Before we dive into dog collar types, a quick word on whether walking your dog with the leash attached to a flat collar is okay. While it’s not my preferred choice, walking your dog on a collar is fine as long as they are rockstars with loose leash walking. I see plenty of dogs with great leash manners walking with the leash attached to their collar rather than a harness. However, if your dog pulls on a dog leash or knows how to back out of their collar to escape it, you shouldn’t use their collar for leashed walks.
The potential for injuries from the use of aversive dog collars, such as prong and choke collars has been well documented. But even flat collars can cause injuries to your dog’s neck, trachea, front leg nerves, eyes, ears, and even thyroid. Your dog might see a squirrel and run after it, jerking their neck when they hit the end of the leash.
Dogs who pull like freight trains are putting constant pressure on their trachea, choking themselves in their effort to go go go! And unfortunately, a common response to a pulling dog is to jerk or pop the leash to correct them. This pressure on the neck can cause injury at the moment or cause health issues over time.
NOTE: Since Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds often have difficulty breathing and narrow tracheas, it is better to use a dog harness to walk them. Any risk of potential trauma to the trachea due to direct trauma or trauma to the surrounding muscles from pulling can be potentially life-threatening for these dogs.
If your dog has any of the following medical conditions, it’s best to opt for a harness instead of a collar when going for a walk. These conditions can be caused and/or exacerbated by pulling on the collar.
- Laryngeal Paralysis
- Collapsing trachea — common especially in small terrier dogs, like Yorkshire Terriers.
- Kennel cough — more correctly called “Infectious Tracheobronchitis,” where the “itis” means there is inflammation, and therefore increased sensitivity, of your dog’s trachea (which a pulled-upon collar will put additional pressure on).
- Slipped disc, arthritis, or other cause of neck pain.
- Horner’s Syndrome — if the nerve damage causing your dog’s Horner’s Syndromesymptoms is from the portion of the nerve pathway in their neck, avoiding the use of a neck collar is important.
- Canine Wobbler Syndrome — a neurological problem affecting the spine in the neck region, typically of larger breed dogs. “Wobblers” manifests as an abnormal walking pattern. If “Wobblers” is suspected or diagnosed, a neck collar should definitely be avoided. (More about Wobbler Syndromefrom our friends at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine).
- Surgery in the neck region
- Thyroid or salivary gland issues
Let us know what collar or harness you like the most for your dog in the comments below!