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All About Dog Harnesses, Collars, and When To Use Them
09/07/2022 | Sniff & Bark
How many dog collars and harnesses does your dog have?
Personally, and as long-time dog parents, we’ve lost count!
It seems like everyone who owns a dog almost always has a dog collar, a dog harness, or both and it isn’t hard to see why. They’re the most practical accessories to have for walks around the neighborhood and other outdoor excursions. Indeed, these essential items are two of the most often used accessories.
But how much do we really know about dog harnesses and collars? What do they have in common and how are they different from each other? When would you want to use a harness instead of a collar and vice-versa?
Whether you’re a first-time or long-time dog owner, it’s time to learn more about them!
All About Dog Collars
When we first own a dog, the accessory we’re most often excited to get is a dog collar. It’s a sign of ownership, care, and the fact that our fur babies belong to us. We use them whenever we go out and as a means of identification.
But did you know that there are several kinds of dog collars out there? Some are even inadvisable and unsafe for pets.
Types of Dog Collars
Most likely, the one you have at home is a collar for daily use. Some of these collars offer a metal buckle that remains firmly closed while others have a quick-release buckle (sometimes referred to as a breakaway collar) that opens when it’s subject to an unusually strong force.
Metal buckles are ideal for large athletic dogs while quick-release buckles offer added safety, especially for smaller canines who are more prone to neck injuries.
Here are other types of dog collars:
- Chain slip collars or choke collars are designed to become tighter if dogs pull on them. It used to be popular for leash training until animal experts cautioned against it. The sudden narrowing around the neck can injure dogs and cause strangulation.
- Limited slip collars, greyhound collars, or Martingale collars are often used on dogs with large necks and relatively smaller heads like greyhounds. These tighten like chain slip collars but only up to a certain degree. They’re meant to keep dogs from slipping out of their collars and running away.
- Pinch collars or metal prong collars are also used to provide negative reinforcement during training. When a dog tugs against it, metal prongs prick the skin and cause discomfort. In addition to being dangerous for dogs, they can also hurt people if their fingers become entangled in the links of the chain.
- Head collars help teach dogs to heel and walk with a leash. Unlike the collars we’re all familiar with, these loop around the muzzle while another strap sits higher on the neck behind the dog’s ears. Its unique construction provides trainers with greater control over the dog’s behavior. Before using one, however, you and your dog must spend time adjusting to it so you can both use it properly.
- Smart collars have innovative technology-enabled features due to their GPS. With a smart collar, you can monitor your dog’s location, be alerted to behavioral changes, and have unique insights regarding your pet’s health.
Qualities of a Good Dog Collar
With so many different dog collars out there, are there collars that are better for our beloved pets? Definitely! Not all dog collars are equal and some will fit better and be more comfortable and practical.
Here are a few things to keep an eye on:
- Comfort. Comfort is first on our list because no matter how expensive or good we think our dog collar is, if it isn’t comfortable for our dogs, it shouldn’t be used. Give collars made of metal and hard plastic a hard pass. Opt for breathable materials like cotton and polyester. Nylon and polyester are also common dog collar fabrics though they are not as breathable. Leather is another great option in terms of breathability and durability but it’s more expensive.
- Durability and practicality. A good dog collar will be able to resist a fair amount of tugging and pulling. It should be easy to clean and have high-quality fabric that doesn’t fray or wear out easily.
If you can, take a close look at a collar before purchasing. Notice the stitching (if there is any), how the materials are fitted together, etc. These small details speak volumes about the quality and care that went into its production.
- Fit. Collars are available in a variety of sizes. To determine your dog’s size, wrap a measuring tape around your dog’s neck where the collar will rest. You’ll want to insert one to two fingers to give your measurement some room. If your dog is particularly large, you may have to add up to three inches to your measured circumference. Aside from specific sizes, some dog collars have adjustable widths so your dog can enjoy a more precise and tailored fit.
Many dog collars are easy to maintain and care for. For utmost convenience, get a daily use collar that you can pop in the washing machine or handwash. To keep it clean, wash your dog collar every few months and after every outdoor activity (e.g. a trip to the beach or hiking) where it might have accumulated dirt.
All About Dog Harnesses
Like collars, dog harnesses are wearable accessories that let you take your dog out on walks and other outdoor excursions. They provide greater coverage and support with material wrapping around the dog’s shoulders and neck as well as behind the front legs.
Instead of the leash attaching to the neck area, the harness is usually connected with a metal D ring on the dog’s back. This relieves tension and pressure on the neck and more evenly distributes weight.
Harnesses for dogs became popular in the 90s when animal rights groups advocated their use. They’re believed to originate in China before 500 AD and were first used on animals on farms and in the cavalry.
The modern dog harnesses we see today are as useful and practical as ever. They can be used to:
- Teach your dog to swim safely (allowing it to stay tethered to you while in the water)
- Carry signs and labels for identification (for example police K-9 units)
- If a harness has reflective material, it can provide visibility during evening walks
- Can help rehabilitate injured pets
- Provide support for certain health concerns like neck, back, and tracheal conditions
Types of Dog Harnesses
There are two ways to classify dog harnesses: based on the style and where the D ring is placed.
