Dog Collar Vs Dog Harness: which is best?

Updated 16 April 2024
Read time: 8 mins
article author
Written by Elle Padgham

Walking is a huge part of daily life with a dog, and making sure they have a comfortable and well fitting collar or harness is important to keeping them happy and healthy. But have you ever found yourself wondering if one is better than the other?

Collars have been a staple among the dog accessory world for many many years, providing a simple and effective way of securing a lead to your dog while also signifying that they are not a stray and likely have an owner who loves them. But over the years more and more dogs can be found strutting the streets with their lead attached to a harness instead. So when it comes to clipping on your lead and heading out for a walk, which one is better?


dog wearing a green collar with lead attached


Collar vs Harness. The pros and the cons

The main difference between the two is simple: a collar fastens around the dog's neck, typically with a buckle or clasp, whereas a harness covers a wider surface area (the chest, shoulders, and upper back). Both can often be adjusted to ensure a secure and comfortable fit, and they can now be found in various different colours and styles to suit your aesthetic desires, so if like us you love to switch up your accessories, there are plenty of options to choose from.


Dog Collar


blue leather dog collar



  • Convenient, and less intrusive. Collars are lightweight, easy to take on and off, and comfortable enough to be left on at all times.
  • D ring to hold ID tag. UK law requires all dogs to wear identification tags in public places, and the D ring of a dog collar is the perfect place for it to sit.
  • Different styles to try. From the flat collars you may most commonly see, to the martingale collar seen on Whippets and Greyhounds, there are different styles of collars to suit different needs, and breeds. Making sure you have the correct fit for your dog's collar is a necessity no matter what style you have.


  • Some dogs can easily slip out. If the collar is too loose, or your dog's head is a similar size to their neck, then you may find they’re more likely to slip out of a regular flat collar.
  • Puts added pressure on a dogs trachea. The neck is a sensitive part for all dogs, so any form of pulling (whether that’s a quick tug of the lead or the consistent pulling of your pup) can cause damage to their neck, airway, spine and back. Because of this, it is not safe for dogs with certain medical conditions, such as glaucoma, eye proptosis, neck injuries or spinal malformations, to walk with a lead attached to their collar.
  • Not safe for dogs that pull. Because of the above, it is not wise to walk your dog on a collar if they have a tendency to pull constantly and not walk by your side as this can cause injury and reduce airflow.


Dog Harness


dog harness collection from barc london 



  • Reduce pressure on neck and trachea. A harness distributes pressure over a larger surface of the dog's body (the chest, shoulders and upper back) as opposed to the neck, therefore reducing the risk of injury to this area. Linked with the above, a well-fitted harness can also help to reduce back pain in dogs.
  • Generally more secure. A harness fastens around the dog's body providing more security and safety, making it less likely for your dog to slip out.
  • Available in a range of sizes and styles, from a step-in Y shape harness, to an over-the-head harness, an anti-pull harness, and many more. A harness with a front clip for your lead can be great if your dog is a heavy puller, as any tension on the lead when they pull causes them to turn back towards you and reduces their speed. This style can also give you more control over larger or stronger dogs, especially if it has both a front and back clip that can be used together with a double ended lead.
  • Great for puppies who haven’t learnt to walk on a lead yet.



  • Less convenient. Unlike most collars, harnesses shouldn’t be left on all day, and they can be fiddly to put on and off. If you have an already nervous dog, they may take some time getting used to a harness, so it’s important to take it steady, opting for a step-in harness if they don’t like things being pulled over their heads.
  • May not have space for an ID tag. If this is the case, it’s worth having a collar for your dog too so they are always wearing their ID tag.
  • Can be uncomfortable. Most harnesses are bulkier than collars, so it can take time for your pup to get used to the feeling of wearing one if they’ve never worn one before.
  • If your dog is not great at walking to heal, a back clip harness may actually train your dog to pull, which is probably the opposite of what you want.
  • A badly fitted harness can be just as detrimental as a collar with too much pressure. Always ensure that their natural range of movement isn’t hindered (paying close attention to shoulders/extension of front legs) and make sure it is a comfortable and secure fit.


Different types of harnesses and when to use them

Back Clip Harnesses

Best suited for dogs who already walk well on a lead, they’re possibly the most common style you’ll see, featuring a D-ring that sits along the centre line of the dog’s back. But if your dog isn’t the calmest when walking on a lead, this style may not be the right choice as it won’t discourage your dog from pulling (and may make pulling worse).


Front Clip Harnesses (or anti-pull harness)

Opposite to the above, this style of harness allows you to clip the lead to a D-ring placed on the dog’s chest. They are great if your dog has a tendency to pull, as the front clip changes the point of leverage - when pulling occurs the tension on the lead draws the dog back towards you.

A harness with both front and back clip is known as a ‘dual clip harness’ - commonly slightly bulkier in fit so they may take a while to get used to, they’re a great training tool for dogs who pull and can provide you with slightly more control.


Y-Shaped Harnesses

The front of this style of harness looks like the letter Y, hence the name, and when fitted correctly it can provide greater freedom of shoulder movement for your dog while out and about. The ‘Y’ should sit on the dog's sternum - if it’s sitting too high it can damage the neck, just like a collar, but if it’s sitting too low it can interfere with their natural gait.


Step-in Harnesses

Perfect if your dog dislikes having things go over their head, and commonly paired with a Y shape and a back clip. Lay it flat on the ground and step your dog’s front paws into the two loops, then lift the straps up and fasten around your dog’s back.


Are there certain dog breeds that are better with one over the others?

The short answer is, yes. There are some breeds where it is truly recommended to always opt for a harness over a collar, because walking on a collar can cause them severe pain or damage.


Brachycephalic breeds, and also Toy breeds, tend to have narrow airways so using a collar can really limit the amount of air that gets through if too much pressure is applied.

These breeds include, but are not limited to;

  • Bulldogs
  • French Bulldogs
  • Pugs
  • Boston Terriers
  • Boxers
  • Chihuahuas
  • Chinese Crested
  • Italian Greyhounds
  • Maltese
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Toy Poodles.


How can using the right walking aid be beneficial to your dog's overall health?

If you’re anything like us, we’re pretty sure you are always going to want the best for your four-legged friend, so taking time to consider which walking aid is suited to them is important.


By using the right one you can help to prevent any unnecessary injuries from happening and reduce any strain or pressure on sensitive areas, ensuring you are always prioritising the health and happiness of your pup and making walks enjoyable and safe for both of you. If you’re really unsure, or want a little more guidance then you can always speak to your vet to get a medical professionals opinion based on your dog’s overall health needs.


Does one help more with training compared to the other?

It can actually be really useful to familiarise your pup with a harness and a collar as they are both valuable tools when it comes to training. It’s important for them to wear a collar for identification purposes, but a harness can be a great starting point when training them to walk nicely on a lead due to the boundless amounts of energy they have (make sure you’re also armed with lots of tasty treats to keep their focus and reward the behaviours you want to see).

Have your say below, do you prefer a collar or harness?


Comments (2)

I have a small but very sturdy and strong lurcher. I have used a sighthound recommended harness but she absolutely hates it. I’ve found a well fitting martingale collar the best option because sighthounds have a tendency to be able to ‘back out’ of their collars, which my lurcher would do if spooked. I have found the the martingale to be the best option for us.

Glenda - Feb 16 2023

I use a harness on my English Bull Terrier with a front D link

Jane - Feb 16 2023

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