description of your pet’s issue or a question you’re curious about. Upload a photo of your pet if you choose. Dr. Karel will do her best to answer your questions.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

##RVT1017

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Marty
16 days ago

For strong pullers I like the harness with the ring on the chest to connect the leash to. Where the chest goes the dog goes. Halti’s also do the same as it’s like a halter on a horse but I’ve found dogs can slip out of them more easily than the chest directed harness which I believe is called an Easy Walker.

Deborah Mason
16 days ago

We use a variety of collars, harnesses & the Gentle Leader, depending on the situation. For walking nicely in public we prefer the Gentle Leader since it turns our draft horse dogs into gentlemen. We did learn our lesson, though, and took the time to train them to accept them. Previously we had just gotten one, put it on & were very disappointed with it. So, please train your dog to succeed with the tools you use.

Gary Machholz
16 days ago

Hi Dr. Carnohan, I appreciate you bringing great info to the RV community. I would beg to differ on your thoughts about harnesses, however. For big dogs who pull on leash a harness makes it EASIER and more comfortable for them to pull. A training collar is much more appropriate, but should not be used when dogs are left unattended, such as on a long lead at a campsite. Working dogs like German Shepherds, Malamutes, Huskies, Labs and Goldens will drag their guardians given the opportunity with a harness.

Firefly
16 days ago
Reply to  Gary Machholz

Terrible advice on the use of “training collars.” These collars create pain and therefore anxiety which can lead to biting incidents. If your dog pulls the first resource is a front-hitching harness that redirects the dog to the side when it pulls. Two brands are an “Easy Walk” and a “Freedom” harness, though there are many others. Never attach a harness to the loop on the back for exactly the reason mentioned … it’s like hitching up a plow horse. For some dogs, the no-pull harness solution is insufficient. The next step up is a head harness which redirects the dogs head to the side when it pulls. And where the head goes, the body follows. A common brand of head harness is the “Gentle Leader.” The final thing, which few do, is to work with your dog on appropriate behavior when walking on leash. Reward good behavior with small treats. This advice is based on years working with rescue dogs many of whom have never been on a leash.

Gary Machholz
15 days ago
Reply to  Firefly

You, my friend, have never had a high-drive, 85 pound male German Shepherd who was not socialized, or neutered, until he was 20 months old. We had a great trainer who saved his life by teaching us how to properly use a training collar.

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