Strap and Vest Harness Styles
- Strap harnesses have strips of fabric that wrap around the dog’s body. Though they offer greater control, they aren’t the best choices for dogs that like to pull on their leash.
- Vest harnesses offer more coverage. Since they use more material to envelope canines’ torsos, they can offer more protection and a greater sense of security for anxious dogs. The additional coverage makes them ideal for dogs with broad chests like pugs, German shepherds, and Labradors.
Harness Style Based on D-ring Locations
It seems like a minor detail but the D-ring location is where we attach our dog leash. Its placement determines where the pressure comes from and how the weight is supported.
- A front-clip harness discourages pulling from your dog by placing the D ring in front, near its rib cage.
- Most dog harnesses are back-clip dog harnesses. With this style, the D ring is placed towards your dog’s upper back, greatly reducing the chance that your dog’s legs might get caught on the leash. This is a great all-around harness that is comfortable for most dogs and isn’t known to cause any health problems.
- If you can’t decide between a front-clip or a back-clip style, the dual-clip harness is your answer. It features leash attachments in front and on the back so you can alternate different styles and see which suits you and your dog best.
A tightening harness is another type of harness. It’s similar to limited slip collars because it becomes tighter and more uncomfortable when a dog starts pulling on the leash.
Though it relies more on negative reinforcement, a tightening harness can be an effective training tool. However, caution should still be practiced since it can hurt your pet and even provoke aggressive behavior. If it must be used, it should be worn only during training and the owner must look for a safe and gentle design.
Qualities of a Good Dog Harness
In terms of comfort, practicality, and fit, what does a good dog harness look like?
- Comfort. Determine what type of D ring placement and style is best for your dog’s needs. Though most dogs are fine using a vest or strap back-clip harness, your dog may have behaviors and health conditions that require a particular type of product. If you’re getting a vest harness, breathable, soft, and skin-friendly fabric is more important since it will be covering a larger area. Soft material and a soft trim minimize the chances of chafing and irritation. Webbed material like mesh evens out the pressure across the chest.
- Durability and practicality. Look at the practical features a harness offers. Adjustable straps prevent your dog from slipping out. Ensure that the buckle and D ring look solid enough. Water-resistant or quick-drying material like neoprene means a sturdier harness that can withstand different weather conditions. A good harness is also easy to clean and can be hand or machine-washed.
- Fit. To get the ideal fit, put a soft measuring tape around the broadest part of your pet’s chest. Give your measurements some allowance by inserting one to two fingers around the tape. Measure your dog’s neck by following the same procedure.
When you fit the harness on your dog, the skin around the harness should lie flat and shouldn’t be bunched up. There should also be no marks on your dog’s fur when you remove it. If the harness is too tight, you can try measuring your dog again, opt for a different style, or use a collar instead. If the harness is too loose, you risk your dog slipping out of it.
Shop for high-quality, comfortable, durable, and well-fitting harnesses at Sniff & Bark.
When To Use a Collar or Dog Harness
Dog collars and harnesses are convenient and practical but when should you use each?
Use a collar if:
- You’re going on a short walk since it doesn’t provide as much support
- You prefer something easier to put on and remove
- Your dog is more comfortable wearing a collar rather than a harness
- You want to exert less effort while walking
Use a harness if:
- Your dog tugs at the leash a lot and you want to discourage the behavior, useful for leash training
- You’re worried about strangulation
- You want to stop your dog from jumping on people without injuring it
- You want greater control over your dog
- Your pet is prone to tracheal collapse. Because of this, it’s preferable for small breeds and brachycephalic breeds to use harnesses.
- Your dog has a habit of getting its legs caught in the leash
- Your canine has back, neck, spinal, and joint issues
- You have a large dog with mobility issues
Note that when dogs with long fur wear harnesses, their coats can become tangled and matted, especially when worn for long periods. To avoid this, have them wear a harness only when they’re outside and for limited periods.
Whether you prefer a collar or harness, an accessory with an ID tag is a practical and useful feature. A harness or collar with your name and number like those offered by Sniff & Bark provides greater assurance that you’ll be contacted if the two of you ever get separated.
Are You Team Collar, Team Harness, or Both?
We love harnesses and collars because they’re so useful and they come in a variety of materials, designs, and colors. But, as responsible dog parents, we also have to make sure that these accessories are comfortable and safe for our four-legged family members.
Collars provide easy wear and require less adjustment for our dogs. Harnesses provide more coverage and support. They also have fewer risks. You may prefer one over the other or have a collar for indoor use and a harness for outdoor jaunts.
To make sure that you and your dog are happy with both, pay careful attention to fit, comfort, practicality, and durability.
No matter which one you prefer, know that you’ll always find the best quality collar and harness at Sniff & Bark. Visit the website today to find these beautiful, handcrafted, and thoughtfully designed Bow Tie Dog Collars and Floral Dog Collars.