Posted by: Linda Trunell | March 23, 2014

Collar or Harness for Walking?

There are many different collars and harnesses on the market.  My preference is the Freedom Harness.  I used and recommended the Easy Walk Harness until I discovered the Freedom which has a velvet belly strap instead of nylon and does not irritate Max’s skin.  The Freedom also offers the option of attaching the leash to the front or the back.  I prefer to attach the leash to the front for walking, but the back is good for a seat-belt tether.

Some trainers feel that walking harnesses should be used only while training loose-leash walking and then you should switch to a flat collar.  Why? I see no reason to switch to a flat collar, other than it is easier to attach the leash to the collar than it is to put on a harness to walk.

The reason I don’t attach the leash to the collar is because there is a greater risk of damage to a dog from a collar than from a properly fitted harness.

Even a well-trained dog may lunge when startled or highly aroused.  Even an experienced handler may jerk the leash sharply as a reflex if necessary to move a dog quickly, crossing the street and a car comes out of nowhere, for example.  Dogs will pull, lunge, run to the end of the leash even if it hurts.


I recommend reading Emily Larlham (Dogmantics Dog Training) article titled “Is it harmful to attach a leash to your dog’s neck?”  She references a study that notes pressure from collars can cause neck injuries, eye and ear issues, thyroid damage and nerve damage.  Some points from the article:

Neck Injuries- Just one incident of pulling or running fast to the end of the leash could possibly cause serious neck damage.  Neck injuries could include bruising, whiplash, headaches, crushed trachea, damage to larynx, and fractured vertebrae. A neck and spinal cord injury can cause paralysis or neurological problems.

Ear and Eye Issues- In the study by Pauli AM, Bentley, E Diehl, KA, Miller, PE ‘Effects of the application of neck pressure by a collar or harness on intraocular pressure in dogs’, it was found that pressure in the eyes “was significantly increased from base-line values when a force was applied to the neck via a leash to a collar, but not to a harness, in the dogs of this study.” This type of intraocular pressure can cause serious injury to dogs already suffering thin corneas, glaucoma, or eye injuries.

Hypothyroidism– The collar rests on the neck in the area of the thyroid gland.  As Dr. Peter Dobias says in his article, “This gland gets severely traumatized whenever a dog pulls on the leash, it becomes inflamed and consequently “destroyed” by the body’s own immune system when it tries to remove the inflamed thyroid cells.  The destruction of the thyroid cells leads to the deficit of thyroid hormone – hypothyroidism and because the thyroid gland governs the metabolism of every cell. The symptoms may be low energy, weight gain, skin problems, hair loss and a tendency to ear infections and organ failure.”

Malfunction of the nervous system in the forelimbs– Another health issue that Dr. Dobias points out in his article on collars is the possibility of malfunction of the nervous system in the forelimbs.  He states, “Excessive paw licking and foreleg lameness can also be related to your dog’s collar.  Leash pulling impinges the nerves supplying the front legs.  This can lead to an abnormal sensation in the feet and dogs may start licking their feet.  These dogs are often misdiagnosed as allergic and all that needs to be done is to remove the collar and treat the neck injury.”

Max is trained and knows how to walk nicely on a leash.  He knows how to heel.  I really don’t care how other people (trainers included) feel about me using a harness for walking.  I do care about his safety.  The bottom line is both collars and harnesses are equipment for walking dogs and I think the harness is the humane choice.

Here’s to being our dog’s best friend,



  1. Great article! And not only is a harness safer for a dog in regards to them injuring themselves, but I feel most collars are not safe enough for escape dogs, like my Chance. If the dog wants to get out of the collar bad enough, they will, despite how much it hurts. I feel like the harness is much harder for a dog to get out of. I’m definitely ordering the freedom harness for both my dogs thanks to your advice 🙂


    • Thank you, Kim. Chance is such a clever guy – and so handsome! 🙂


  2. Great post Linda and I totally agree with you. The harness is the best way to go. 😀


    • Thank you, Sonel. Always happy to see you 🙂


  3. I just switched to a Hurtta harness. It uses neoprene on the belly band as a buffer. It only attaches to the back but has a nice handle for me to hang onto. I would like to see more people using harnesses, They are definitely safer.


    • Thank you, Edith. I have heard the name but I’m not familiar with the Hurtta harness. I’ll check it out. 🙂


  4. We use both, harness and collar. But we made sure that the collar is upholstered and wider than a common collar. Many thanks for a great post :o)


    • Thanks for stopping by, Easy. Max sends a woof-woof to you. 🙂


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  6. You make me think about getting a harness for Donna too!

    Liked by 1 person

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