When it comes to choosing how to walk your dog on a leash you might find yourself going in circles. There are lots of options and variations of those options and they all have benefits and drawbacks and they all depend on your pup and where he is in his leash walking journey.

Below are the most common options for securing your dog to a leash, starting with our favorites. There are 3 main styles—collars, harnesses, head halters—with several variations within each.

We list the pros and cons so you can figure out which setup is best for you and your dog. Don't get discouraged if your reaction is "I have no idea." The unfortunate truth is you sometimes can't know until you try it out.

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A front-clip head halter

Throat-clip head halter

Head halters, sometimes called "head harnesses," are well known in dog training circles but not so well known among the general public. We like them because they're effective at discouraging strong pullers, but they do have some major drawbacks. Some dogs require a lot of upfront training just to become comfortable wearing them.

We like the style that clips under the throat because it offers the most control while minimizing the amount of pressure on the bridge of your dog's snout.

A back clip harness

Back-clip harness

The best feature about harnesses is that's difficult for your dog to choke himself when he pulls on the leash. This is especially important when you're teaching a strong puller not to pull, which is why we like harnesses more than collars for dogs that are still working on loose-leash walking.

The major downside of a harness is that it actually makes it easier for your dog to pull, which can turn your walk into a battle of "Who's stronger? Me or my dog?" Just think about it. A horse harness is specifically designed to allow a horse to pull a carriage, and a harness for dogs isn't all that different.

Harnesses are also more inconvenient to put on and can cause painful chafing if not padded or fitted correctly. We like the back-clip style because it interferes the least with your dog's natural walking motion.

A flat dog collar

Flat collar

A flat collar is what most people think of when they think of a dog collar. Even if you decide to use a harness or another type of restraint for your walks, your dog still might wear a collar to hold his identification tags. Truthfully, we don't recommend collars if your pup is a strong puller. Perhaps you've experienced this already, but a strong puller will pull himself to the point of choking if he's just on a flat collar. It's not only uncomfortable, it's potentially dangerous.

We love flat collars though because they're the simplest to put on and off. That makes it quick to get out the door and get on your walk. Most dogs also have no problems wearing them. Think of the flat collar as a sign your pup has made it as a loose-leash walker or, better yet, think about graduating to a flat collar as your reward for all the training you put in together.


The Universe of Leash Restraint Options

If you're interested in varations of the three styles - collars, harnesses, and head halters - or you want to learn more about Harper's favorites and how they compare to other options, keep reading.

Collars

A flat dog collar

Flat collar

A flat collar is what most people think of when they think of a dog collar. It's a band of fabric that fits snugly around your dog's neck and usually attaches with a belt-buckle style or a quick release style.

Pros

  • Simple to attach
  • Most dogs will wear them immediately without any extra training

Cons

  • Strong pullers will choke themselves if they pull on the leash while wearing just a collar which is potentially dangerous

A martingale dog collar

Martingale collar

Martingale collars, also called "limited-slip" or "no-slip" collars, are basically flat collars with a separate piece that tightens when the dog pulls on the leash. The primary benefit is to keep dogs with narrow heads, like greyhounds, from easily slipping out of the collar.

Pros

  • Simple to attach
  • Most dogs will wear them immediately without any extra training
  • Makes it harder to slip out of the collar which is frequently a problem with narrow-headed dogs like greyhounds

Cons

  • Strong pullers will choke themselves if they pull on the leash while wearing just a collar which is potentially dangerous
  • If not fitted correctly, a martingale collar can essentially turn into a choke collar meaning it uses a choking force to discourage your dog from pulling

A slip lead for a dog

Slip-lead

A slip-lead may be the simplest of all walking restraints. The leash and the collar are one piece that's been fashioned to create a loop that acts as a collar when slipped over the dog's head.

Pros

  • Simple to attach
  • Most dogs will wear them immediately without any extra training

Cons

  • Strong pullers will choke themselves if they pull on the leash while wearing just a collar which is potentially dangerous
  • Unless it has a feature to limit how far it can be tightened, a slip lead is essentially a choke collar meaning it uses a choking force to discourage your dog from pulling

Harnesses

A back clip harness

Back-clip harness

Harnesses look complicated, but once you've put one on and taken it off a few times it's actually quite simple. The device slips over your pup's two front legs and around the torso, which helps distribute the pressure from pulling across the chest and his body instead of just the neck like a flat collar. The back-clip style has a ring on the back that the leash is attached to.

