Collar vs. Harness

The Competition Runs Neck-and-Neck.

So I'm talking with fellow packpeople David and Yurda about pertinent blog topics and the age-old issue of leashing dogs with collars vs. harnesses comes up. Naturally, there is no easy way to answer this - there are arguments for both and I'll get into that in just a bit - but the funny thing is that no sooner had we discussed the topic than I discovered that Ringo (my 15 lb. mix of corgi, dachshund and possibly seal) needed a new harness. My neighbor Connie, who takes care of Ringo when I work late, had noticed redness on his chest, and the subsequent discovery of frayed, protruding stitching on his harness' chest strap sent Ringo and I straight to the pet store.

Why does Ringo wear a harness? It's this simple: when I adopted him, he was wearing one. He always wears a collar for ID as well as decorative purposes, but for leashing he and I are accustomed to the harness. I like the security of its hold over his torso, and as he's a smallish dog, I'm more at ease knowing I won't inadvertently hurt his somewhat delicate neck. Looking over the vast selection of collars and harnesses at our neighborhood pet supply store, however, it's clear to see that there are countless options available, in styles ranging from eco-friendly hemp fiber to breathable nylon mesh to bright, bold and bejeweled.

Collars vs. harnesses. Everyone's got an opinion, and you're best to form one of your own, with expert guidance from your veterinarian. Here are some thoughts, though, that seem to recur in many dog care forums on the subject:

Basic collars, when fitted properly, are a comfortable choice for dogs without "pulling" tendencies. Some collars can be useful for training, with choke chains and prong collars providing methods of correction (and in these cases, it's highly important that humans are trained for their safe and sensible use). Collars are also easy: easy on, easy off, and even if you opt for leashing your dog with a harness, the addition of a collar is more likely to accommodate pet ID tags with a characteristic metal D ring.

Leashing on a harness minimizes the risk of injury to a dog's neck and back, particularly in smaller breeds. Simple nylon harnesses can be purchased, as well as specialty harnesses designed to provide the same corrective effectiveness as traditional training collars. Harnesses are also available which provide transportation safety, with designs that are compatible with automobile safety belts.

After about 30 minutes of walking back and forth and trying things on in the collar and harness aisle, Ringo and I settled on something new (for us, that is). Typically, he's been wearing a simple nylon-strap harness, but this time we opted for a breathable mesh harness that covers more of his chest than his previous gear, allowing pressure to be more evenly distributed across his chest. It's a Comfort Control Harness made by Four Paws Products, and we chose a fetching shade of royal blue because that's all the store had left in the appropriate size, and also, we're fancy. We walked around a bit in the store parking lot to "test drive" the item, and the change in attire suited us both. I felt no loss of control in guiding Ringo at my side and he seemed perfectly comfortable.

So I urge you to consider all your needs when choosing not only between a collar or harness but also which collar or harness. There are thousands of them out there. You might even choose more than one, for different applications. Take a look at fit, finish, materials and construction involved as well - Ringo's reddened, irritated chest taught us both, the hard way, to examine details like stitching and seams for durability and comfort.

Then, adequately equipped, you'll enjoy peace of mind and greater control over a safe and secure dog.
This way, Ringo. RINGO. THIS WAY. Good boy!
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