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Collars vs. harnesses - some research insights

In our 2015 breed survey, we looked at dogs over the age of 3 that were exercised wearing harnesses and found they were 2.3 times more likely to have suffered an IVDD incident than those exercised in collars. This does not necessarily imply causation; it may simply be a reflection of the fact that dogs that have previously suffered an IVDD incident may be exercised in harnesses rather than in collars. Dogs that pulled on the lead rather than walking to heel were no more likely to have suffered IVDD, irrespective of whether or not they wore a collar or a harness.

We asked about collar vs. harness use again in our 2022/23 surveys of dogs that had had IVDD and those that hadn't been affected. In these 2 surveys, dogs that wore a harness were twice as likely to have been affected by IVDD than those walked on collars. Of those who were affected by IVDD, 29% had changed to using a harness after their IVDD incident.


90-95% of all Dachshund disc herniations occur in the middle to lower back, not in the neck. It, therefore, seems unlikely that walking a Dachshund in a collar increases its risk of back problems. 


If your Dachshund has had an IVDD incident with one of the cervical (neck) discs, ask your vet whether it would be more appropriate to use a harness than a collar, for walking your dog.

Some 2023 research into the effect of harness design on dogs (not Dachshunds).

ABSTRACT Harnesses have become increasingly popular and whilst there are benefits to harnesses, the impact of harness design on canine biomechanics, and thus physical health and welfare is largely unknown. The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of three popular commercially available harnesses on canine locomotion in 66 domestic dogs. Dogs were filmed moving on a loose lead over a Tekscan Strideway gait analysis system. Stride length as a proportion of limb length (calculated as distance from the elbow to the floor), body weight distribution in the front versus the hind limbs (%), and minimum and maximum apparent angles of the lateral epicondyle of humerus (LEH) and greater tubercle of humerus (GTH) during the motion cycle were measured. Except for GTH angles, there were significant differences in all the investigated metrics. Differences varied across breeds/breed types. It is recommended that, when purchasing and fitting harnesses for dogs, owners and harness fitters treat dogs on an individual basis. The impact of pulling in harness on dog gait requires investigation as dogs may experience greater restrictions when pulling than during locomotion on a loose lead.

A few points that caught our attention:

"In addition to the short-term impact of different harness designs, consideration should also be given to the longer-term impact of altering gait through continued harness use, and the impact of pulling into the harness."

"Dogs walked and trotted on a treadmill had a reduced range of movement in chest-strap harnesses as compared to a Y-shaped harness"

"it is important to recognise that harnesses have the potential to alter canine stride length. This study supports the mixed impact of harnesses and harness design on canine gait to date"

"it is possible that there is no “correct” harness for all dogs. Instead, it is important to consider a dog’s conformation when choosing a harness, and not to assume that a particular harness most suits a specific breed of dog."

"Harness design and fit could impede movement and forelimb extension in dogs with certain conformations, especially if the harness sits on spinous processes or the shoulder blades"

"The fact that changes were seen in joint angulation is an important area to consider in future research. Consistent alteration to a gait cycle may have long-term ramifications for animals, and consequently it is important to consider whether there are any factors which predict this"

This is another useful article by a vet (the Beagle Health Coordinator):


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