One dog wearing a harness and the other a collar.

Do Dogs Prefer Collars or Harnesses?

Written By Vedrana Nikolic | Canine Coach, B.A Ethnology & Anthropology, M.A Semiotics.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 27th April 2024

The age-old debate of collars versus harnesses for dogs has left pet owners pondering the best choice for their furry companions. Both options come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages when it comes to walking, exercising and training. But which option do dogs like better?

In this article, we'll explore the factors to consider and weigh the pros and cons of collars and harnesses to help you make an informed choice for your beloved pet.

Related: The Best Dog Collars in Australia.
Related: The Best Dog Harnessed in Australia.

Collar or Harness: Factors to Consider

If we could just ask our dogs what they like, things would be far easier. Or would they? Dogs might not necessarily know what is best for them. The truth is, there is no universal rule when choosing between a harness and a collar. However, here are some things to think about in order to make the right decision for your pet.

Related: Dog Collars Vs Harnesses.


Any dog will obviously prefer walking gear which is comfortable. Collars are the traditional choice for dogs and are often used for attaching identification tags and leashes. While collars are generally safe when fitted properly, some consider them uncomfortable and cruel (1). However, there are plenty of dogs who obviously don’t mind collars. This includes my own canine companion, a Pit bull mix, who never got quite used to harnesses but doesn’t even seem to notice her collar.

Still, we can say that harnesses are objectively more comfortable as they distribute pressure across the chest and shoulders when a dog pulls on the leash. This not only erases discomfort, but also reduces the risk of injury to the neck. This makes harnesses a preferable option for dogs prone to pulling or those with delicate throats.

Training and Behaviour

Collars can be effective for training purposes, especially for teaching basic commands and leash manners. However, for dogs that are strong pullers or exhibit unruly behaviour, a harness might be more suitable. Harnesses offer better control and discourage pulling by redirecting the force to the dog's body rather than the neck. They are particularly useful for larger breeds or dogs in need of behaviour correction.

Keep in mind that using a harness to deal with pulling on the leash is not a sustainable solution. Especially with no-pull harnesses, experts suggest we think of them as training tools on the way to good leash manners (2).


When choosing your dog’s walking gear, you obviously want something that will keep them safe. And that means safe from injury and safe from escaping. This is particularly important in crowded or high-traffic areas where a loose dog can be at risk.

Collars, when not fitted securely, can pose a risk of slipping off, especially for dogs with smaller heads or those who are skilled escape artists.

Harnesses, with their snug fit around the body, can provide a more secure option, reducing the chances of your dog slipping out. However, for this to work, a harness also needs to be fitted accurately and you need to choose the right design. Some harnesses are designed to be escape-proof, while others are quite easy to wiggle out of.

Breathing and Health Concerns

Collars that exert pressure on the neck can potentially impact a dog's breathing, especially if they tend to pull against the leash.

For dogs with respiratory issues, such as brachycephalic breeds, harnesses are a gentler alternative that minimises stress on the neck and airways. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the most suitable option for your dog's health needs.

Size and Breed Considerations

The size and breed of your dog play a significant role in choosing between a collar and a harness. Small breeds, puppies, and toy dogs may benefit from the added security and control of a harness.

Larger breeds, especially those with a tendency to pull, might find a harness more comfortable, but wearing a harness can also make the act of pulling more comfortable, thus making it into a habit. Consider your dog's specific needs, size, and breed characteristics when making your decision.

Fashion and Style

While the primary concern should always be your dog's safety and wellbeing, there's no harm in considering the aesthetic aspect. Collars offer a wide range of styles, materials, and designs, allowing pet owners to showcase their dog's personality. Harnesses, too, come in various styles, offering a balance between functionality and fashion. Choose an option that not only suits your dog's needs but also reflects your personal taste.

My Final Thoughts

In the eternal debate of collars versus harnesses, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The choice ultimately depends on your dog's individual characteristics, behaviour, and health considerations. Collars might be suitable for well-behaved dogs and those with no respiratory issues, while harnesses offer added control, safety, and comfort, especially for larger or more energetic breeds.

Remember to measure your dog correctly and consider your dog's behaviour and health when making this decision. Whether you opt for a collar or a harness, the key is to prioritise your dog's safety, happiness, and wellbeing. The right choice will enhance your walks, training sessions, and overall bond with your four-legged friend.


  1. Wedderburn, P. October 25, 2018. “Dog harness or collar? The best way to control your pet revealed”. The Telegraph. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
  2. Rodgers, L. October 11, 2018. “ How Do No-Pull Dog Harnesses Work?”. PetMD. Retrieved December 10, 2023.

Vedrana Nikolic

Vedrana Nikolić is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach, Professional Writer, Anthropologist & dog lover.

With a Masters Degree in Semiotics & Bachelors Degree in Anthropology, studying the communication between animals and humans, Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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