Should My Dog Wear a Collar and a Harness?

Small brown Poodle on leash with collar and harness

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Restraining your dog in different environments is generally good practice. You wouldn’t want your dog to get off its leash and run away, especially on a busy street. Keeping your dog on a leash is also an essential training practice. Is it better, though, to use a collar or a harness? Which is best for keeping your dog obedient, safe, and comfortable?

While it is unnecessary, there can be many benefits to using both a collar and harness for your dog. A collar and harness together can keep better control of a dog that pulls especially hard on walks. Owners should always carefully monitor their dogs for signs of discomfort.

There are no doubt pros and cons in how you may choose to restrain your dog outside of the house. Both collars and harnesses can have unique effects on a dog’s behavior, comfort, and training. Responsible pet owners should be aware of the different methods of restraining a dog and their impacts.

Using a Collar and a Harness Together

Mini Goldendoodle on beach with collar and harness

In the picture above, our dog was wearing a harness and a collar with both having identification on them. We use this plastic collar tag that connects to her harness so that even her harness has our phone numbers and other info.

A harness and collar can easily be worn together. Further, different types of collars can serve different purposes alongside a harness. For example, a shock collar may be used to train a dog not to bark on walks. This collar can be independent, though, from where the leash is attached.

It is also crucial to keep your dog’s tags on at all times – a collar can come in handy for this reason alone. A harness is a less convenient option to attach your dog’s tags to, and you don’t want to be caught in a situation where those tags aren’t there.

For instance, if you keep the tags on the harness and your dog finds a way out of the yard without their harness on, that’s not going to be good. However, if you always keep those tags on the collar, your dog’s lack of a harness will be less of an issue in that instance.

When to Use a Collar and Harness Together?

  • Extra control – If your dog’s tags are on their collar, but you prefer a harness for control, you should use both.
  • Training – If you are using a shock collar for training but don’t want to attach your leash to it, a harness is a good method for keeping control.
  • Outings – When taking your dog out to an off-leash park, you’ll want proper tags on them. However, to get them under control, a harness can be easily reached and connected to a leash.

Is It Uncomfortable for a Dog to Wear a Collar and Harness?

Provided your dog’s harness is appropriately fitted and their collar isn’t too tight, comfort won’t be an issue. Be sure, though, to remove them every once in a while, to avoid hair matting and to give your pup’s skin some air and soothing scratches.

Ensuring a Dog’s Comfort When Restrained

A dog’s comfort will immediately affect its behavior and attitude. If you were to walk down a busy street with owners and animals strolling, you would notice all the different styles of restraints. Some may have choke collars and spiked leashes. Others may only have harnesses or plain collars.

Whatever type of restraint an owner decides to use, they should carefully consider a dog’s comfort and control needs.

Restraints and Their Uses

  • Harness – A harness is best for energetic dogs who tend to wriggle their way out of a collar. It is also helpful for dogs prone to back or neck injuries, such as dachshunds, toy poodles, beagles, or corgis. A front-leash attachment harness, for example, is an excellent option for dogs who pull and lunge during walks. In general, harnesses are the best choice for a dog’s physical well-being. Recommended harness (affiliate link).
  • Traditional Flat Collar – A classic collar is simply a strap around a dog’s neck with a buckle or snap closure and a ring for leash and ID tags. These collars can be acceptable for keeping a dog under control but can put undue strain on a dog. Often these collars will bear necessary ownership and vaccination tags. Such records are essential regardless of whether your dog is on a leash or not. Recommended flat collar (affiliate link).
  • Head Collar – A head collar is mainly used for training and is best suited for dogs with lots of energy and strength who tend to pull and jump. It is made up of two straps with one fitting high up around the neck (right behind the ears) and the second strap encircling the muzzle. There is a ring at the bottom of the muzzle strap for the leash. Proper fitting is key for efficacy and safety. Recommended head collar (affiliate link).
  • Martingale Collar – A martingale collar is made up of a strap with a ring at each end. A second strap is looped through both rings and the leash attaches to a ring on that loop. It is the gentlest option for dogs prone to slipping out of their collar, such as breeds with narrow heads. It is also beneficial for skittish and anxious dogs who may attempt to back out of their collar during walks. Accurate fitting is important so the collar tightens around the neck but never chokes your dog. Recommended martingale collar (affiliate link).
  • Shock Collar – Shock collars are used chiefly for training a dog. These can be manually operated by a remote or in conjunction with an invisible fence in the owner’s yard. They work by transmitting an electric shock via metal contacts embedded in the collar. Depending on the intensity, the sensation can be anywhere from mild to painful. Not only are these collars a highly questionable training tool, but in the case of electronic fences, the shock that’s supposed to contain your pup could also keep him/her from reentering your property.
  • Choke Collar – A choke collar uses a chain of metal links that tighten on a dog’s neck when you pull on its leash. These are unnecessary for well-behaved dogs and are typically only utilized for training purposes. The use of this type of collar is quite controversial as it has been linked to injuries of the spinal cord, brain, eyes, trachea, larynx, esophagus, and other serious injuries.
  • Prong or Pinch Collar – A prong/pinch collar is similar to a choke collar in that it uses a chain of metal links that tighten around the neck when pulled. Unlike the choke collar, though, these metal links have fang-like teeth or prongs with blunted points that pinch your pup’s neck when pulled. Possible injuries match those of choke collars with the addition of scratch or puncture wounds from the prongs.

