Some dog breeds, mostly smaller breeds, greatly benefit from being walked on a harness rather than having the leash attached to their collars. This is because smaller dogs are more prone to develop trachea damage from the pressure of their collars against their delicate necks. Collapsed trachea is a condition that is relatively common in small and toy breeds of dogs. Using a collar is one of the risk factors of the development of this disease. Using a harness instead of a collar to walk your dog doesn't guarantee that your pet will never develop collapsed trachea, but it can lower their risk.
A dogs trachea, or windpipe, much like a humans, is supported and held open by rings of cartilage that circle around it. In a dog suffering from collapsed trachea, the cartilage rings weaken and allow the trachea to become loose. The trachea no longer has the proper amount of support to keep it open, so it collapses down against itself. The symptoms of collapsed trachea depend on how severe the condition is, and can range from a mild cough to difficulty breathing. Symptoms may be especially pronounced during times when your pet is exercising.
To reduce your small dogs chances of developing this condition, walking them on a harness is recommended. Collars can still be used to hold ID tags, but your dog's leash should not be attached to his/her collar during walks. You should also avoid holding your small dog by the collar, unless it's during an emergency.
A harness, when fitted correctly, will take pressure off your pets neck and disperse it over your dogs chest and shoulders. There are many different types and styles of harnesses, so picking the right one for your dog might take some trial and error. Harnesses come in as many colors and designs as collars do, so you can still have fun choosing fun styles for your pet.
I recently learned the hard way that it can be beneficial to keep at least one well fitting spare harness around for each of your dogs. Fenrir, my 1 year old pup, chewed up his $60 Ruffwear Web Master harness to the point that the harness was completely useless. Puppies! Luckily I had an old harness that used to be Kit's that I could adjust to be small enough to fit Fen. I ordered him a new Ruffwear harness, since I like them so much, but in the meantime Fen had to sport Kit's old puppy harness.
Out of all the harness brands we've tried over the years my favorites are Puppia and Ruffwear. I've learned my lesson about leaving Fen's harness where he can get it, but think that I'll also buy him a Puppia harness for backup.
Comment below! Do you use a harness for your dog(s)? Do you have any brands/styles you especially like?