Pet Parenting
Share this image

It Has Taken Me Years to Find the Safest Collar, Harness, and Leash for My Dog

I've gone through a variety of gear over the years, upgrading to safer styles as I learn more about dog products. I must keep my Riggins safe!

Wendy Newell  |  Jan 28th 2016


My dog, Riggins, is my baby boy. As his mom, I feel it’s important to do what I can to keep him safe. At times, though, I feel like I’m just throwing money at retailers. I’ve always said, if you want to make a buck, invent a product that caters to new dog parents or new human parents. We will do and spend anything to keep our babies safe.

My baby boy, Riggins, and me. (All photos by Wendy Newell)

My baby boy, Riggins, and me. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Here are just a few of the items I have purchased — again and again until I found the right ones, in many cases — over the past 10-plus years of Riggins’ life:

1. Collars

When Riggins was a puppy, I didn’t know much about dogs. To me, a collar was a collar. I grabbed one from my local chain pet store and happily snapped it around his neck. It wasn’t until later, when I started reading and learning about other collar types, that I realized I may need to find something safer for my sweet baby.

Back to the basics!

Back to the basics! (Photo by Wendy Newell)

As a dog sitter, a handful of the pups I watch wear Martingale collars. This style slips over your dog’s head and then has a loop that gets tighter when pulled. When used correctly, the collar is loose 99 percent of the time, only constricting to the circumference of your dog’s neck when he pulls on his leash. Riggins’ neck is so much bigger than his head that it is possible for him to slip out of a regular collar. Something he has done more than once. Obviously, the Martingale style was safer.

That is, until I read about how you needed it take it off whenever the dog was not on a walk because the same design element that keeps your dog from slipping out while on leash can have deadly results if caught on a fence, plant, or another dog’s teeth. Aaaaahhhhh! How horrifying. It was time to try again.

Riggins in his Martingale collar which he should not have on when not on leash.

Riggins in his Martingale collar, which he should not have on when not on the leash. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

At a pet first aid session, the instructor said that, in her opinion, every dog should wear a breakaway collar. She didn’t have to tell me twice, although that collar didn’t last long. After a few times of me grabbing Riggins’ collar to stop him from chasing someone or something only to be left in his dust holding a collar in my hand, we went back to a tried-and-true clipping collar.

2. The right leash

I started out with a standard leash. Six feet. Black. Nylon. Riggins’ first leash had a push-gate snap hook (I had to look that up just now; I had no idea what it was called). It was shiny and pretty, but after about a year, Riggins was able to walk away free from the restraint of his leash. I finally figured out it was the darn useless clasp on his lead, which could open on its own. I did what any sane person would do and bought a different style of leash.

The bolt snap!

The bolt snap! (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Our next purchase had a good ol’ fashioned bolt snap (I had to look that up, too). That worked well, but then I discovered something called a traffic lead. A traffic lead is essentially just a big loop handle. It is very short and keeps your dog close to you, giving him very little leeway to wander.

At the time, we lived on a VERY traffic-heavy street, and, well, the new shorter lead had “traffic” in its name. It had to be better than what I was using, and it was, for the most part. As brilliant as the traffic lead is (and I’m a big supporter of it), it wasn’t useful for anything but very deliberate walks when we were practicing “walking pretty” (him close to my side and in stride with me). For everyday use, it was more trouble than it was worth.

His newest walking harness and hybrid leash.

His newest walking harness and hybrid leash. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Which leads me to the leash style I have used ever since. It’s a hybrid, a long normal leash with a traffic lead tacked on at the end and with a bolt snap attachment. Perfect for when you are walking and need to pull your pup close for a bit. Sure, every once in a while, Riggins’ leg gets stuck in the traffic lead loop, but it’s a small price to pay for overall comfort and safety!

3. Car restraints

Riggins has always worn a canine seat belt while in the car. At this point, he expects it — and the few times he hasn’t worn it, he won’t get out of the car until I “unhook” him. He will just sit there and wait. I’ll tell him it’s okay, but he will look at me as if to say, “You can’t fool me. You need to unbuckle me first.” So I pretend to unbuckle him, and we go on our way. Don’t believe me? Take a look:

We started with a standard chest-covered halter that had a loop in the back for the human seat belt to go through. We had a few of those. I loved the first one he had because it was padded with cotton on the chest area, and I thought that made it comfortable. That is, until we were hiking in the summer (he kept his halter on when we hiked), and I decided it made him too warm. So I switched to one with less coverage on the chest, but that one didn’t last long since I decided it wasn’t as comfortable. I went back to the padded style.

Hiking in one of his older padded car restraint harnesses.

Hiking in one of his older padded car-restraint harnesses. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

But I wasn’t finished yet. After I did an article on car restraint safety, I had no choice but to get my darling baby boy the only design that is certified by the Center for Pet Safety, which crash tested a number of styles, including our choice, the Sleepypod Clickit Sport. Of course, as great as the Clickit Sport is at keeping Riggins safe in the car, it is a horrible walking harness. That meant I needed to purchase a new harness to use on hikes once he got out of the car.

When he still hiked in his Clickit Sport.

When he still hiked in his Clickit Sport. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Look at all that money I have spent searching for the safest items for my dog. But I’d do it all again! Riggins is worth every penny.

What items have you purchased over and over for your dog, all in the name of safety? Let us know in the comments!

Read more about pet parenting:

About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.