Taking your dog out for a stroll is a great way for both of you to get exercise and spend some valuable time together. You can clear your mind and get some fresh air. And then they start pulling. Or they slip out of their collar and you have to chase them through your neighbor’s hedges. If your pug is coughing while you walk, your hound ate his leash, or you ended up with rope burns from a retractable leash, you need to rethink your equipment.
Some dogs just need a basic collar and leash, and others need something a little more specialized. The right collar or harness is determined by your dog’s size, stature, and even breed. Dogs who pull need a different style of harness than a dog that is already an easy walker.
The selection can be overwhelming, especially if you’re a novice dog owner. That’s where the pros come in. We’ve put together a guide of our favorite collars, harnesses, and leashes to make walking fun and most importantly, safe.
The Best Harnesses
A harness is a great tool for walking your dog. They are also increasingly being recommended by experts. With a harness on, a dog who pulls is not risking damage to their throat or neck. Harnesses are easier on the body because of the way force is distributed. They help break dogs from the habit of pulling. For brachycephalic (short-nosed dogs) like bulldogs and Shih-Tzus, harnesses are much safer to walk with because collars can cause harm to their respiratory systems while walking.
Fitting a harness properly is essential. A poorly fitted harness will place extra strain on your dog’s shoulder joints. A harness that isn’t sitting correctly can also rub into your dog’s skin and cause sores and irritation.
Perfect for your small dog. This step-in harness is easy to put on your dog. The velcro, clip, and d-rings for the leash leave the harness comfortable but difficult for a Houdini of a dog to slip out of. The mesh keeps the harness breathable which is important with short-nosed breeds that can quickly overheat. The harness design distributes pressure through the chest and keeps it off the neck.
This harness is a good option for large dogs. There are two options to attach the leash - on the back or on the chest. This harness fits overhead and is made of breathable mesh. The front chest clip is useful in training your dog not to pull, and the wide chest area keeps the pressure off of your dog’s neck and shoulders. Reflective stripes make this harness a good option for evening walks.
This unique harness and leash combination gives you tons of control. With two leash attachments - one at the chest and one on the back - the Freedom No-Pull harness leads to a super comfortable walking experience. Its unique design allows you to “steer” your dog in the direction you’d like to go. Plus, it has soft velvet straps along your dog’s armpits to keep their skin happy and without rashes or irritations.
If you have a dog who is a jumper and a puller, consider the Gentle Leader. The design is similar to a horse head halter. The Gentle Leader puts light pressure on your dog’s nose, which can help redirect negative behaviors. The design of the head collar keeps your pup secure without placing pressure on the neck. One caveat, this harness is not recommended for brachycephalic dogs for obvious reasons.
Our Favorite Collars
Even if you opt to walk your dog on a harness, a collar is a necessary accessory for every dog. Your dog’s tags should be attached, so in the off chance they get away from you, your dog can be identified and sent back to you easily and quickly. Look for a sturdy collar that your dog can’t easily slip out of. There are a few collars that can be good training tools. The martingale collar, for example, is an excellent training tool for some dogs.
You will see a lot of recommendations for this collar and for good reason. It’s a sturdy basic. The nylon fabric will sit comfortably on your dog’s neck, and it comes in a wide variety of colors. It comes in a variety of lengths too, which makes it perfect for dogs of most sizes.
This sturdy collar is great for large dogs. Padding helps it sit comfortably on your dog’s neck. This collar is lightweight and is great for dogs that enjoy splashing in water since the neoprene dries quickly. You don’t need to worry about any weird smells the collar might absorb from daily wear since it is odor resistant. Plus, the reflective stitching helps increase its visibility at night.
The martingale collar may seem like a choke collar, since it does tighten when pulled, but it is definitely not. The martingale is designed to only tighten a certain amount and no further. This collar is seen frequently on greyhounds since it was designed specifically for sighthounds like Salukis, Afghan hounds, whippets, and of course, greyhounds. If you have a dog with a head smaller than its neck or a pup that is an expert at backing out of its collar, the martingale may be a good option for you.
Dog Leashes 101
Before we tell you about our favorite leashes, we need to let you know which leashes we do not recommend. The retractable leash is one of the most dangerous things you can use to walk your dog. The bulky handle can easily slip out of your hand, particularly if you are sweaty. If your dog is pulling ahead of you, any attempt to draw them back toward you will result in rope burns on your hand from the narrow leash. If your dog gets too jumpy or gets in an altercation with another dog, not only is there a possibility the leash could break, but if it doesn’t, the snapback could cause severe neck injuries. There are instances of these leashes causing severed fingers, severe lacerations, and any number of horrible injuries. Needless to say, we are not a fan!
What we recommend:
This is the most basic of leashes which is what makes it a great choice. It comes in 4 and 6-foot lengths, making it easy to fully manage your dog. There are several widths, so it can accommodate dogs of varying sizes. Plus, it comes in a variety of colors so you can match it to your dog’s harness or collar so they can look snazzy and color-coordinated.
This leash is handy for dogs that are easily startled or who need a little extra control. The second handle leaves your dog safely next to you if you are in a high traffic area or a place full of distractions. The standard handle is available in 4 or 6-foot lengths. The other thing that makes this leash one of our top picks is that for each leash purchased, a leash is donated to a rescue dog in need!
This basic leash has an extra something going for it - its reflective stitching, making it totally visible at night. The padded handle is also a nice touch. It comes in 4 and 6-foot lengths. One thing that could be improved is the reflective stitching is only on one side. At this price though, all you need to do is to add a reflective collar for greater visibility.
These are just some of our favorite collars, harnesses, and leashes. As Pet Pros, we are well-equipped to handle using any collar, harness, or leash that our clients use. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have favorites of our own! Ready to grab a new set of gear for your dog? Save this list for future reference!