Using discomfort or pain as a means to train your dog is inhumane and the fear and anxiety such methods promote can result in aggressive behavior. Aversive type collars such as choke, prong, and shock collars are often used improperly and can cause serious injuries. Building trust and a strong bond with your dog is best accomplished by using positive reinforcement and gentle and safe training tools.

Overall, harnesses put less strain on a dog and help keep their shoulders and necks from injury.

Experiment with what works best for you and your dog. When out on walks, be sure to monitor if they are scratching at their collar/harness as it could signify discomfort. Look to see if your dog is freely moving their shoulders. If a harness is too tight, it could hinder proper breathing, just as a collar could.

Benefits of Using a Dog Harness

Walking small white dog wearing harness

Harnesses are the best method for keeping your dog on its leash. Unlike collars, they provide more direct control over your dog’s body. This will help in training their behavior when on walks.

Harnesses will also prevent injuries that can occur from using a collar.

Injuries to a dog’s air pipe, neck, shoulders, and back can occur from even seemingly small pulls. When properly fitted, harnesses prevent this. If not correctly fitted, though, a harness can also cause injury.

Ensure a harness is properly fitted by giving a couple of centimeters of slack and observing how your dog walks when it is on.

An awkward walk or chaffing on the skin are apparent signs a harness does not fit right.

For training a dog, a harness is best as it ensures maximum control over your dog. Keeping your dog under complete control when on a walk can prevent accidents if they were to get away from you. When around other people, dogs, and cars, you’ll want to be sure your dog is right by your side and under control.

The Importance of Keeping Information on a Dog’s Collar

A dog’s tags are important for returning them to their owner if they are lost. Have you ever found a dog wandering down your street with seemingly no owner? Think back to if they had tags or not and what you did.

Odds are they had a collar and it required no more than a phone call to return them to their family. Without that collar and attached tags, reuniting a dog with their pack would require significantly more effort and one can only hope they are at least microchipped.

Collars are the most convenient for keeping dog tags handy.

Unless a dog is wearing a harness all of the time, it is not as good of a spot to display these tags. Keeping a collar on a dog all of the time is less restraining to a dog than a harness and can ensure they are always carrying tags.

It is also likely that keeping tags of vaccination records on your dog is required by law. Most municipalities require that a dog is vaccinated for rabies and other diseases. Keeping this proof of vaccination on your dog can prevent major headaches if they bite another dog.

Commonly Required Vaccination Records

  • Rabies, a contagious disease with a high risk of spread to humans and a nearly 100% fatality rate in both humans and dogs.
  • Canine hepatitis, a contagious disease that can cause death in a dog.
  • Canine parvovirus (CPV), a disease that spreads through feces and has a high fatality rate.

Being unable to prove vaccinations can make an owner increasingly liable for whatever damages their dog may cause. Using a harness for complete control in conjunction with a collar that bears tags will prevent potential liabilities and incidents.

Conclusion

For training and control, using both a collar and harness on your dog is good practice. And it’s a great way to display tags at all times on a collar while using a harness for restraint. The combination can certainly be comfortable and can promote additional security and safety for your dog.

Dan Collins

Not only am I a dog or pet lover, but an animal lover. My Goldendoodle has opened my eyes to how special animals can be and I am proud to be her dad. I write about Doodles and share my knowledge and experience of owning a mini Goldendoodle for 14 years.

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