Tank stretching luxuriously in his new harness

Recently, a wonderful commenter on our Facebook page commented on the use of collars on our dogs. She pointed out that collapsed tracheas are common in chihuahuas, and collars can be a factor in whether this happens. The harness vs. collar debate has gone on for some time, but there’s good reason to consider a harness in most cases.

I started using collars with Rocco (my first dog ever) in 2010. At first, a kitten collar was all that would fit him. After that, every sport we tried required leash and collar, so I kept with it. At one point Rocco needed a harness to protect a pinched nerve, and we quickly discovered that most harnesses restrict shoulder movement and are a pain to put on. We switched back to collars as soon as it was safe.

Are Collars Safe?

Collars are safe as long as there is no pressure on the neck. The dangerous part of a collar is that when a dog pulls, the collar sits right on their delicate trachea. Chihuahuas are prone to tracheal collapse, so the hard pulling they can do can cause tracheal collapse to happen faster.

If you choose to use a flexi-leash, a collar is also a poor choice because flexis are constantly putting tension on your dog’s neck.

Collars are safe in sports situations, where a trained dog who does not pull on the leash needs to get out of their equipment quickly. It’s also safe if your dog never pulls on the leash.

Should you use a harness?

A harness is designed to displace the pressure from a leash across the dog’s entire body. A well-fitting harness doesn’t touch the dogs neck at all and arches along the shoulders, letting the dog enjoy the benefits of both worlds.

If your dog pulls, it will not cause any damage to your pet’s neck. If you use a flexi, your chihuahua can use his entire body to pull against the tension of the leash.

Harnesses have two other benefits that a collar doesn’t. Harnesses can be used in car seats so that the dog doesn’t have to change between the two when going in the car, and if you need to suddenly yank your dog out of the reach of a predator, you won’t hurt your pet.

In fact, those final reasons are why we’re working on switching to harnesses here. My pets don’t do sports anymore, they’re all very old. I recently found a harness that works well with all my senior dog’s various health issues, and we do have problems with predators. And stray dogs. And weird people who want to pick up random pets on a walk.

In a few years, we’re also planning to move across country, and my beloved pets will be coming with me. I’ll want them to all be comfortable and used to a harness before then.

We’ll be doing a full review of the harness I found in a later article, but in the meantime check it out! It can be used as a seat belt, it doesn’t restrict shoulder movement, it doesn’t touch the neck at all, and it is super adjustable.

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