Is a Slip Lead Better Than a Harness?

Is a Slip Lead Better Than a Harness?

Is a Slip Lead Better Than a Harness?

Are you tangled up in the decision between using a slip lead or a harness for your dog? It’s a common dilemma for dog owners, especially when considering safety, control, and training. Each has its proponents and detractors, but which one truly offers the best experience for both you and your furry friend when you hit the pavement or the trails?

Between slip leads and harnesses, harnesses generally provide more safety, and comfort for most dogs, especially during longer walks or training sessions, while slip leashes offer more control but are not suitable for dogs that pull.

Why might this be the case? Let’s dive into the details and unravel the leash-and-harness puzzle to find the best fit for your dog’s walking needs.

What’s the Difference Between Slip Leads and Harnesses?

Slip leads are the quintessence of simplicity, functioning as both a collar and a leash that slips over the dog’s head and tightens when they pull. This simplicity, however, can also be limiting.

Harnesses, conversely, act more like a supportive garment, spreading any pressure across a broader area of the dog’s body—namely, the chest and shoulders—thereby reducing strain on the neck and back. This feature is particularly crucial for active or pull-prone dogs.

Slip Lead


  • Quick and Easy: Slip leads are easy to put on and take off, making them convenient for quick trips or situations where you need to quickly leash your dog, such as at the vet or during grooming.
  • Training Tool: For experienced handlers, slip leads can be effective training tools in teaching dogs not to pull, as they provide immediate feedback by tightening when the dog pulls.


  • Risk of Injury: If not used correctly, slip leads can cause neck strain, choking, or even damage to the trachea, especially in dogs that pull vigorously.
  • Limited Control: While slip leads can help manage pulling, they do not offer the same level of control over the dog’s body as a harness, which can be crucial in managing larger dogs or dogs with aggressive tendencies.
  • Potential Negative Reinforcement: The discomfort caused when the lead tightens could lead to negative associations with walking, potentially increasing anxiety or fearfulness.



  • Reduced Neck Strain: Harnesses distribute pressure across a dog’s chest and shoulders, rather than their neck, minimizing the risk of breathing difficulties, choking, or neck injuries.
  • Better Control: Harnesses provide better overall control of your dog’s movement. This can be especially useful for training, managing pullers, or guiding puppies.
  • Safety and Comfort: Many harnesses are designed with padding for extra comfort, and they tend to be safer for long-term use, especially during vigorous activities like running or hiking.


  • More Time to Equip: Compared to slip leads, harnesses can take more time to put on correctly, especially for dogs that are not used to wearing them.
  • Overheating: Some harnesses can be bulky, which might contribute to overheating if used in very warm weather, particularly those with lots of padding.

A harness is generally better than a slip lead for everyday use, particularly for prolonged periods of walking, training, and for dogs that pull. Harnesses are safer and provide more consistent control without the risks associated with the tightening action of slip leads.

Slip leads might still be useful in specific situations, like quickly leashing your dog for a short period or in controlled training sessions with experienced handlers. However, for the well-being and comfort of most dogs, especially those in active families or with specific training needs, harnesses are the preferred choice.

Why Might a Harness Be a Better Choice?

The harness’s claim to fame is its comfort level. It wraps around your dog in a supportive hug, ensuring that any pressure from pulling is distributed evenly, rather than focusing all the force on the neck. This can prevent injuries and make walking more pleasant, allowing you both to enjoy your outings without worry.

1. Reduced Risk of Neck Injury

  • Importance: Slip leads tighten around a dog’s neck when they pull, which can potentially cause neck strain, tracheal damage, or other injuries, especially in breeds prone to such issues.
  • Benefit: Harnesses distribute pressure across a larger and more robust part of the dog’s body, such as the chest and shoulders, significantly reducing the risk of neck injuries.

2. Improved Control Without Discomfort

  • Importance: Slip leads can provide control by discouraging pulling through discomfort. However, this method can create negative associations with walking or training.
  • Benefit: Harnesses, particularly those with front attachment points, provide effective control by redirecting the dog back towards the owner without causing discomfort or pain, leading to a more positive training experience.

3. Better for Training

  • Importance: Training a dog not to pull or to behave well on a leash can be challenging with a slip lead, as it may not provide consistent feedback.
  • Benefit: Harnesses allow for more nuanced control during training sessions. They can be used to gently guide and teach the dog desired behaviors without relying on the aversive feedback that slip leads might provide.

