Now that you have a new puppy or maybe your new puppy is on the way, you’re probably wondering which you should use when taking your puppy outside for potty breaks and for walks. Should it be a collar or harness for puppies? In this article, we’re going to discuss the pros and cons of each so that you can make a better choice about which tool to use with your puppy.
It’s pretty common for a brand new puppy to throw a little bit of a temper tantrum when you first introduced a collar and leash or a harness it’s something that feels different to them they’ve never been exposed to it before and their natural instinct is to pull away from any pressure they feel this is called opposition reflex it’s the fancy term we use when a dog pulls away when they feel pressure on their collar or harness.
Often we have to play a few training games to teach your puppy that the collar or the harness or even the leash mean good things are going to happen puppies tend to pull away or bite at the leash when it’s first introduced to them.
Collar or Harness for Puppies – Which one to pick?
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of the collar first. Collars and Leashes are the most common tools that new puppy owners purchase first there are tons of different styles of collars, they come in all shapes and sizes I prefer using a regular flat buckle collar because the quick release collars or the ones with the plastic clasps don’t stay snugged to size very well this means when your dog starts pulling it actually stretches the collar and expands in size this leaves too much room for error and your dog can then back out and pull away Or it becomes too big and falls super low on the neck.
When a collar is on our pup we want to place it higher on the neck not down close to the chest you’ll have better control of your pup when the collar sits higher on their neck. Now I know what you’re thinking… how do you get your dog to walk nicely next to you so that you don’t have all the pulling going on?
There are a lot of little things we can do to work on teaching our puppy where they should be which ideally is next to us or at our side.
We have to teach our puppies where they’re supposed to be and make sure that we add lots of value to that location by reinforcing each time they’re in the correct position. Keep in mind every step you take and the direction your dog is pulling only reinforces the pulling behavior this means that your puppy will quickly learn that pulling gets them to go where they want, as you just follow behind.
This also means that if a dog is wearing a collar and they are pulling it puts a lot of strain on your dog’s neck this can cause damage to the trachea, neck muscles, and spine. The collar is much easier to put on than a harness especially in the middle of the night for potty breaks.
I like to keep the leash attached to the collar ready to go, next to the crate this way when the pup comes out of the crate I can quickly put it on without a lot of fussing which can lead to an accident if the pup really has to go.
Here’s where a few problems arise with collars some dogs with super sensitive necks and throats will routinely cough and sputter with the tiniest bit of pressure applied, dogs like Yorkies and tiny poodles or poodle mixes. If you have a dog that has a thicker neck such as a Pug or a Bull Dog, the collar might slip right off because their neck is about the same size as their head. This isn’t safe.
In case you were wondering… It’s also not safe to put any other training type collar on any pup under 5 months such as prong collars and chain-like collars either. So if your dog is a puller and you’re still working through the leash skills lessons in the course you may want to consider a harness. This will alleviate any injury to the neck with strong pullers.
A properly fitted harness will decrease pulling and decrease pressure on the neck if the harness does not fit correctly and your dog is still a serious puller, injury can occur. We don’t want our dogs to pull at all in either a harness or a collar but if too much pulling happens with a dog wearing a harness It can cause neck and spine problems as your pup grows.
Here Are A Couple Of Options For Good Harnesses.
I really like the freedom harness which has a D-ring in the front and a D-ring on the back. You don’t want to use a harness with only the clip on the back because the pressure point or pivot point is on the dog’s back this means you won’t have any way to stear or turn them if they are pulling you. When the D ring or the place where you attach the leash is in the front, you have more control over where they are headed.
The Freedom harness comes with a double clasp leash and a harness with a D-ring on the front and back.
This makes walking your dog a lot easier. You can control your dog’s movements and decrease pulling. I also love the True Love harness because it too has 2 D-rings and a chest piece that covers more of the chest than the Freedom Harness. It can be tricky to find a harness for the really small dogs so you may have to temporarily use a cat harness until your pup grows into an extra-small or small-sized dog harness.
It’s not uncommon to go through a few collars or harnesses over the first year or so of your pup’s life. They grow pretty quickly so make sure you size up when your pup has grown, remember we want a properly fitting collar or harness. Collars should have 2 finger-widths between the collar and neck. A harness should fit snug on your dog without rubbing or causing irritation.
For some dogs that means only 1 finger-width while others may require 2 fingers. Be sure to adjust all points on the harness.
When To Remove A Harness or Collar?
These items should not be left on your dog when they are in their crate. It’s too easy for a dog’s harness or collar to get stuck in the bars or door of a crate and cause your dog to panic, twist, spin, and suffocate themselves. This happens to several thousand dogs each year. That’s super sad since it can easily be avoided by removing accessories before your dog goes in their crate.
Remove All Accessories Before Putting Them In Their Crate.
Let’s break down a typical puppy who doesn’t pull a lot and talk about what tool should be used for which occasion. Let’s say you are chilling in the house with your dog… you can let them run around naked there I said it. They don’t need any accessories on in the house unless you are in training mode in which case a collar would be just fine. Don’t forget to get your dog’s microchipped in case they do get loose and go on an adventure around the neighborhood without you.
This way when they are brought in they can be scanned and your information will pop up. If your pup is in the backyard running around or you are in training mode, you can use a collar I’m not a fan of tags jingling on a dog’s collar so for that reason I either chose a collar that can be embroidered with contact info or have an engraved nameplate attached to it or I use a tag silencer. It’s never a good idea to allow your dog’s tags to jingle.
This can be extremely irritating to a dog and can agitate them enough not to focus 100% on you.
Would you like a set of bells or tags ringing right next to your ear all day long 365 days a year? That would drive me crazy since dogs have a much keener sense of hearing those tags actually sound louder to your dog.
Ok next up If you’re going out walking you will choose an accessory that best fits your dog based on the criteria I mentioned a few moments ago. Pullers get to wear a harness and easy going relaxed dogs can wear a collar.
If you are running with your pup, which for most of you watching this won’t be for several months, you are going to use a harness. I’m recommending you wait a while before you turn your pup into a running partner because your dog’s growth plates can easily be damaged while running.
I talk more about proper exercise for pups and why we don’t want to damage those growth plates in this article here. If your pup is attending a playdate with another pup it’s important to remove harnesses and only use a snug-fitting breakaway collar if they are outdoors, if they are indoors we remove all accessories for playtime.
Dog’s use their mouth to engage in play and oftentimes a dog will bite at the neck or ear of another dog, this is typically normal play. But they may miss and grab onto a collar instead their teeth or jaw may get caught on the other dog’s collar and both dogs begin to panic and thrash around. A dog with a broken jaw came into the vet clinic after an incident like this.
Remember if your pup has any kind of breathing problems you will want to use a harness, Oh before I forget if you have a brand new puppy you may want to learn more about potty training or even bell training. I almost forgot, if you have a super tiny pup or a low rider pup that’s a pup that is close to the ground, it may be better for you to use a back clip harness.
I don’t normally recommend these types of harnesses because as I mentioned earlier without proper training they really can lead to more pulling. But the smaller dogs will stumble over a front clip harness because the leash will get caught up under their leg.
Be sure to use a lighter leash with a smaller clasp with the small dogs as a big clunky heavy leash will feel like a ton of bricks to them. Now you’re probably wondering what your dog should wear if they are traveling in the car, I always recommend your pup travel in a crate but if you can’t fit your crate into your car Then a travel harness would be best. It will buckle into the seatbelt and keep your dog safe while you’re driving.
In the comments below let me know which tool you’ll be using or which one your pup loves more?
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