Collar or Harness – Which Is Best For Your Dog? – And is One Safer?

Many pet parents debate whether a collar or harness is ever needed for their dog. Most dogs don’t like to be restrained.   But, I’m going to tell you why every dog.…. needs to wear one of these at all times while outside.

There is no definitive right answer on the Collar or Harness controversy…they are both effective when matched with your dog’s needs and activity. I personally believe that ONE of these options is safer for your pet…and I’ll explain that in a moment.

But for now…big picture……for being able to control your dog on walks……either your harness or collar will be the #1 place to put your pets identification and medical information. This invaluable data is crucial to your pets safety…and will increase the odds of finding your beloved dog should he get lost or displaced.



Why Your Dog Needs a Collar or Harness!

We’ll get into the pros and cons of whether a collar or a harness option ..is the best fit for your dog.

But first let me say that you need to make sure your dog has identification on them at all times (even in the house).

Whether that’s a collar or harness- one of these with proper ID attached will be the best way for you to locate your dog…… should you two ever get separated.

Quick example……In 2018, Hurricanes Florence and Michael accounted for hundreds of dogs and cats being separated from their families. Many homes were destroyed and people had to evacuate…in a hurry…as a result……many pets were just lost in the confusion of the storms.

Most evacuation emergency shelters for people do not accept pets. Many animals were left in their homes or dropped in a hurry at shelters.

When choosing between Harness or Collar- Use these factors!

  • What’s your dog’s current overall health…and does she have any medical conditions?
  • What are the needs for you and your dog?
  • Factor in your dogs’ behavior and personality?

Is a Collar Best?

One of the best things about choosing a collar is that they are easier for your dog to wear.

This is especially true if you plan on keeping them in the house at all times. Collars can be a fashion statement…plus they give your pet a bit more comfort and quality well-fit collar allows them to move around without the restriction of a harness.

Collars are a great option for house dogs that don’t care to go to far from home. They also are good options for well-behaved dogs who don’t easily excite…and don’t pull on walks.

Smaller breeds, like a Yorkie, who need less exercise can usually use a collar if they have a low-key personality.

Are Dog Collars Safe? – WARNING About Collars!

Freak accidents DO happen and there are very real stories of dogs being strangled from their collars getting caught in pet crate bars, furniture, fences, or even playing with another dog. Never leave a dog unattended with a leash or run line attached to his collar. Do NOT leave the collar on your dog when he is crated.

Check the “collar” policy at your, vet, groomer, and kennel. Smart dog companies don’t allow collars on the dog during boarding, surgery, or grooming sessions. You’re looking for a “no collar policy”.

It’s estimated that approximately 26,000 dogs’ are injured or killed due to collar strangulation accidents every year.

So, what is a safer collar alternative to the Buckle Collar?

A Quick Release Dog Collar is purposely designed in such a way to prevent collar strangulation. A Quick-release collar has a buckle that releases quickly when pressure is applied. You can even get them custom-made to include embroidered contact information…so you don’t have jingling tags (which can also get snagged).


Is a Harness Best?

At first glance a harness may seem like “overkill” to some pet parents. However a harness is a lifesaver if you need more leverage to control your pet.

If your dog is untrained, likes to pull , or is overly excited or friendly while you are walking……then a harness is the way to go.

Some dogs love to jump and lunge when they see other people or animals. A harness give you the ability to restrain your dog better while reducing the risk of neck or throat injury to your pet.

A strong harness allows you to stay in control without straining your dogs neck or throat. More importantly, a sound harness will reduce the amount of pressure put on your arm when he pulls on the leash.

Some smaller dogs can pull as well and their smaller neck exposes them to greater risk of injury…so a harness helps protect them from “themselves”.

Not all dogs like the idea of a harness…so please keep in mind when trying this…it will take some getting used to. For them…… it’s far more restrictive than a collar. But if your dog needs training this is an excellent tool to use while you are establishing some grounds rules for him with you are walking.

Plus a harness will NOT slip off like a loose collar can at times and you avoid the accidental strangulation risk as well


Identification

Regardless of the way you go…either collar or harness……proper identification is a must. You may need more than one tag to cover all the info you need to attach.

  • Licensing – some communities require you to register your pet and give them necessary vaccinations
  • SAFETY – have your contact information engraved…your phone number is best. Include your dogs’ name so they can be calmed in a strange place by someone who finds them. This sends a message that the animal is a pet and is missed.
  • Health- Additional tags may be needed to indicate allergies, conditions like blind, deaf, or diabetic.

