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Harnesses, Head Collars, and Traditional Collars: Which is right for you?

With all of the different dog-walking products on the market, how do you know what to buy? There are traditional leash/collar combos, harnesses, specialty harnesses (such as the EasyWalker), and head collars (the GentleLeader). Let’s take a look at which might be the best fit for you and your pup.

Traditional Collars and Leashes

Traditional collars and leashes, while widely used, are not actually the best method for teaching a dog to go for walks. They have the following drawbacks:

  • Do not discourage pulling. Pulling on a leash still allows the dog to move slightly forward, which does not train them to not pull.

  • Can choke the dog. Pulling too hard can obviously hurt your dog.

  • Harder to control. It does not prevent your dog from jumping or barking excessively.

  • Leashes can come loose or undone, potentially putting you or your dog in a dangerous situation.

However, if your dog is already well trained and walks beside you easily, a traditional leash may be appropriate. They are easy to use, inexpensive, and easy to get on and off your dog.


Regular harnesses go around the body, between the front two legs. Their main benefit is they won’t choke the dog, but that’s about the only advantage over a traditional collar. Additionally, they can be difficult to get on and off your dog.


The EasyWalker is a specialty harness that clips to the leash in the front instead of the back. The EasyWalker has the following benefits:

  • Discourages pulling. With the front hook, your dog’s attention is directed sideways, back to you, when he pulls, instead of pulling forward.

  • Does not hurt the throat. The harness rests on the dog’s chest, so pulling does not hurt your dog.

  • Easy to fit and adjust, plus works well for all dog types.


The GentleLeader is a type of harness that goes over the dog’s snout. This allows you to gently and effectively direct your dog’s attention by the nose. Benefits of this include:

  • Discourages pulling. The design puts pressure on the back of the neck when the dog pulls, which instinctually causes the dog to lean back.

  • Does not hurt your dog’s throat.

  • Can be used to train against lunging and jumping by directing attention back to you.

The GentleLeader, however, may be harder to fit and does not work well for short-nosed dogs, such as pugs.

Which to choose?

Both the GentleLeader and the EasyWalker are effective for training your dog to walk with you without hurting them. If your only concern is pulling, the EasyWalker is likely the better choice since it is easier to fit. If you have additional behavior concerns, the GentleLeader does a better job of directing your dog’s attention back to you and away from the distraction.

Traditional collars and back-hooking harnesses are better used on dogs that are already well trained.

Note that all dogs should wear a collar, even if you are using a harness or head collar. Collars are used to identify dogs, should yours get away. They also help other people recognize your dog as a pet, and not as a stray.


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