PDSA

I have recently bought a four-month-old Labrador puppy, and want to take her out walking now that she’s had her vaccinations. I am unsure whether to use a collar or harness to do this, as I have heard different stories about each. Can you offer any help?

Paul Manktelow advises…

When deciding whether to use a collar or harness for walking and training purposes, there is no right or wrong answer. A standard, non-restrictive collar is fine to use, providing your dog is not prone to pulling. Collars can also be beneficial for dogs who don’t like the feel of wearing a harness.

For all dogs prone to pulling, young puppies before training, and more delicate breeds (such as Pugs and French Bulldogs), harnesses are widely preferred. When dogs pull on a collar, there is a higher risk of choking, throat damage, and difficulty breathing, especially when they become overexcited. A harness removes these risks by transferring the pulling force down to the ground, rather than being focused on the neck. This also changes the way your dog lifts his feet off the ground, and helps to slow him down.

Harnesses are useful for discouraging a dog from jumping up at strangers by giving the owner more control. They are also much harder for escape artists to slip out of!

Front-attaching harnesses are recommended for larger breeds, and back-attaching for smaller breeds because they put less pressure on smaller backs. It is important to allow your dog time to get used to a harness if he isn’t already, so introduce it gradually. Whichever you choose, try before you buy, and check with the retailer or your vet that you have the appropriate size and shape for your dog.

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