Microchip ID

These tiny microchips, about the size of a grain of rice, can be a permanent ID which usually lasts the life of the pet.   A pet microchip uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.  RFID uses radio waves to transmit information.  This chip is injected under the skin of the dog usually between the shoulder blades. This is implanted with a quick injection (just like a vaccination) and the procedure is painless and does not require an anesthetic

A scanner can then be used later……to read the microchip which emits a low radio frequency. Reading the data stored on the chip then gives the identification and medical info on your dog.

Studies have shown that micro-chipped dogs’ are 3 times more likely to be returned to their homes. Microchip ID also increases the odds of your dogs’ return if he’s stolen.

The downside is that when you change homes or contact information you’ll need to update the chip. Also in case of weather or natural disaster emergencies the person who finds your dog may not have a scanner available. Your neighbor who finds your dog running loose won’t likely have a scanner either.

Chipping is a great backup if your dog’s collar became lost. Micro-chipping by your vet on average runs about $45-$60 and includes the chip, chipping procedure, and entering the dogs’ information into a national pet recovery database.

Is It Really Necessary?

According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy…fewer than 2% of lost cats and around 15% of lost dogs’ are ever returned to their families.

Pet studies have consistently shown that ID tags are very important to overall safety of your pet. We carry ID’s in our daily travels to help us navigate through modern life. Your dog deserves the same protection.

So get your dog a great looking quick-release collar or harness…and get them their ID information. Now that you know the risks……. you’ll sleep better at night knowing you’re protecting your dog the best you can.

FitBark Dog Activity Monitor

29 Comments on “Collar or Harness – Which Is Best For Your Dog? – And is One Safer?”

  1. Every time I’m out with my 2-year-old Huskie, Charlie, I always have him on a harness as a collar always gets caught in his neck fur but I still have trouble with the harness getting caught.

    I don’t believe in using a collar whatsoever as it can be very restrictive on him and he always cried when he had to wear one, he’s such a crybaby, but I love him to bits, lol

    I agree with you that dogs should always have their ID on them at all times but Charlie always likes to be free of his harness when he’s indoors so I never put it on him at home.

    Here in the UK, our dogs are micro-chipped in case they get lost so wouldn’t that be enough to bring the dogs back home safely?

    1. Micro-chipping your pet is a great backup method for identification.  Unfortunately if your dog is found by someone in a nearby neighborhood they won’t have a scanner.  If your pet has a collar/harness and ID in addition to the chip….that person will know its a pet that is missed.

  2. Thanks for a very interesting and informative article. We have always just had collars and choker chains but it is scary to red about the risks of strangulation. 

    My pooch is a bit on the wild side and doesn’t like going for walks with a collar so I think I am going to buy a harness for him. It looks like he will just be easier to control with a harness.

  3. Hey Tim,

    Collars should be break-away collars too so that if the dog gets trapped by their collar they can break free without drowning, burning in a fire, or whatever.

    Personally, I’ve grown to not like collars at all, given that years ago now my Maltese suffered from very large, tight knots in her hair caused by her collar… and then years after that another dog I had as a companion would choke violently when pulling on the lead when walking him.

    Once harnesses were available, I no longer use collars.

    The dog I re-homed a few years ago, suffers from having been forced to wear a collar that was far too tight for her, simply because the previous owner found her pulling out of her collar. This dog’s head and neck are so close in size that a harness is the only safe answer. Plus, that collar damaged her windpipe (trachea).

    Thankfully, I do NOT live in a flood zone or an area that suffers from lots of tornados or hurricanes either.

    You are so right though that maybe the microchip (as much as I DON’T like them) is the better answer for making sure pets get reunited with owners should they ever become parted. Getting a Vet to insert them properly is key to your pet’s health for sure!

    1. Yes break-away collars are certainly a safe option.  The one small downside to those collars is that if you are trying to stop a dog from running into harms way you may be left with just a collar in your hand.  But that risk is far less than your dog getting strangled by his buckle collar getting caught on a fence or deck.

  4. There is a lot more to a dog collar or harness than I realized. Also, good for cats to keep there collars on at all times for identification in case of getting lost. The quick release collar is really something to consider as I don’t want my dog to accidentally become a strangulation statistic. Those stats on lost pets not returning home with great frequency is maybe good reason to get the chip. Thank you for an interesting article with a lot to think over.

