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Which Harness or Collar is Right for You and Your Dog?

We’ve all been there; we just want a nice stroll down the sidewalk with our pooch, watch the leaves blowing around, stop and chat with a neighbor on the way. Instead, what we get is more of an involuntary sprint down the street, digging our heels in until our dog decides the neighbor’s lawn is the perfect spot to leave a ‘present’.

Pulling on the leash is one of the most common complaints of dog parents everywhere, and it can severely impact your relationship with your dog. Fortunately, there are a few steps that everyone can take to get you (and your enthusiastic leash-puller) the peaceful outing that you both deserve.

Starting off on the right foot, or paw, can be as simple as getting the right collar. Believe it or not, there is a world of difference between the behavior from one type of collar and another, read this list to see which is the right one for you.

Back Clip Harness: These are considered the classic harness-style collars as they involve straps under the front legs, across the chest, and join with a buckle in back where the leash attaches. Unfortunately, because these styles are similar to those used with horses and sled dogs, they are also the perfect collars for pulling. The weight from a dog pulling in a back clip harness rests comfortably across the chest, allowing them to put their full weight into the effort. With these leashes there is also less of a chance for the leash to become tangled with their feet, so they may be a good choice for owners who have difficulty bending over.

Who it is good for: small dogs with delicate throats who should not have too much pressure applied. These are excellent for dogs who don’t weigh very much or who are otherwise well behaved.

Who it is bad for: Dogs who love to pull and are not responding to other behavioral training styles. Because there is no discomfort with pulling, dogs will be rewarded with their excessive tugging at the leash by arriving at their destination sooner.

Front Clip Harness: Essentially the same setup as the back clip harness, front clip harnesses involve straps across the back, front and under the front legs, but have a buckle for the leash in the back. The reason these harnesses are preferred is because the front buckle causes the dog to be pulled to one side when pulling on the leash. While it does not cause any harm to the dog, it is uncomfortable to pull on the leash with a front clip harness. While the least is attached to the front of the harness, the dog walker will also have more direction with where the dog is going as the leash easily pulls the dog to one side or the other.

Who it is good for: Dogs who know the basics of leash manners and only need gentle reminders of who is driving. This harness is also still excellent for those breeds who should not have excessive weight resting on their necks. Also good for owners who need to maintain control of the direction of walks, such as those who frequently walk in busy or crowded areas.

Who is it bad for: Dogs who struggle to remember leash manners will not benefit from the gentle correction from a front clip harness, so those with poor leash manners should stay away.

Tightening Harness: If you need to step your harness game up a notch, it’s time to visit the tightening harness, or what happens when you combine a pinch collar with either a front or back clip harness. In these harnesses, the leash attaches to a loop which pinches together two halves of the harness when pulled, which causes your pet discomfort. On one hand, these types of harnesses are excellent for persistent pullers as it causes the most amount of discomfort without causing pain, but also need to be checked often to make sure they aren’t actually causing too much pain by pinching the skin when pulled. As the discomfort only comes when the dog pulls, it is an excellent teaching tool for reinforcing other methods of leash training.

Who is it good for: this type of gentle correct is excellent for dogs who need a little muscle behind the verbal commands and for owners who intend to walk their dogs on a harness for the long term. Use a front clip or a back clip tightening harness depending on the level of control you want.

Who is it bad for: This type of harness may be overkill for dogs who walk well on the leash already, especially as it may cause pain through pinching (especially in a poorly fitting harness). This harness is also not as effective for muscular, pull-happy dogs who enjoy hauling you around a park.

Pinch or Prong Collar: Probably the most controversial in the dog training world, the prong collar was one of the first collars used in the training world. Still used in military and guard dog training programs, it has been thrown out for most family pet parents for being too aggressive. Essentially, this collar is put on dogs by pointing the prongs inward so they can poke into the dog’s neck when the leash is pulled. The leash holder would give the leash a tug (tightening the collar) whenever the dog needs to be corrected. Unfortunately, this collar is considered inhumane by some and is known to encourage aggression in dogs when used irresponsibly. The use of this collar should never be used unless under direct supervision by an accredited trainer and should be carefully considered.

Who is it good for: Dogs who have not been successfully trained with other methods or who need very strong correction. This should only be used with a qualified dog trainer present at all times and by a dog owner who understands how to correct. It should also only be used in short periods of time, with a normal collar being used the rest of the time.

Who is it bad for: dogs who are small or with delicate necks, such as small or toy breeds, may be harmed when using this style collar. Dogs who are timid, fearful, or who do not respond to strong correction would also be harmed by this style of training and are more likely to become aggressive.

Head Harness: This type of harness is a relative newcomer to the harness game, it came onto the scene once punishment style training fell out of favor and pet parents started looking for a gentle and more intuitive way to train their pets. What they found was the head harness, or a simple collar which loops both around the snout and the head, with the leash attaching to the bottom of the head. Owners find that they can easily correct dogs with little effort with this harness, as a simple pull redirects the head where the leash is pulled. Dogs are clearly corrected with a gentle pull with no pain, when used correctly. This type of harness can be misused though, as owners who correct too aggressively can cause pulled muscles or damage to the spine by pulling the dog’s head around.

Who is it good for: Any dog can use this harness with no problems, though pullers and those resistant to listening to verbal cues will find it the most useful. Dogs who have been resistant to training styles with just the front clip harness or verbal cues will also be more likely to train well under this harness, though food rewards are very helpful for the process.

Who is it bad for: All dogs should do well under this harness, though dogs with short snouts (bulldogs, Boston terriers, or pugs) may naturally be able to slip out of it easier.

No matter what your training need, there is a harness out there for your dog. Speak to a trainer today to see which one they recommend for your behavioral needs and don’t put up with another day of being pulled around the block. Curious how a professional might handle your pup? Give Paula’s Pet Sitting in Midland a call and take them for a test walk.


Blog author Lauren Pescarus is an admitted Cat Person who admires all pets from afar. She lives at home in Romania with her husband, and loves to buy things for the pets she will soon convince her lucky spouse to bring home. For more information about Lauren’s writing services, follow this LINK

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