By Dr. Al Townshend

When bringing a new pet into your home, a leash, collar, and harness are essential.
It’s the first thing you put on your pet, that set the tone to welcoming your pet home, and starting your journey together.

The right leash, collar and harness will also be key in teaching your pet important training during your Guardianship journey.

But did you know, not all leashes, collars, or even harnesses are alike? It’s important to review all your options before making the best decision for your pet.

Safety First

The primary purpose of collars, leashes, and harnesses are to control a pet. These accessories allow pets to enjoy the outdoors, but also keep them out of harm’s way.

  • An ID tag attached to the collar can also provide security in case the pet gets away. Microchipping is also something to consider for any pet that goes outside.
  • Fluorescent collars, leashes, and harnesses are a good idea when walking a pet at night.
  • A proper leash must have a secure loop at the other end so the Guardian can get their hand in the loop comfortable and secure to prevent the leash from slipping out of the hand.

Proper Fit is important, especially for collars.

Before purchasing a collar, it is best to measure the neck to gauge the correct length. The easiest way to measure your dog’s neck size is with a measuring tape. A shoestring and measuring tape or ruler works in a pinch, too. Take the shoestring or measuring tape and wrap it around your dog’s neck between the ears and the collar bone, where your dog will wear his collar. Add 2 inches to this measurement, and you have your dog’s neck size.Harness fit is also important. Measure the neck and around the body at the deepest point of the chest. Many harness companies also use weight to guide sizing. The two-finger rule also applies to harness fit too.

Material is also important to consider.

There are many materials used in the manufacturer of collars, leashes, and harnesses. Neoprene, leather, fake leather, chain and nylon are common materials to consider. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

Collars

Collars, along with a leash helps to control the pet and protect them from the potential danger when allowed to run free.

Standard dog collars are by far the most common. These collars are easy to put on and take off and can be as simple or as fashionable as you please. Standard collars are generally nylon or leather and come with plastic or metal buckles.

Chain collars are controversial and can be damaging if not used properly. There are alternatives such as the Martingale collar.

Martingale collars are a safer and effective training collar that is far less likely to damage the

pet if used improperly. They are a combination of a chain and nylon allowing the collar

to synch up a certain amount if your dog pulls. This prevents you from doing any damage to your dog’s esophagus.

Leashes

Leashes come in many different lengths and widths depending on the pet and the circumstances in the area you walk your pet.

Width

Smaller dogs and cats require a narrower, lighter material. Larger dogs are controlled better with a wider, heavier leash.

Length

The standard length is six feet and ideal for neighborhoods or less trafficked areas.

  •               Shorter leashes are better for high traffic areas on city streets and during celebrations.
  •               Longer leashes are generally used for long distance command training and can range from 10 feet to as long as 100 feet in length.

Retractable Leashes

The advantage is that the length can be changed depending on the circumstances. The biggest problem with these leashes is that they can actually train your pet to pull. For many pets, pulling is rewarded by more line and therefore, more freedom.  These leashes are best suitable for well-trained pets.

Chain leashes

These are ideal for a dog that insists on chewing the leash. They soon learn the material is indestructible and stop.

Martingale Leashes

They are intended to be used in combination with the Martingale collar. Together, they are intended to discourage the dog from pulling.

Head-halter and Leash

These are intended to fit over both the nose and neck thru a metal loop that tightens when the pet pulls. The theory is that where the head goes the body will follow. The leash attaches under the mouth. Not every pet does well with a head-halter. It is intended to minimize forward motion, such as pulling and gives directional control. Not every pet does well with this type of leash. Proper fit is essential.

Multiple Dog Leashes

Many Guardians have more than one dog and having them on one leash is better and allows one hand free. It is important the two pets are friends and well trained or there can be problems.

Seat-belt Leashes

There are many circumstances when a dog needs to be in the car. Going to the dog park or veterinarian are just two examples. Making sure your pet is secure as possible is important. One never expects a problem but being prepared is always best.

They are intended to prevent the pet from wandering around the car and possibly distracting the driver. If there is a fender bender, the seat-belt leash will keep the pet secure and prevents the pet from running off.

Harnesses

There are a variety of reasons why a harness might work better than a collar, but the big ones are choking, training and lifting. Traditional collars tend to choke when a dog pulls, but harnesses distribute the weight across the chest.  Older dogs may prefer a harness to a collar.

Cats almost always do best and prefer a harness to a collar.

There are two basic types of harness:

  • Back-clip Harness

The back-clip attaches the leash to the back of the dog or cat. These are best for well- trained pets and pets that have neck or back problems.

Short-nosed dogs, such as Pugs or Boston Terrierssmall breeds, and dogs prone to tracheal collapse (when the dog’s trachea becomes damaged, restricting the airway and sometimes requiring surgery).

The back-clip harness can encourage pulling in dogs who haven’t mastered the loose-leash walk.

  • Front-clip Harness

Front-clip harnesses are excellent training devises especially for pets that jump or pull.

The leash attaches to the front of the harness and provides positive control without pulling and wrenching the neck.

Whatever device you choose for your pet, make sure it fits well, is comfortable for the pet and is the best form of control when the pet is outside enjoying the experience.

Be sure to discuss restraint with any of the staff at your favorite Pet Planet store.

Additional Resources

https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/20_4/features/Best-Dog-Harnesses-2017_21622-1.html

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/the-best-collars-and-leashes-for-puppies-and-dogs/