  5. EXCELLENT article.  I have a German Shepherd that has 3 speeds – running, sleeping and chewing up everything that we own.  I have a quick release collar with her name and my phone number engraved on it that she wears all of the time.  When I take her anywhere, I put her in a harness because she becomes the devils dog when we go out and it’s hard to control her (she is a year old).  I have her microchipped as well.  Your post was very well written and informative.  I agree 100% with everything!  

  6. I don’t really agree with your statement that most dogs hate collars and harnesses. My dog does not mind hers at all and pretty much every dog I’ve met has no problem with them. They basically just forget about the collars at all. However I do agree that they can be dangerous. Juju neighbor’s dog died when his collar got hooked to another dogs collar and he twisted over him and then choked to death. It was very sad.

    One thing I used when my own dog was concert that worked very well for her was called a halti. It went over her nose and fit loosely unless she pulled and it would tighten. It really helped her to slow down on walks and not choke herself because she was so excited to walk. It really works wonders!

    1. Hey Mariah-  some dogs do better with collars or harnesses than others.  They do get used to them..but most would rather not have any restraints.  The halti headcollar is a good control option since it takes a lot of the control away from the dog.

  7. Great article, very informative. Fortunately for our border collie, Kate, we don’t need to use either one. We live in the middle of nowhere, literally and she never leaves our huge yard, unless she goes on a car ride with us. As for microchipping, we are personally against it for our own reasons. Thank you for the great information and keep up the great work. 

    1. Sounds like Kate is living a dogs dream…how awesome to have no boundaries.   I agree that there are some downside to chipping.  So folks just don’t like the idea of someone being able to collect our personal data or “track” our movements.

      There are a few health issues with micro-chipping.  The chips do a have a tendency to migrate and there are some concerns about RFID chips causing cancer…since this uses a radio wave.

  8. Hi Tim, thanks for your article.  We have a 2yo Rottie who is microchipped and desexed.  However the local council has just changed the by-laws that all dogs must be on a leash at our local beach.  There are ones further away that he can still run on but this one is a 200m walk.  We have him now on a collar and it is difficult to hold him and he has got into trouble with it re choking himself on a stick and when walking.  

    I hadn’t actually thought about a harness but I think it would be much easier for us to handle him and better for him also.  He is about 40kg in weight (and still growing).  When looking online is there anything in particular I should be looking out for for a dog of that size?

    Paul

    1. Hi Paul-  If you look at a harness option for your Rottie you may wish to consider the harness “vests”.  

      They are durable and come with some padding…the design actually helps distribute the pull energy across you dog whole body.  Helps him and you.  I think the Rabbitgoo Harness Vest is a great option…it’s one of my highest rated vests when considering price, reviews, and function.

  9. This was really good information. I know about this because I have a small poodle mix. I rescued her from a shelter and I was using a collar for a while after I noticed she would cough or gag a lot. I realized a harness would be much better as that would relieve her throat and breathing and I had more control over her. She is very energetic, loves to go on long walks, loves to run and barks a lot at strangers. She is almost blind, though. So partly I believe she barks more out of fear of something or someone, as a defense mechanism. Otherwise she’s cute and adorable and an excellent house dog. Very protective and very obedient. So, harness is the best option to use for her.

    1. I’m so glad that you found the article helpful.  I’ve only used collars in the past but recently moved to harnesses due to my research.  I have a little dog also (Dachshund) who loves to bark…but I don’t think he knows he’s little…ha!

  10. We have both a collar and a harness for our dog. We have a 5 month old Great Pyrenees, Akita, Australian Shepherd mix. We have a collar for the identification and a harness for walking. She like to try and chase everything so we think that when she gets to the end of the leash the harness doesn’t choke her like the collar does. 

    We have a harness that looks just like the juxzh soft front harness it works reall good it has a metal loop on the top for walking and a metal loop on the chest for training. Which harness would you suggest for a big older dog with a lot of energy?

  11. I was so curious as I read your article because I’ve heard a lot of stories of many dogs killed and getting hurt by these collars. I’m so glad that your article has given enough tips on safety measures so that before using collars or harness one knows exactly what to expect.

    I love cats so much and already have one who is two years and still very playful especially when am around. I’ve noticed that these products in your article seem to apply for dogs, can they be applicable to cats too or you have another option? 

    Thank you so much for this information.

    Paul.

    1. Thanks for reading… and yes cats even more than dogs need special collars to prevent strangulation accidents.  Cats are far more active and climb over many more things where they can get caught on.  There are really good stretch collars for cats and breath away collars.  ID tags are really important for cats as they have a 20 x’s better chance of being returned to their owners when lost if tagged. 

