The behavioral effects of walking on a collar and harness in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris)

John Grainger, Alison Wills, V. Tamara Montrose

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
1046 Downloads (Pure)


Dogs are a popular pet in the United Kingdom, and walking a dog is widely recognized as an important part of dog ownership. A number of different restraints can be used when walking dogs on leashes, such as collars and harnesses. Previous research has examined the behavioral effects of walking dogs on head and neck collars. Harnesses are often anecdotally proposed to be more beneficial to dog welfare than other alternative restraints; however, to date, the effects of walking dogs on harnesses have not been investigated. The aim of this study was to determine the behavioral responses of dogs walked on neck collars or harnesses. The broader purpose of this study was to examine if the type of restraint worn causes stress in dogs. To explore this, a within-subject counterbalanced design was used. Thirty privately owned dogs were recruited within 2 groups (each group: n = 15); those previously walked on a harness and those previously walked on a neck collar. Dogs were walked for 20 minutes each while behavioral indicators of stress were recorded. After this trial, owners were given the alternative walking restraint and returned a week later to perform a second 20-minute walk. Behavioral indicators were again recorded. No significant differences were found between behaviors shown by dogs when walked on either collar or harness. However, dogs with a history of being walked on a collar showed increased low ear position. This may suggest that these dogs are more stressed; however, because of the lack of support from the other stress indicators, motivations, such as indicating appeasement toward their owners, should also be considered. These findings suggest that, at least for the specific harness and collar trialed, neither neck collars nor harnesses are eliciting stress in dogs. However, future research determining the long-term effects of neck collar and harness use would be beneficial.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-64
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2016


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