A leash and a collar are the stereotypical images that come to mind when you picture walking a dog. However, in recent years, dog harnesses have become more popular among French Bulldog owners, in part due to them being considered safer and more secure when walking your Frenchie.
But what exactly is the difference between a harness and a collar, and which one is better for you to use for your Frenchie from a safety perspective?
In this guide, I will explain the differences, pros, cons, plus whether you should choose a French Bulldog harness or collar for your pup… with a few recommendations too!
Is a collar or harness better for a French Bulldog?
Walking is one of the most important activities that you can do with your Frenchie. They aren’t lazy dogs, despite the stereotypes, and need a run out every day so having a decent harness or collar is essential.
But is a collar or a harness better for a French Bulldog, and if so why?
In my view, when picking a French Bulldog harness or collar, go for harness, but also buy a collar as well for backup. The harness will be your go-to method as I will explain below, unless of course you have problems getting your Frenchie used to wearing it.
The reason I say French Bulldog harnesses are better than collars is all down to their breed and physical make-up. Frenchies have short snouts and smaller tracheas that other dogs meaning they are at higher risk of choking.
But, don’t worry if you do use a collar, it doesn’t mean you’re going to strangle your Frenchie; you would soon realize if they were starting to choke. It’s a very small risk, but the over-riding factor has to be that a harness will be more comfortable than a collar for a Frenchie.
Whilst collars have been the standard choice for dogs for decades, harnesses provide a far more secure way of walking your Frenchie without putting too much strain on them. They are also great for smaller dogs because of the handles. The grab handles let you to pick them up or help them to their feet without worrying about putting pressure on the throat.
While there are pros and cons to both French Bulldog harnesses and collars, the main decider is what your Frenchie finds most comfortable. Our dog Claude hated having a harness on at first, whilst some dogs don’t like the feeling of the collar around their neck. Resistance doesn’t’ tend to last long though, as the more practice they get, the easier it is.
But the bottom line is you know your dog better than anyone, and they will definitely make their opinion known if they do not like wearing a harness versus a collar and vice versa.
Based on this, here are my recommendations for some of the best French Bulldog harnesses, or collars lower down (remember, it’s best to have one of each).
The best French Bulldog harnesses
I will be completely honest with you, we’ve owned all three Frenchie harnesses below, only ever changing them as Claude grew from a puppy to adult, and then when we lost one. I cannot really separate these three choices so it’s up to decide which you like the look of best!
Handy Hint: Before you buy, please make sure you measure your Frenchie’s harness size. You can read how to do that in my sizing guide.
Available in a range of different sizes and colours, ranging from black, pink, red and even patterned, this harness is made of a breathable mesh for maximum comfort as is ideal for French Bulldog puppies that pull!
With a strap made from recycled water bottles, this harness is eco-friendly and highly durable. Unlike collars, this Frenchie harness is escape-proof and hard-wearing, designed not to rub or choke the dog wearing it.
It served us really well when Claude was a puppy, and his friend Lola also wore one as you can see in the photo at the top of the page!
Perfect for all-day excursions, this comfortable yet secure harness has a customisable fit to suit all different sizes and breeds of dog. With a reflective trim, an aluminium leash attachment ring and an ID pocket for dog tags, the strong webbing at the front discourages pulling and straining.
This harness is perfect for dogs that are often out and about, being easily put on and taken off, as well as featuring a front and back leash attachment to encourage your dog to keep up with you.
We’d walk Claude every day in our local forest with this harness, and for me it excelled with the quick “on and off” ability with zero fuss.
Available with two different types of buckles for either easy on and off removal or fully certified crash-tested buckles for enhanced safety for use in and out of the car, this harness is perfect for day-to-day use.
It comes with a lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects. With a front leash attachment to discourage pulling, this harness also features five different adjustment points to fit all sizes and shapes of Frenchie.
Handy Hint: You should always make sure your Frenchie is secure when travelling by car. It’s illegal to not have them restrained in many places; here are some Frenchie car seats.
The best French Bulldog collars
You should also have a collar as back-up; for example, if the harness breaks, or your Frenchies hates using it. Here are a couple of recommendations:
This collar is great for training Frenchies and is made from 1000D nylon so it will survive the wear and tear of everyday wear. Designed to be hardwearing and long-lasting, this is perfect for dogs that are more active and out an about, with a magic sticker on the back that allows for Velcro accessories as well as name tags, patches and badges.