Pros

  • Strong pullers won't choke themselves like they do with a flat buckle collar
  • The pressure from pulling is distributed across a large surface area making it safer for strong pullers

Cons

  • Inconvenient to attach every time you want to go for a walk
  • Makes it easier for the dog to pull compared to a head halter or collar, which means the walker must be strong enough to resist the dog's force

A front-clip harness

Front-clip harness

Front-clip harnesses look and act exactly the same as back-clip harnesses, except the leash clips at the front, usually right in the center of the chest, instead of at the back. This provides the walker with more control and makes it harder for the dog to pull because when he does, he's simply pulled towards the walker.

Pros

  • Strong pullers won't choke themselves like they do with a flat buckle collar
  • The pressure from pulling is distributed across a large surface area making it safer for strong pullers
  • Makes it harder to pull and provides more control than a back-clip harness

Cons

  • Inconvenient to attach every time you want to go for a walk
  • Makes it easier for the dog to pull compared to a head halter or collar which means the walker must be strong enough to resist the dog's force
  • Is more likely to interfere with a dog's natural walking gait when compared to a back-clip harness

A double clip harness

Double-clip harness

A double-clip harness is a harness that attaches at both the front and back. Most double-clip harnesses come with a special leash that has two clips, one on each end, but some people also use two separate leashes. A double-clip harness is said to provide the "best of both worlds" of front-clip and back-clip harnesses which leads to the most control.

Pros:

  • Strong pullers won't choke themselves like they do with a flat buckle collar
  • The pressure from pulling is distributed across a large surface area making it safer for strong pullers
  • Makes it more difficult to pull and provides more control than a back-clip harness alone

Cons

  • Inconvenient to attach every time you want to go for a walk
  • Makes it easier for the dog to pull compared to a head halter or collar, which means the walker must be strong enough to resist the dog's force
  • Is more likely to interfere with a dog's natural walking gait when compared to a back-clip harness
  • Tangles or awkward leash positions are common. If your pup switches sides at any point while walking on a double-clip harness, you'll likely need to make adjustments so the leash is not tangled up in his legs or wrapped around his body

Head Halters

A front-clip head halter

Throat-clip head halter

A head halter, sometimes called a head harness, also looks complicated at first glance but is simple after a few encounters with it. A head halter has one loop that slips over your pup's snout and another loop that clips around the back of his neck. The throat-clip style then has a ring situated at the throat that the leash attaches to. Head halters are extremely effective at reducing pulling without using negative force like choking. Some trainers even argue they're too effective and fear people rely on them instead of training good loose-leash manners.

Pros

  • Extremely effective at reducing pulling
  • Does not cause choking with strong pullers like collars can

Cons

  • More inconvenient to put on than a simple collar
  • Most dogs resist wearing the head halter at first, and some dogs require a big investment of training up front just to get comfortable wearing them
  • Tricky to properly fit, and a proper fit is required in order to ensure safety
  • Can be dangerous if used improperly. It's important never to yank or abruptly turn your dog's head using the collar as it can lead to neck injuries
  • Can become a crutch that reduces the motivation to teach good loose leash walking skills

A behind-the-head-clip head halter

Behind-the-head clip head halter

Like the throat-clip head halter, the back-of-the-head-clip halter loops around your dog's snout and neck, but then the leash is attached to a ring at the back of the dog's head. This style of head halter is the best at distributing pressure to the safest parts of your dog's head, but it does provide less control than the other style of head halters.

Pros

  • Extremely effective at reducing pulling
  • Does not cause choking with strong pullers like collars can
  • Puts the least pressure on your dog's snout of all the head halters

Cons

  • More inconvenient to put on than a simple collar
  • Most dogs resist wearing the head halter at first, and some dogs require a big investment of training up front just to get comfortable wearing them
  • Tricky to properly fit, and a proper fit is required in order to ensure safety
  • Can be dangerous if used improperly. It's important never to yank or abruptly turn your dog's head using the collar as it can lead to neck injuries
  • Can become a crutch that reduces the motivation to teach good loose leash walking skills
  • Less control and not as good at discouraging pulling as other styles of head halters

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