Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Collars and Harnesses

Thank you for checking out our Frequently Asked Questions on Collars and Harnesses. This page offers quick-fire answers to the most common questions we are asked about. We aim to update this article frequently and often questions are supported by much more substantial in-depth articles elsewhere on the website.

Why should a dog wear a harness?

Although dog collars are a standard staple for a dog, harnesses are an excellent addition when out dog walking. Firstly they are more comfortable for a dog on a lead as it distributes the pressure on a wider surface area. This is particularly true for dogs who are pullers.

When pulling on a collar, a dog can have throat injury – it also doesn’t teach the dog to reduce the pulling. With harnesses, especially no-pull harnesses, the pressure is better distributed. Harnesses are also much better for training and allow far more ability to guide a dog towards desired behaviours.

What is a vest harness?

The most basic type of dog harness is the vest harness. The dog puts his head through one opening, one front leg through another with the harness clipping together around the second front leg and up and over the centre of the back.

The lead attachment point for the harness is in the centre of the back. These are fine as a basic walking harness particularly if you have dogs that don’t pull and are generally well behaved on a lead. For dogs which pull or need better control and training – a Front Range harness is often recommended.

What Is a Front Range Harness?

A front range harness is usually a type of no-pull harnesses. Simply, they are designed to reduce pulling behaviour and better train your dog. They have two main lead attachment points. The first at the back for normal walking.

The second attachment is at the centre of the dog’s chest. This allows better control of dogs who are pullers when out walking and/or jump up when they become excited. Front range harnesses are often recommended by trainers and can be used with leads such as a HALTI to attach to both clips at the same time.

Do harnesses hurt dogs?

Overall and generally, no, Well designed and proper fitting harnesses should not hurt a dog. Good harnesses are often padded with straps spreading the pressure on wider surface areas.

Badly designed harnesses have the potential to harm your dog a little, particularly if they pull when on a lead. In these cases try to avoid harnesses where all the strength of the harness is on the back straps. This is certainly true if the lead attachment is located at the top of this strap as all the pressure will rely on the strap and may dig into the dog the more he pulls (often resulting in worse pulling behaviour).

Can I leave a harness on my dog all the time?

Usually, yes. Most harnesses are very safe and are fine left on the dog during the day. A lot of people remove them at night out of good practice. If your dog is a chewer however, it may be better to remove the harness when not out and about. Otherwise, the dog may chew the straps either breaking or significantly weakening the dog harness.

Are harnesses better than collars for dogs?

Collars are often kept on dogs at all times (certainly during the day). This lets you keep a dog tag on your dog for identification. Sadly, this may not be ideal as there have been horror stories of dogs breaking jaws attempting to pull them off at night. To be safe it’s better to take both collars and harnesses off at night when possible.

Harnesses are generally a lot better for walking your dog.

Most people use both, but use the harness itself for attaching a lead. This allows better control and comfort of your dog. If your dog is a puller, harnesses are essential as a collar can cause throat injury.

They’re more comfortable but often owners remove them when not out walking. For more details on collars vs. harness – read our ultimate guide here.

Should puppies wear a harness?

Ideally yes, although it depends on the puppies breed and temperament. Collars should be worn as it allows identification of the pup – especially if they have a tendency to run away. Harnesses put less pressure on puppies who pull, are less likely to damage the dog and offer much better control of the puppy during those crucial training months.

Should Dogs Wear Seat Belts When Riding in Cars?

Depending on where you reside this is both a legal question as well as a safety question. It is generally recommended that dogs are restrained whilst in a car, however, inappropriate seatbelts can cause serious problems in the event of a sudden halt / crash.

Experts often recommend investing in dog car harnesses when in motion. There’s a more substantial article on dog seat belts and harnesses here.

Which Harness Is Best For My Breed?

We have started to put together a collection for each individual breed. It’s a fairly time-consuming task as we have to find testers and testimonies. Check back frequently. At the time of writing, we have our tried and tested suggestions for Great Danes, Cockapoo, Golden Retriever, French Bulldog, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Jack Russell.

How Do I Know If A Harness Will Fit My Dog?

Most manufacturers of dog harnesses will provide measurement details of dog sizes. In general, they measure X-Small to X-Large with recommended breeds given. However, these are not universal measurements. It is advised to carefully measure your dog before purchasing and use the two-finger rule (dogs chest plus two fingers so it’s not too tight).

We’ve written a complete guide to dog harness measurements here.

What's the difference between a dog lead and a dog leash?

Although there are a wide variety of sizes and designs, the words lead and leash are interchangeable. Generally, lead is used in the UK, leash in the USA.

Which Dog Leads are Best?

With so many different leads / leashes to choose from it’s easy to get confused. The type of lead you require is very much dependant on the breed of dog, the type of harness/collar you’ve invested in, the dogs’ behaviour and the training requirements.

There are standard leads, retractable leads, Martingale leads, adjustable leads, front range leads and multi-leads.

We’ve written an article on this very subject here.

For reference the general guidelines are:

  • Think about the type of lead that will most suit the size and behaviour of your dog.

A standard leash is the most obvious choice people make. Consider the issue of friction burns or getting tangled up.

  • Select a material that will suit your dog.

Nylon is fine, but it may not be as durable as leather. And if your dog is a chewer, it may decide to have a go at the lead. There are also vegan options available.

  • Start off with short dog leads for your puppy during training.

But be sure to buy a size up when it’s growing and ready to walk outside. The lead should now be longer and strong (wider) to cope if the dog decides to bolt.

That’s all for now on our frequently asked questions on dog harnesses and collars. If you have any questions we have missed – please reach out and let us know.

Top Dog

Co-Founder of Collar & Harness, there's little he doesn't know about dogs. TopDog loves agility but is far too unfit to keep up. Offers advice and articles on dog harnesses, collars, travel, food and temperament. Has featured articles in Huffington Post, The Guardian, BuzzFeed and others. Is woeful at speaking foreign languages.

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