Why a harness may be the best choice for your pet’s health

After getting a new dog you’re likely making a list of the essentials you’ll need. Dog food, pet bed, toys, food and water bowls, leash and collar! A harness? Of course you know you’ll need a dog collar. How else will you take your dog for walks and where else will you clip Fidos cute little dog tags? Did you ever think that using a collar to take your dog out and about could actually be harmful to your pets health? If you’re anything like me, the answer is, of course not! I mean, that’s the way it’s always been. Dogs walk on leashes which are clipped to their collars. Right? Well, if you really stop to think about this for a minute you may realize that putting something around your loved ones neck and pulling and tugging as Fido eagerly sniffs out the world sounds pretty uncomfortable. Can you imagine someone pulling you around by your throat and having no idea why you must walk this direction or on this path? You would probably started to get really stressed out and maybe even aggressive. Although most dogs don’t seem to show aggression while walking like this, they’re just too distracted by all the smells, it could cause some long term damage to their health.

I’ve always used a collar on my dogs, they’ve been small breeds and don’t make me work too hard while walking.  Sure they would stop to smell the flowers and after standing for a few minutes, I would do a quick tug to single them to move on.  I never really thought about it being harmful to them. It wasn’t until my I got my new puppy about 3 weeks ago did this make me think about this topic, leading me to do some more research. She is pretty energetic and I’m having a difficult time getting her to walk on the sidewalk. She jumps around and tries going in all directions. Even though she is really small, about 7lbs, our walks involved a log of tugging and redirecting. I don’t have to tug hard because she is so small but it was so frequent it really got me thinking if there was a risk of hurting her throat if we continued like this. So I went and bought a harness, which I had always thought those were for the larger dogs or dogs or ones with back problems. Let me say, the difference in our walks was like night and day! I immediately could tell that the harness was much more comfortable for her and she really seemed a lot more relaxed. Harnesses go around the body of your dog, providing even weight distribution. In fact, training can be much more productive when using a dog harness.

I spent some time reading about the possible effects a collar could have on a dog and I was shocked at what I read. I really had no idea and the guilt really set in.  How could I NOT know this and why didn’t anyone ever tell me this? I am an animal lover and the last thing I would ever want is to hurt my pet, or any animal at that. Below I listed the possible long lasting negative health effects of walking your dog on a collar.

Eye and ear damage

Anytime your dog pulls on their leash it could restrict blood flow to it’s eyes and ears. Restricted blood flow to any part of the body is never a good thing, especially on a regular basis. When dogs pull on the leash, the collar restricts the blood and lymphatic flow to and from the head.  It can cause inflammation and swelling. Regular swelling even for short periods can cause damage, especially to the fragile tissue around the eyes and inside of the ears.

Thyroid Issues

Many vets have concluded that thyroid Issues happen when a dogs collar pushes on it’s thyroid constantly. Some dog breeds that tend pull on their leash a lot could be at a higher risk of thyroid problem. The thyroid gland is located just in front of the trachea. As the collar moves around its very possible it can push on the thyroid gland and over time this can cause some serious long term damage. Dogs necks are physiologically VERY similar to human necks. Our necks and dogs necks both contain the oesophagus, trachea, thyroid, lymph nodes, spinal column and jugular veins virtually within the same place. The muscles surrounding this area are also very similar.
The thyroid gland can become severely traumatized whenever a dog pulls on the leash, it becomes inflamed. This triggers the immune system to removed the inflamed thyroid cells. Over time the destruction of the thyroid cells leads to the deficit of the thyroid hormone itself. The symptoms of hypothyroidism may be weight gain, skin problems, low energy and hair loss.

Nerve Damage

Does your dog lick their front paws? It’s possible this is a sign of nerve damage.
The nerves in their feet can be damaged by dog collars. Leash pulling impinges the nerves supplying the front limbs. This causes a tingling feeling, similar to when your foot falls asleep. Most dogs will try licking their paws in attempt to ease the discomfort. This is often misdiagnosed as an allergic reaction when it may just be switching to a harness instead of a collar.  Something to think about the next time you see your dog licking their front paws.


Pulling hard or jerking on your dogs leash when they’re on a collar can absolutely cause whiplash. If Fido spots a squirrel, you can bet he will want to bolt after it. Our natural response would probably be a quick jerk on the leash. If your dog is wearing a collar this could easily cause a neck injury. Wearing a harness will provide a more even distribution of force and won’t injury your sweet pup.
When a dog reaches the end of the leash and can’t go further there is almost always a quick jerk or pull from the dog.  Even with the most docile dogs they will hit the end of their leash at some point during their walk. Neck injuries could include bruising, whiplash, headaches, crushed trachea, damage to larynx, and fractured vertebrae.

Using a harness is not only a more comfortable way to walk your dog but its the best choice for your pets long term health. Like I said earlier, after reading all the studies and information I found, I educated myself about this topic.  I really had no idea of the possible harm I could cause to my babies. It’s just not worth the risk to use a collar for walking anymore. It’s a simple switch that is basically effortless on my part to assure their comfort and health while walking.

Now my dogs are collarless and harnessless at home when they are relaxing. Going outside in the backyard,(no leash) it’s a collar. I only do this for security purposes. If by some strange occurrence that either one of them escape the yard, they have their dog tags on as well as a little bell.  When I grab the leash, I use the harness always! I am looking at getting them both harnesses with their name and my number engraved on the harness. I found some nice looking ones I will order.

Find a wide selection of different leashes and harnesses HERE

Read more about this topic at: Dogtime.com

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