Most dog owners give their dogs a collar as a matter of course. There is nothing wrong with that if it is simply to provide them with a means of ownership and identification, AKA dog tags. However, if they use it as a means of control, which is its actual purpose, then that might pose a problem.
It has long been observed that harnesses have much more going for it compared to collars as a way establishing control over dogs. Despite that, most people still continue to use collars for this purpose. To set the record straight, here is the harness versus collar showdown.
The Truth About Collars
Collars are physiologically a bad idea. The neck of most creatures is a slender and relatively delicate part of the anatomy, so using it as a means of restraint is effective, but unsustainable. It is effective because it is restrictive and often painful. It is unsustainable because it can lead to serious injury or even death.
Imagine having a collar around your neck, and someone pulling on it with any significant force. Even if the collar is not so tight that you find it difficult to breathe (which happens all too often with dogs), the pressure and discomfort is considerable. It will force you to follow whoever has you in hand, but you will feel lousy for a significant amount of time. Some might say it is not as bad as being led by the nose, but that is an entirely different article right there.
It is basically the same with dogs. Over time, this type of physical trauma will lead to chronic physical and psychological problems. It may cause injuries to the nerves and blood flow in the neck and spine, and drive the dog to aggressive behavior.
We are just talking about regular, run-of-the-mill collars here. It goes without saying that cruel inventions such as spike (or prong) and choke collars are incompatible with responsible pet ownership.
Body Harnesses Rule
Fortunately, more people are seeing the benefits of body harnesses, making it much more popular of late. It is primarily an instrument of restraint and collar like the collar, but the differences are myriad.
For one thing, the placement makes much more sense. As you can probably guess, the harness goes around the body or torso of the dog, rather than the neck. For another, the design is less likely to harm the dog. It takes into account the physiology of the dog. It spreads the pressure along a broad area to prevent local injuries, and typically come with pads at contact points to make it more comfortable for the dogs.
An added advantage of harnesses over collars is it can serve other functions. Harnesses may be fitted with pouches and straps to hold items for the owners and dogs, such as food, water bottles, tools, and anything small and light enough for the dog to carry. They may also feature reflective straps or LED lights, which is handy when walking the dog at night and making them easy to find and follow in the dark.
Harnesses undoubtedly rule when it comes to controlling and restraining your dog. In fact, it is so effective and safe that human parents use child harnesses, which have the same general design to keep their fleet-footed toddlers in check outside the home.
That said, harnesses come in many configurations. The design of each one is specific for different uses, so be sure to choose the right one for your dog and purpose. Here are two general categories to get you started.
A widely popular harness in recent years, webbing harnesses are sturdy and robust, designed after the harnesses used for horses. Dog webbing harnesses are usually thick nylon webbing with sturdy plastic snap-on buckles to keep everything it in place.
Most harnesses of this type also have built-in slots or straps for added functionality. For example, a thick strap of webbing located on the center serves as a handle. This is particularly useful if you have a handicapped dog as it gives you a way to lift your dog bodily without causing injury to yourself or the dog. Other features include built-in slots and straps compatible for use with standard car seatbelts.
Nylon Strap Harness
The nylon strap harness is the simplest type of dog harnesses. The basic design is the same one used for child harnesses, and there is some debate on which was based on what. At any rate, this category of harnesses may very well be the first of its kind to come out into the market.
However, just because the design is old does not mean it is out of date. They continue to work very well, probably because manufacturers have gone through many iterations over the years, and they have pretty much perfected the design.
Generally, nylon strap harnesses go with the dog’s body shape and movements. When the dog strains against the restraint or makes an unguarded movement that may injure it, the harness puts pressure on certain parts of the body that it will make it stop. This trains the dog to follow the lead of the owner instead of the other way around.
With all these benefits of harnesses for you and your dog, choosing them over collars is definitely a smart choice. Leave the collars on your dogs for identification, but use the harness for control.