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I can’t wait to show you how to choose the best harness or collar for German Shepherds that gives you more control and an enjoyable walk with your powerful, energetic companion.
Wouldn’t you love to feel confident and enjoy a relaxing walk with your dog knowing you can handle their strength and strong will?
Let’s look at what collars and harnesses help you to enjoy your walks safely and comfortably—for both you and your dog.
Using Just a Collar for Your Dog
A simple flat traditional collar should be on your dog during your walks. The Humane Society says that your flat buckle collar should have your dog’s identification engraved on it.
Many dogs who accidentally get loose from their owners are returned safely by good Samaritans who locate their owner using the information on the ID tag. Don’t underestimate having a conventional collar with this information.
When purchasing a collar, look for one that has a safety release to help free your dog if they caught around their neck.
While your dog is off-leash running in the park or around a field with the brush, the safety collar will release and free them should they ever, unfortunately, get caught around their neck.
The collar also works well as the everyday collar for your dog since it holds their tag and is made of strong material.
This should be your dog’s everyday collar, even if you train your GSD on another type of harness or collar. When buying a collar, purchase a width of 1 inch for your large breed dog.
Disadvantages of Using Only a Collar for Walking Your GSD
A problem with any collar is that it’s tricky to control a dog by its neck.
If the collar slips too low on the neck a Shepherd can throw its weight into it and pull with great strength, injuring you or themselves.
Constant, long-term wear can cause hair loss or breakage around your dog’s neck.
A collar can slip over your dog’s head if they try to back out of it, especially for puppies. But a Martingale collar helps prevent escaping from the collar.
If you have a Shepherd that pulls on their collar so hard during walks they choke themselves and gasp for air, a traditional or Martingale collar may not work by itself.
In this case, there are two major options: a head halter and a no-pull harness.
Using a Head Halter to Prevent Pulling
The head halter is helpful for strong, powerful dogs that require more control.
It does, however, take longer for your dog to get used to wearing it, unlike a body harness that is more readily accepted by most German Shepherds.
It’s also easier than you think to injure your dog if you use harsh leash corrections with this head collar. Despite being powerful dogs, with improper leash corrections, the head halter can do more damage than a regular collar.
How to Use the Head Halter Correctly
Don’t jerk the leash or pull your dog along with the head halter. This isn’t the correct use of the tool.
A slight, gentle pull is all it should take to lead your dog in the right direction or to gently pull their head toward you if they walk ahead.
Don’t tug the leash on the halter up too high since this stretches their neck in an improper way.
Halters themselves are not cruel or painful, but like any training tool, they can cause irritation when they don’t fit appropriately and are uncomfortable for your GSD to wear.
This learning curve can be too much for some owners and too uncomfortable for some Shepherds. Many GSDs won’t readily accept the head collar and some owners will quit too early out of frustration.
Getting a good fit that’s comfortable to your dog makes all the difference in the ease of use and training.
If you use a head halter, then use the Gentle Leader to start with. The way it’s constructed prevents excessive pressure on your dog’s face and the bridge of the nose.
It’s a great option for preventing pulling in large breed dogs and will control a strong puller.
Want More Head Collar Options?
I’ve done the research and testing for you so that your life is easier. Read about the top picks for the best head collars for German Shepherds.
A German Shepherd No Pull Harness That Truly Works
If your GSD likes to pull with a flat collar on, or you have a puppy and don’t want to take a chance on a neck injury, then it’s safer to use a specially designed harness that helps prevent pulling.
I prefer a no-pull, no-choke, easy to put on body harness. I can’t believe more GSD owners don’t use them considering how great they work!
I’ve bought leashes that have cost more than the price of this no-pull harness!
This no pull, strong and durable harness will have a dramatic effect on your ability to enjoy walks with your German Shepherd and will save your hand and shoulder from constant pressure and pain.
Some owners like to pair their no-pull harness with a head halter for better control. There’s no set standard except to choose the tools that help you control your German Shepherd and keep them safe.
The no-pull harness works by having a front clip where you attach their leash or lead, thus when they pull forward their body is turned around to face you. This front-clip harness is also great for puppies or adults that like to jump since they won’t jump as high with the lead attached to their chest.
Yes, harnesses are good for German Shepherds if they allow for correct shoulder movement and don’t cause additional pulling which strains the arms of their handler. Look for a harness that has a vertical chest strap to avoid any unusual gait from impinging the full range of the shoulders and includes additional safety features such as reflective material, heavy-duty buckles, and a double clip for extra security and better control.
While some harnesses can increase pulling a double clip, no-pull harness disrupts the dog’s ability to pull since the leash clips into the front chest piece and the back.
The double clip prevents the dog from pulling easily since it turns their bodies to the side when they lunge ahead, instead of going straight forward. This motion discourages continual pulling since it doesn’t produce the results the dog wants (to go forward easily).
A full-body harness doesn’t just give the handler additional control and security.
There’re other benefits, such as:
They’re great training tools for puppies learning to behave on the leash when they’re too little to wear a training collar.
The no-pull models allow walkers to have more control with heavy pullers and prevent excessive lunging which can injure them or put them at risk of running into traffic.
No pull harnesses help to stop your dog from jumping up on strangers or friends.
There’s less worry about choking from dogs that consistency lunge with their conventional collar.
Dogs wearing harnesses are less likely to get tangled up in the leash accidentally or cause a trip hazard to their walkers or themselves.
Using Identification on Harnesses or Collars
Don’t forget to have identification tags on all the collars you use for walks since dogs and puppies can suddenly dart or become frightened and run away. Buy a set of tags for all your collars or leave the flat buckle collar with your ID tag on during walks.
Yes, that means all the time on all your collars! You never know when
something can frighten or distract a dog and cause him to bolt away.
Plus, your dog might accidentally run out of your house or off leash when startled. Accidents happen, even with the most watchful and diligent dog owners.
A Harness or Collar for German Shepherds for Better Walking Behavior?
Collars and harnesses are tools meant to help you with your dog, but
they aren’t a complete solution to walking issues.
Use the headcollar if you have a German Shepherd that pulls excessively and causes a safety issue. However, since most dogs must be trained to wear the headcollar as they don’t readily like things on their faces, the no-pull harness is my go-to option for my own German Shepherd.
It’s better to buy the tools that help you train your dog than to risk injury to them or yourself by having them pull you into traffic or make you fall.
Catherine Krasavin owns Shepherd Sense, a dog website aimed at German Shepherd owners and lovers. She has a Bachelor of Science degree, with Honors, and has been training dogs for over a decade. Catherine’s currently attending continuing education courses to keep up with the latest in animal science, as well as earning her diploma in dog training. She owns a plush coat German Shepherd who was awarded Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme Gold Award - the highest level of achievement.
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