Training Tip Tuesday - Collar verses Harness

This weeks Training Tip Tuesday is brought to you by Chantele from Boneheadz K9 Training. 

Collars and harnesses are both useful training tools, but which one to use, and when, will depend grossly on the breed, age and temperament of your dog, alongside your training goals. 

Below, you'll find a list of the most common collars and harnesses, alongside some helpful tips for when and how to use them. 


The Flat buckle collar

The Flat buckle collar

The Flat Buckle Collar

Flat buckle collars are what most people think of when they picture a dog collar.  They are leather or material-based collars that buckle or clip together. 

The flat buckle collar is ideal for adult dogs who do not pull on their leash.   It's also great for identification purposes - tags.

Because pulling on the collar can cause damage to the trachea - the dogs airway - flat buckle collars are not ideal for dogs with leash aggression, or overly active pups in training.  

The martingale collar

The martingale collar

The Martingale Collar

Martingale collars are a hybrid of the flat buckle collar (see above) and the choke collar - an all metal chain collar that tightens around a dog's neck when the handler pulls or jerks back on the leash.  They are primarily material-based, held together by a metal chain. 

A martingale collar is less harsh than a choke collar, but still provides some pressure on the neck and therefore can have a strong effect in correcting a dog's 'negative' behaviour. 

Martingale collars are ideal for pup's 6 months or older, with extreme leash aggression, once all other options have been exhausted.  

They are not ideal for dogs with health issues related to their spine and/or neck.  If fact, they should not even be considered in those cases. 


the head collar

the head collar

The Head Collar

The head collar is another popular and easy to use collar (see Flat Buckle Collar above).  It looks similar to the head halter of a horse, and is generally nylon based. 

Head collars are ideal for redirecting a pup's or dog's focus. By gently applying pressure to the muzzle of the dog, you're able imitate the same amount of pressure as would be used by that dog's mother, when correcting her pups 'negative' behaviour. 

A head collar is a great tool for redirecting your dog's attention away from other dogs and towards a specific location.  It's even useful for calming anxious dogs by directing their focus onto a treat for task.   

If your dog doesn't respond well to the head collar, and you find yourself playing tug of war, you may want to consider moving onto a harness. 



A harness may be the safest way to train specific dog breads.     

Pushed-in-face dogs like Bulldogs and Pugs can experience potentially fatal issues from a damaged trachea caused by the obstruction of their airway.  A problem often associated with leash use and training.  

If you're uncertain whether your dog falls under this category, we recommend consulting a vet or trainer for a more specific collar/harness recommendation. 

A harness may also be ideal for dogs with specific back and/or neck health issues, and older dogs who suffer from arthritic pain.  

When using a harness for walking and training purposes, we recommend combining it with the use of a flat buckle collar, for identification purposes.  

We also recommend measuring your pet according to harness brand guidelines, to ensure they get the best fit.  This prevents discomfort and makes certain they can't wiggle their way out of it. 

the front-leading harness

the front-leading harness

The Front-Leading Harness

A front-leading harness covers the dogs torso, and you attach the leash to your dog's chest.  It's usually made of nylon materials and clips together at the front. 

Front-leading harnesses afford you more directional control than a head collar (see above).

This corrects any tug of war issues, and turns the dogs attention toward you, the direction you'd like them to walk in, and/or away from potentially troublesome situations.  


The Back-attached harness

The Back-attached harness

The Back-Attached Harness and Specifically Designed Pulling Harness

The back-attached harness and specifically designed pulling harness are designed to support a front pulling dog. They are also made up of nylon materials and usually clip together at the back. 

These harnesses are ideal for sled pulling, weight pulling and tracking dogs.  

They also work great on super eager dogs, who's handler may be moving at a slower, more mediocre pace. 



There you have it, the basic differences between a collar and a harness, alongside when and how to use each, brought to you by Chantele at Boneheads K9 training.

While articles like these are great for finding out more, you can also talk to the staff at your local pet supply store or ask a trainer for help in narrowing down your options.  

You can even contact Chantele herself, here.

And remember, you're not limited to just one.  Depending on the types of activities you want to engage in with your pup or dog, you may need two or more options hanging around the house.  


We'd love to know what type of collar or harness works best for you, and why! Tag #wwtrainingtip in your collar vs. harness Instagram discussions for a chance to get your pup featured on our instagram page!