Is a Collar or Harness Better for a Puppy?

by Chris Miksen
    Buckle and snap collars can cause puppies to choke themselves while walking.

    Buckle and snap collars can cause puppies to choke themselves while walking.

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    The second they come home, puppies might know how to bark, beg for food and flash those sad eyes, but they are not well-behaved walkers right out of the gate. So long as you select a collar or harness that deters pulling, choosing between the two is largely a preference, unless your pal has a flat face and short nose.

    Buckle and Snap Collars

    Stay away from buckle and snap collars for most puppies. Because youngsters have a tendency to pull when they first begin taking walks, buckle and snap collars tighten against their throats, leading to coughing and hacking fits. The collars do nothing to prevent pulling and they generally make it more difficult on you to employ training methods to stop pulling. Puppies can also sneak right out of snap and buckle collars, especially those with thin necks, such as greyhounds. Martingale collars prevent the little canines from slipping out, but they, like buckle and snap collars, do nothing to prevent pulling.

    Head Collar

    At first sight, head collars can look quite strange. They're actually fairly simple accessories, and they're excellent pulling deterrents for many puppies. Your pal's snout fits inside a loop, while the collar snaps together around the upper part of his neck. When he pulls forward, the collar forces his head the opposite way so that he can't see what he's pulling toward. The redirection of his head also makes it difficult to keep pulling. Head collars require more work to ensure a proper fit and your puppy will likely throw a tantrum if you don't slowly acclimatize him to it. Never yank or pull on the leash while your puppy wears a head collar.

    Harnesses

    Because harnesses attach around your puppy's legs and chest, you don't have to worry about him choking himself, and because nothing's looping around his facial area, he'll likely be more receptive of a harness versus a head collar. Ignore any harness that isn't a no-pull harness. Regular harnesses can encourage pulling. Most no-pull harnesses fit around your pup's chest and under his front legs. You attach your pup's leash to the clip on the front of the harness. When he pulls, you gently pull him back toward you, giving slack and praising him when he stops pulling. This type of harness ultimately makes it easier to reinforce good walking habits, but it isn't an automatic corrector like a head collar. Another type of no-pull harness wraps around your pal's back end and hind legs. When he pulls, the harness gently tightens around his legs, making him slow down. The harness does clip to your dog's collar, but it does not apply any pressure to the collar.

    Brachycephalic Dogs

    Brachycephalic dogs -- pups who have short noses and generally flat faces -- must have a harness. Because of their facial features, they're subject to numerous breathing conditions that collars can exacerbate when on walks. Examples of brachycephalic dogs include bulldogs, pugs, boxers, Lhasa apsos and Boston terriers.

    Avoid Choke and Pinch Collars

    Some people prefer using choke and pinch collars to train their puppies not to pull while on walks. These collars inflict pain and uncomfortable pressure when your puppy pulls. As with most negative reinforcers, they can cause aggression and fear. The Humane Society of the United States notes that more humane collars and good obedience should make aversive collars unnecessary.

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    About the Author

    Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.

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