An expert advises on the most ergonomic choice.

By Jillian Kramer
March 20, 2020
SolStock / Getty Images

When it comes to walking your dog, you may wonder whether it's alright to attach a leash to their collar or if it's really necessary to switch to a harness. And the answer, according to Nicole Ellis, a certified professional dog trainer for Rover, is simple: It's always better to switch to a harness.

While some dogs can walk with a collar, many—especially those who pull or aren't yet well-trained—are at risk of injury when walked with a collar and leash. "Attaching your leash to a collar puts unnecessary tension on the neck which, especially for little dogs, can lead to health problems like a collapsed trachea," Ellis explains. A harness, she says, prevents these injuries.

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But aside from saving your pet from potential injuries, a harness offers other benefits. A harness can be used as a tool to train puppies who haven't learned to walk on a lead, Ellis says, because it is easier to teach them not to pull (and redirect them when they do) with a harness than a collar. Harnesses also offer more control on busy streets and in crowds and are easier on your arms, too.

When purchasing a harness, Ellis recommends looking for one that has a leash ring on the front and back. As she explains, the front hook should be used for dogs who pull, while the back hook is "is great for hiking and everyday adventures." The best harnesses also have adjustable straps, so that you can ensure a snug—but not too snug—fit. (When adjusting a new harness to your dog, "be sure it does not rub under the armpits and your dog can't back out of it," Ellis instructs.)

Ellis also suggests getting a harness that creates a "Y" shape across your dog's chest. A harness that creates a "T" shape "restricts forward motion and abduction of the dog's shoulders," she says, "which can lead to gait problems down the line by not allowing your dog to fully extend."

However, even if you walk your dog with a harness, your pooch should still wear a tag that has your contact information on it, Ellis says, in case you should become separated from them.

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