  12. Personally, I’ve grown to not like collars at all, a few years ago my friend’s dog suffered from very large tight knots in her hair caused by her collar and years later a dog I had as a companion would choke constantly from pulling when I walked him.

    Once harnesses were available I no longer use collars.

    The dog I was speaking about a few years ago, suffers from having been forced to wear a collar that was far and wide too tight for her…because her previous owner found her pulling out of her collar.  Plus, that collar ended up damaging her windpipe (trachea).Thank you for this fantastic post.

  13. I really like this post; it is very informative. I used to use a choker collar on my husky. He actually was half wolf, half husky. Anyway, I was reading something similar to the information that you shared in your post about dogs strangling themselves due to the collar. In this case the dog was tied up and a massive storm came in. Everyone was evacuated; when they came back to go through their stuff they found their dog. The dog could not get out of the collar. From that point on I never used the choker collar. 

    The other point you touched on I feel if very important and thank you again for sharing is making sure everyone knows through his or her identification that is placed on the dog’s collar where or who is the owner of the dog. All dog owners know how precious they are. Having a dog is like having a child; you really love them as such and want to make sure they are safe.

    Thank you again for this valuable information.

  14. We use a collar for our dog around the house but a harness when out walking. She likes to pull. If we walk her with a collar, she has a hard time breathing because she pulls so hard causing the collar to push into her windpipe. It makes me so nervous. I try to always put her harness on for walks. She has a much easier time breathing with it.

  15. Hi there I particularly liked your points on having identification on either a dog collar or harness. Some dogs do like to wander and can become lost quit easily so identification is crucial. I have considered getting an ID chip but as you mention if you move address it needs to be updated and that has put me off the idea. My dog has a collar as he is pretty easy to control, but I can see how a harness would be useful for larger more boisterous dogs. Great info!

  16. WOW I never knew that there was so much to think about when it came to dog collars and harnesses!

    Having ID attached to the dog is a great idea.

    I also never knew that so many dogs were hurt or killed in collar accidents. That was a shock.

    I personally like the idea of a harness more. The harness might be more comfortable for a dog rather than having it’s neck pulled all the time!

    Your site is great!

    Tim

    1. Thanks for checking out the article Tim   I like you never thought too much on collars until recently.  Growing up we always had dogs but we always just used a collar (for their rabies tag)…no ID.  

      Frankly I think my parent used the same leather collar for every dog we got…so the collar never fit right or one dog would choke because she pulled so hard,   I guess we all know better now.  Harnesses are good options for a dog that has a need to pull.   I use one mine now even though he is well behaved.

  17. I have two golden retriever brothers and they are still learning I have thought about using a harness but they are not fans so I have a traditional collar on then all the time with their ID / info tags on them. I agree it is very important to id them in the event of separation.  When we got them fixed, we also had them micro-chipped I think that is better than tattooing as has been done in the past. 

    When I go for walks I use a non severe choke collar the one that is half material and half gentle slide chain as they really like to pull when out in public and that seems to be the only way for me to have some control.. What are your thoughts on using these types of collars when they are on leash?

     

    1. I was wondering if you are using a true choke collar…or if you are using a collar know as a Martingale collar. (wiki link).  Choke and prong collars are still pretty common with dog owners.  As you know these are designed to tighten around the dogs throat and neck when a handlers jerk or pull the leash to “correct” their dog.  

      Dogs also end up squeezing their own throat when they pull too hard.  I think that these may provide short term ability to control your dog since they usually stop once they pull…but many don;t and they injure themselves.  This type of collar does not correct the underlying problem of the dog behavior.

      I don’t recommend choke collars…other options for control include a halti collar (slips over the dogs head and face.- but also comes with controversy)..or a no-pull harness.

  18. Tim, hello! Thank you for the article. I read it with interest. You put questions and you answer. In my cases, harness was preferable. Can I not literally follow the rules of commenting. Because dogs are the emotions of its owner. 

    I had several dogs in my life and we generously gave time to each other.My last Puma-Alabay I got at the age of 7 months. We were very connected and firmly loved each other, but I failed to raise her obedient. While walking she always looked into the distance. And she behaved threateningly when a person approached. So she understood her duties. Now she serves in the security group at my son’s business. And I miss. 

    I return to reviewing your article. You correctly highlighted the attributes of the content and “citizenship” of the dog. Dogs deserve decent treatment.

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