4. Increased Security

  • Importance: Slip leads can be easily escaped from if not properly tightened, especially by dogs that are skilled at backing out of collars or those with narrow heads.
  • Benefit: Harnesses are designed to fit securely around the body and are typically more difficult for a dog to escape from, providing better security during walks.

5. Comfort and Longer Wear

  • Importance: Slip leads may need to be constantly adjusted and can be uncomfortable for a dog to wear for extended periods, especially if the dog continues to pull.
  • Benefit: Harnesses are generally more comfortable for dogs to wear for longer durations. Many harness designs include padding and ergonomic features that enhance comfort.

6. Suitable for All Types of Dogs

  • Importance: Slip leads might not be suitable for young puppies, very small dogs, or dogs with specific health issues.
  • Benefit: Harnesses come in various designs that can be tailored to fit any dog, regardless of size, age, or health condition, making them a versatile choice for all dog owners.

While slip leads can be useful for certain training contexts or for temporary control, harnesses offer a more humane and effective solution for everyday use and training. They provide safer, more comfortable, and more reliable control, which can enhance the walking and training experience for both dogs and their owners.

Is a Harness Better Than a Halter for Dogs?

What Should You Consider When Choosing Between a Slip Lead and Harness?

Think about your dog’s behavior, your daily routes, and what you’re trying to achieve with your walks. Slip leads can offer immediate, albeit temporary, control, useful in scenarios like quick vet trips or for already well-trained dogs. For ongoing training and managing exuberant pullers, a harness will generally provide safer and more consistent control.

Can Slip Leads Be Harmful?

Yes, particularly if not used correctly. Slip leads must be used with care as they can cause neck strain or even injury if a dog pulls abruptly or frequently. This risk is notably significant for puppies or breeds with vulnerable throats, where even a slight tug can cause harm.

How Do Harnesses Enhance Training?

Harnesses can be invaluable training tools. Many designs feature both front and back leash attachments, providing options to counteract pulling by gently redirecting your dog towards you. This is especially helpful for reinforcing good leash behaviors without the risk of injury.

What Are the Key Features to Look for in a Harness?

When picking a harness, adjustable straps are essential for a custom fit. You’ll also want to look for breathable materials and padding to ensure comfort during long walks. Reflective features for visibility and strong buckles for security are also important for your dog’s safety and convenience.


While slip leads might seem convenient for quick control, harnesses offer a safer and more comfortable solution for everyday walks and training, particularly for energetic dogs.

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FAQ about dog harness

Do Vets Recommend Slip Leads?

Most veterinarians are cautious about recommending slip leads as the primary walking aid due to the potential for injury. They can pose risks such as tracheal damage, neck strain, and unintended choking, especially if not used correctly. Vets often suggest using a harness, particularly for dogs prone to respiratory issues or those with delicate necks.

Do Dog Trainers Recommend Slip Leads?

The recommendation from dog trainers can vary:

  • Proponents say slip leads are effective for training certain behaviors, such as heel or for managing dogs during agility training because they offer immediate feedback and control.
  • Opponents argue that there are more humane and effective training tools, such as harnesses or martingale collars, which provide similar control without the risks associated with choking.

What are the disadvantages of a slip lead?

  1. Risk of Injury: If used improperly, slip leads can tighten too much around a dog’s neck, leading to choking or injury to the trachea.
  2. Potential for Negative Training Outcomes: Slip leads can create negative experiences for the dog. If pulling results in choking or discomfort, the dog might become anxious or fearful during walks.
  3. Lack of Control: While they provide some control for pulling, they do not offer the same level of guidance and body control that a harness does, which can be crucial for effective training.

Is a Slip Lead or Harness Better?

  • Harnesses are generally recommended over slip leads for everyday use for several reasons:
    • Safety: Harnesses distribute pressure across the dog’s chest and shoulders rather than the neck, reducing the risk of injury.
    • Control: They provide better control over the dog’s body, which is helpful for training and managing large or very active dogs.
    • Comfort: Harnesses are more comfortable for the dog, especially on longer walks or if the dog tends to pull.
  • Slip Leads may still be used by experienced trainers in specific training scenarios or environments where precise, temporary control is needed without the time to fit a harness.

Article by

Kyra Luo

Product Design Manager

Kyra is the Product Design Manager at QQPETS, where her expertise in developing high-quality, customized pet products and keen insight into market trends has helped hundreds of clients achieve their goals, save money, and satisfy consumer needs.

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Kyra Luo

Product Design Manager

Kyra is the Product Design Manager at QQPETS, where her expertise in developing high-quality, customized pet products and keen insight into market trends has helped hundreds of clients achieve their goals, save money, and satisfy consumer needs.

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