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Of all of the dogs that have been part of my family, we have only used collars for leashing. We've never had any negative experiences with them, but my parent's boxer has a habit of pulling when he sees something (or someone) he wants to go visit. He is so physically strong, trying to restrain him can cause his collar to dig into his throat.

Would a harness help with this situation?

Would it provide better control given his size and strength?

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A harness just puts the pressure of the leash around the strongest part of your dog's body. So, while the harness would technically be more comfortable for the dog, it will be less comfortable for you. A harness will help your dog control you better, rather than the control you're looking for.

The long-term solution is to train your dog not to pull on the leash. The ASPCA has lots of good guidance on that. Leash pulling is not necessarily a permanent behavior, regardless of whether you're using a collar or harness. It's possible to train it away, and that's the best solution.

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    I doubt you could train that out of a sled dog though... those are breeds that enjoy pulling as a matter of course and Boxers have been used in some similar capacities in the past. Stopping that would be like convincing a border collie that circling its herding subject isn't a good idea. – John Cavan Oct 10 '13 at 2:39
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    @JohnCavan That's very true. You can certainly train a dog to know when and where the behavior is acceptable, though. Well-trained border collies can walk on a leash with a group of people without tangling them up in circles in the leash; a well-trained sled or bull dog should be able to walk well when asked to also - as long as it also has opportunities to indulge its urge to pull (much like a collie needs to be allowed to run in circles regularly). – hairboat Oct 10 '13 at 2:43
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    Therein lies the key: good training. That's a truism for most dog behaviors we want to change. In any event, I think we both agree that the harness is only going to encourage pulling, not restrain it. – John Cavan Oct 10 '13 at 2:45
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    You might not get a Husky to stop pulling altogether, same as you won't stop a scent hound sniffing, but if you provide him some outlet for his natural instincts some of the time, it'll be easier suppressing them at other times. – ThomasH Oct 10 '13 at 13:28
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I used to walk our Husky/Malamute cross when I was younger and that was a breed that could yank the arms out of your socket at the slightest hint of a reason to run and a collar was not an issue for him. The thing is, a dog isn't so stupid that it would hurt himself in the process of trying to pull forward, it will back off the pressure if there is a discomfort to him.

Having said that, a harness may still be a better option for overall comfort for the dog, especially one that likes to pull anyways. The downside, though, is that he may pull more and harder with less reason to be restrained. So, a bit of a catch-22 for you. For myself, unless the dog has shown that the collar has been hurting him, I'd probably leave the situation alone unless I wanted him to pull a sleigh. :D

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My preference is to use both - a collar when pulling is not allowed and a harness for when it is. For instance, if my big dog wants to help pull me up the hill, that's great! Or maybe we'll go skijouring someday.

For dogs that pull a lot, I actually prefer using an Easy-Walk Harness - if it fits the dog appropriately (I've seen one or two dogs that just can't be correctly fitted into one.) But either way, use a regular harness for walking when you won't be actively training not pulling and a collar or harness designed to reduce pulling when you are. That way, you aren't reinforcing that it is OK to pull when you are just trying to get your dog to pee or get some exercise.

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A harness won't stop him pulling, you'll need to re-train him to do that. Here's a youtube video that might be helpful for that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueE1S1k74Ao

But a harness will stop him from damaging himself so you can keep him safe while you retrain him. Many dogs - particularly energetic types like boxers - will pull on the lead hard enough to damage themselves, even if it does hurt a bit, the excitement of the moment overwhelms them. A dog pulling on a collar can damage his spine or thyroid gland.

I have personal experience of this : one of my lurchers used to be walked on a collar all the time: I didn't think it was a problem because he rarely pulled on the lead, was mostly walked offlead, and if he did pull it would just be a brief tug because he'd reacted to another dog barking at him, or something like that.

When he started having serious shoulder and back pains, I didn't make the connection. I rested him, he had pain relief, x-rays, nothing conclusive was found, but the problem kept recurring every so often.

It was only when I ended up with a spare harness and thought I'd walk him in that just to make use of it that I realised that walking him on a collar and having him very occasionally yank on it when he saw something exciting had been doing a lot of damage. The painful episodes stopped, he was able to walk further, seemed younger and clearly a happier dog.

I now walk all my dogs on harnesses when I'm using a lead. Now I think about it, I'd never attach a lead to a toddler's neck, that seems obviously risky, and they don't make seatbelts that go around people's necks either - yet some dogs could be going up to 30mph by the time they hit the end of a 6ft lead, so similar level of impact. My dogs do have collars, but only to hang their tags on, they are never used with leads.

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