We strongly recommend that dogs wear comfortable and well-fitting harnesses when walking on a lead for the following reasons -
Because dogs are required by (British) law to wear a collar with the owner's contact details on, it is very common for people to attach their dog's lead to the metal ring on the collar, after all the dog is always wearing it! What these people fail to realise is that collars give unpleasant and painful choking sensations to a dog's throat and neck when the dog pulls against the lead. The pain and anxiety that this creates causes the dog to pull even more in an effort to escape the pain at the front of its neck (throat). This is one of the reasons why dogs pull on their collars and leads. They have found it works as the lead is taken off when they arrive at their exercise area/home, so they pull even harder in an effort to get there quicker! See the Memory flow chart in why my dog pulls on a lead explains how dog's thought processes work when a lead is attached to a collar, and when it is attached to a harness.
There is veterinary research to prove that when leads are attached to collars the build up of Intraocular Pressure can cause eye damage to dogs with weak or thin corneas, glaucoma, and other eye conditions. In this research the vets compared the pressure to the dog's eyes when it was pulling on a collar (with a normal buckle) to when it was pulling on a harness. The results showed that eye pressure did not develop when the dog was wearing harness. As a result of this research, Veterinary Eye Specialists are actively encouraging dog owners to walk their dogs on harnesses, particularly terrier breeds which have a predisposition for these particular eye problems. Sadly, too many dogs have had eyes removed due to Intraocular Pressure caused by pulling on a "normal" collar and their owners have begged me to pass on this information to all my readers. Read Pickle's story, as above.
Many dogs build up bad associations from the unpleasant sensations of their collar. They begin to link either the environment or what they are doing with the choking pain
they are experiencing and start to anticipate the situation by becoming either aggressive or fearful.
For example - A puppy pulls on its collar and lead in its eagerness to get close to other dogs; it soon starts to associate being near other dogs with the nasty choking sensation it feels in its throat; it then either barks or lunges at the dogs to try and make the pain go away, or it tries to escape from the other dog, only to have more pain from being restrained by the collar and lead. Properly fitting harnesses (together with loose lead work - see Turid Rugaas's book "What do I do when my dog pulls?") overcome this problem as the dog's weight is evenly distributed over the chest and shoulders when the dog tries to pull, and so it feels no pain or choking sensation around its neck.
See also articles by guest writers
Dog collars can cause disease by Dr Peter Dobias
Collars Shown to Affect Glaucoma in Dogs by peteducation.com
Leash Stress by our guest writer Eggi Chromecek
Choke Chains by our guest writer Laraine Malvern
About Neck Injuries in Dogs by Geeksofpets.com
Is your dog's collar dangerous? by Peta.org
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