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Collar vs. Harness - Why Your Dog Needs Both

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 The modern pup has a lot of fashion choices these days - collars come in every imaginable color and material, and the rise of the harness has made it ever-so-easy for your dog to express himself through his “wardrobe.” Choosing the right gear for your four-legged best friend is about much more than style, though. We here at Atlas believe that outfitting your pup with both a collar AND a harness is essential to his health and safety. Read on for our easy guide to when, how, and why your dog should gear up.

Collars - what are they good for?

Traditional dog-handling wisdom has instructed owners to attach their pup’s leash to a neck collar for walks and outings. While this is a quick and simple way to get out the door, this shortcut can easily injure your dog’s delicate neck or compromise his safety.

What can go wrong when you lead a dog by the neck? Quite a lot, it turns out. Some smaller breeds, like miniature poodles, are prone to collapsing tracheas, and a rough tug on the collar can quickly turn into an emergency situation. Other breeds have necks that are as thick as their heads (think pugs and whippets), so slipping out of a collar is effortless. Even if you have a tough mutt or working dog, repeated pulling on the neck can lead to thyroid damage or spinal injuries over time.

After hearing too many horror stories about the dangers of neck leads, the team at Atlas decided we wanted our Lifetime Collar to do what a collar does best: identify your beast in the wild. Collars are by far the easiest, most visible place to attach ID tags; they’re the best way for your dog to tell the world, “I have a home; I’ve gotten my shots; here’s how to contact my human.” If your dog ever leaves the safe confines of your home - or might be an escape artist - he needs a collar wherever he roams and whenever he adventures.

Tip: have a backyard? Keep a collar on a peg by the back door to slip over your mutt’s head before he goes out. Even if he’s never broken out before, practice the simple habit of keeping his ID on him whenever he’s outdoors - just in case.

Have a harness.

So, how on earth are you supposed to walk (and hike and bike) your dog? With a harness, naturally.

Harnesses are simply the safest, most secure, and most comfortable way to hook your dog up to his leash. A good harness will reduce pulling, increase your control over your pup, and decrease stress on his neck and joints. Bonus points: because it secures closer to the dog’s center of gravity, a harness gets tangled in the leash less and helps prevent jumping.

Tip: transitioning an older dog from collar to harness can be an uphill battle - pups who grew up accustomed to neck leads can be stubborn when you first introduce a harness, and many take time to become comfortable with the way a new “outfit” feels. Be patient - the adjustment phase can take time! Bring some treats along on your first few harness walks to distract your dog from that unfamiliar feeling, as well as associate the change with positive rewards.

Keep in mind - a poorly fitted harness can cause even more injury than a collar. Check out our fit guide (link) to learn how to fit your canine’s gear safely and securely.

What should I wear?

Now that you understand why your pup needs a full wardrobe, how do you know what he should wear, and when? We put together this handy guide to take the guesswork out of getting your dog dressed.

ACTIVITY

COLLAR

HARNESS

notes

Watching Animal Planet

No

No

Naked time! Enjoy.

Patrolling the yard

Yes

No

Even if your pup isn’t an escape artist, play it safe and keep his collar on when he’s in the yard.

Play date

Yes

No

If he’s meeting a new friend, you may want to keep the harness on for better control until you know how they get along.

Dog park

Yes

No

Same as above.

Walking

Yes

Yes

Orient the harness to clip in front or back.

Running

Yes

Yes

Clip harness in front for slow pokes; clip in back for track stars.

Hiking

Yes

Yes

Going off leash? Keep the harness on to clip back in for the walk to the trailhead, and to help maintain control in unexpected situations.

Biking

Yes

Yes

Adjust the harness so the leash attaches over the shoulders to decrease risk of tangling


Gear up and share.

Nothing makes us prouder of the product we make than seeing Atlas hounds wearing our Lifetime gear in the wild. Have a tip for outfitting your pup for an activity we didn’t include, or simply want to share pics of your buddy dressed in his Atlas best? Hit us up on Instagram at @atlaspetcompany or use the tag #atlasdog to share the puppy love.

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