This collar is law enforcement and military-grade training equipment, while also giving the dog comfort and ease of movement. Why I think it suits Frenchies though, is the comfort level it offers around their throat area.
This water resistant, quick-drying and odourless neoprene padded French Bulldog collar is both heavy-duty and comfortable for your dog to wear. With reflective stitching for extra safety, this collar is perfect for dogs with wider necks, such as bulldogs and boxers.
With a neutral black colour with different coloured trims, from red to blue and even pink and aquamarine, this collar is simple yet effective.
Handy Hint: If you are not sure what neck size you need for your Frenchie’s collar, please read my quick guide into collar sizes.
Do French Bulldogs need a harness?
The main reason harnesses have become more popular over recent years is due to the drawbacks and risks of using a collar.
While some French Bulldogs are very well behaved when on the leash, many aren’t, especially if they are young dogs who haven’t been properly trained to heel yet.
Because of this, untrained dogs are more likely to pull and strain on the leash which can cause major consequences to their health if using a collar – and as we know, this is a real risk to Frenchies!
As a breed, French Bulldogs have brachycephaly, meaning that they have a very short skull that can cause their airways to become obstructed, leading to breathing difficulties.
If you use a collar then there is a very slight increase in risk, particularly if you have a Frenchie who like to pull on the leash.
Handy Hint: Read my easy to understand and effective training guide on how to stop your Frenchie from leash pulling.
While a harness will spread the pressure evenly across their abdomen, a collar can press against the windpipe. Not only can this make breathing harder, but also potentially lead to choking, increased eye pressure, plus pain in the neck and spine.
Training a Frenchie to wear a harness
One of the main hurdles of using a harness with your Frenchie is getting them used to it. The sensation of wearing the harness and letting you put it on in the first place can be tricky at first.
If you force them into the harness against their will, this can cause distress and mean they fear walks and the harness itself. By getting them used to the harness itself and making them feel safe while wearing it creates a positive association, meaning that walks will become a lot easier.
Introduce them to the harness without putting it on them at first – just leave it on the floor in front of your Frenchie. They’ll probably want to investigate the harness, including sniffing it out and testing it by biting or chewing.
If they are wary of the harness, put some treats on or near it to encourage them to get close to it. If the harness has loud buckles or Velcro, make sure that they get used to the sounds before you put the harness on them, such as ripping the Velcro or clanking the buckles while the Frenchie is watching so they are familiar with the origin and cause of the noise.
Put the harness gently over your Frenchie’s head, guiding them to put their head through by offering them treats through the head space.
Reassure them constantly by using positive reinforcement and treats so that they associate wearing the harness with good things rather than fear or scolding. You can then take the harness off them.
After they have gotten more used to having the harness put on them, you can begin to lightly tighten the straps and buckles so that it fits properly and securely.
French Bulldog harness or collar: the safety aspects
I’ve already touched on why I prefer harnesses to collars, and whilst on the whole I believe collars are ok, there is a small risk. And let’s be honest; a harness is more comfortable and poses fewer health risks than a collar.
A harness shouldn’t really be worn all day, only needing to be put on while out and about, so having a collar on your dog as well is recommended for identification purposes.
The PETA animal charity say this about collars:
“When it comes to safety and comfort, using a harness is ALWAYS the best way to walk a dog. Not only does this alleviate any pressure on the neck, it also makes it easier to pull dogs out of harm’s way if they get into trouble.” (view source).
Are harnesses bad for Frenchie puppies?
Training your dog from a young age is the best way of ensuring they learn quickly and relatively stress-free, rather than adult dogs who are more set in their ways and can be harder to convince.
Harnesses are actually far better for puppies than collars, as puppies are more likely to strain and pull on the lead and can cause issues for puppies with weaker or obstructed airways.
Puppies are able to wear harnesses from around eight weeks upwards, which is around the age that you will most likely get your puppy from the breeder as they shouldn’t be separated from their mother before that age.
Allow them to settle into their new surroundings first, as too many new experiences at once can be overwhelming and stressful for them. Make sure your puppy feels safe and trusts you before beginning to train them to use a harness.
Handy Hint: If you are new to Frenchies and want to know how best to walk them including distances and when to limit their walks, click for my Frenchie walking guide.
We use a collar and harness with Claude the Frenchie, with the harness being worn 80% of the time for longer walks. However, if I just need to walk 2 minutes up the road to the shops with him, I will just slip the collar on – it’s way quicker.
But for overall comfort, choose a harness vs a collar, but have a collar as your back up choice too.
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Here are some more guides relating to walking and training your Frenchie: