Flat Collars, Head Collar or Harnesses – That is the Question – Dr Claire Stevens
With so many options available these days, choosing the right collar for your dog can be a tricky decision. While most trainers agree the only thing you need when training your dog on a lead is a flat collar, head collars and chest harnesses come with their advantages. Let’s take a look at these different options and consider the pros and cons of each.
These are the most widely used collars among dog owners and are popular due to their simplicity, availability and ease of use.
Flat collars allow you to easily attach your dog’s ID tag. In Australia, all dogs are required to have a flat collar with the registration tag attached. It is also recommended that a tag with your name and phone number is also securely attached to your dog’s collar, especially if they have a tendency to escape or roam the neighbourhood.
Flat collars are mostly made of nylon or leather and they’re great for calm dogs that don’t have a habit of pulling on the lead. They are less restrictive compared to harnesses and head collars and if dogs could have their vote, most would nominate the flat collar as the most comfortable option.
Flat collars can also be conveniently secured around your dog’s neck and, unlike a harness, are not fiddly to put on and don’t get tangled up in long coats.
If you have a boisterous dog with a habit of pulling on the lead, flat collars may not give you the control you need.
Constant pulling on the leash leads to chronic pressure on the dog’s neck and throat. This can damage your dog’s trachea, cause neck injuries and even increase the pressure in their eyes, which is a particular concern if your dog suffers from an eye condition such a glaucoma.
Although uncommon, dogs have also been known to suffocate from the tightening of flat collars which can happen in dog attacks.
Next up is the head collars which are also called Haltis or The Gentle Leader, owing to their resemblance to a horse halter. They were invented in 1979 by Dr Roger Mugford, one of Britain’s leading animal psychologists and ever since have proved to be very popular particularly with owners of medium to large breed dogs.
Head collars are excellent for dogs who tend to pull on the lead. They give dog owners more control over their dogs because when the dog attempts to lunge forward the mouth is closed by the slip ring under the chin (which is not particularly comfortable for a dog out on a walk). But as they relax and stop pulling, the strap loosens, the mouth is allowed to be open allowing the dog to easily pant, hang his tongue out and display normal happy doggy behaviour.
If you’re trying to discourage your dog from pulling, then a head collar is worth a try. Unlike choke collars or prong collars (which are no longer recommended), head collars don’t cause dog’s pain or anxiety.
The biggest problem with head collars is that it can take quite a lot of time for dogs to get used to them. Your dog won’t like wearing one in the beginning and might even panic if you try to force them to wear it (so don’t do this). Keep in mind it may take weeks of training to get your dog familiar with it, but the rave reviews say it’s well worth it.
A head collar isn’t injury-proof and can cause discomfort in the dog’s neck and spine if dogs try to twist and turn their head too fast.
If the head collar doesn’t fit your dog, they will constantly try to remove it with their paws. A head collar should fit snuggly around the bridge of the nose and be a safe distance from their eyes.
A harness is another great alternative to a collar. There are two types of harnesses: back-clip harness and front-clip harness. Most harnesses come with both and they allow you to switch between the two options.
Harnesses have fewer chances of causing injuries to your dog compared to collars. If your dog has a habit of pulling on the leash, then a harness may be helpful.
They are becoming increasingly popular around the world, as they give owners more control over their dog than a head collar because it wraps around the entire chest and back area.
They can be uncomfortable for some dogs, especially if they are not fitted correctly. Just like head collars, it can take some time for dogs to get used to wearing harnesses.
A harness with a back clip, as opposed to a front clip, is thought to be better for brachycephalic (short-nosed dogs), small breeds and dogs with tracheal collapse. This is because front-clip harnesses can put too much pressure on the throat region when the dog pulls on the leash, in a similar way to the flat collar.
In conclusion, both collars, head collars and harnesses can be incorporated into your training. The goal is to have a calm well-mannered dog on responding to your commands wearing a flat collar and lead. However, in a not so perfect world, the other alternatives (along with consistent positive reinforcement) is absolutely fine. Hypro Premium’s tasty treats are low in fat, taste irresistible and can have your dog walking obediently in no time.
Ultimately the type of collar you choose will depends on your dog, their behaviour, preferences and your training process. Different types of collars serve different functions, and they all have their pros and cons. Whichever type of collar you choose for your dog, make sure it’s the right size and it’s fitted correctly.
If you have a puppy or recently adopted an adult dog, remember that it takes time for dogs to get used to wearing collars or harnesses, so don’t be discouraged if your dog keeps trying to take them off in the beginning. Be sure to take it slowly, use a gentle voice and treats to reward them when they are doing well.
And please consult a qualified dog trainer for assistance if you are having trouble.