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Should Your Chihuahua Use a Collar and Leash?

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What kind of Collar and Leash Should Your Chihuahua Use

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Leashes and collars for Chihuahuas are usually the last things Chihuahua owners think about. I mean, what kind of question could you possibly have about something so basic? You just buy a tiny collar and get a leash to attach to the collar to walk your chi, right?

It’s a tad bit more complicated than that. Chihuahuas are somewhat different than other dogs in many ways, and this is one of those ways.

Chihuahuas are so tiny and fragile that you can really hurt your dog’s neck by using a dog’s leash attached to their collar when walking them.

You can cause neck pain and joint issues, reverse sneezing, or if your dog has a collapsed trachea, it can make the condition worse.

walking chihuahua on leash

I am not saying don’t put a collar on your Chihuahua. Collars can contain their dog license, rabies tag,  ID tag, or like the collars I use on my dogs; they can have their name and phone number stitched on the collar itself.

I can count a half a dozen times that I have found dogs in my area (yes, I’m the crazy neighborhood dog lady that stops for running loose dogs) that look to be loved and well cared for and even have collars on but there is no identification on them at all. It makes it much harder to get them back to their owners.

There have been a few times though that the dog had some ID on their dog collar, and it made it so simple to contact the owner and let them know I had found their precious fur baby.

Also, collars can be cute and make a fashion statement. So, let’s take a look at what kind of collar and leash your Chihuahua should use and when it is a good idea to use a harness instead of a collar and leash.


Since Chihuahuas are a toy dog breed, they can be very fragile – even if their personality speaks otherwise. Since they are the smallest dog breed in the world, you need to do what you can as a dog owner to ensure their safety and comfort.

A collapsed trachea is one of the most common injuries a Chihuahua can experience. They have thin bones and cartilage along with a thinner layer of fat and muscle to protect them. A collapsed trachea can make it hard for your Chihuahua to breathe, and it can cause significant pain. This condition can happen when too much pressure or strain is placed on the dog’s neck. When this happens, it can take a long time to recover, and sometimes your dog may never fully recover. For this reason, a harness is a great way to go.

Harnesses are easy to put on and come in a variety of different colors and styles. You can pick a few to keep at home, so you have some choices around for each walk. The harness allows all the pressure to be distributed over the chest area, shoulders, and back rather than the neck, and this will help keep your Chihuahua pup safe and comfortable.

Harnesses are great when it comes time to walk your Chihuahua. But again, don’t completely rule out collars either because they can be helpful, as we have already mentioned. Just make sure the dog’s collar you choose is specifically designed for a small breed dog. It should also be adjustable, so there is plenty of room to grow.

We will go into more detail on how to choose the right collar for your Chihuahua below.


fawn chihuahua with red collar

I like colorful personalized collars, but that’s my preference. Some of the criteria for picking a collar is just your personal taste and the gender and coloring of your dog.

Some of the things to keep in mind when choosing a collar for your Chihuahua:

  • Be sure to measure your dog’s neck and add an inch if you are ordering a collar online.
  • The collar should never be the exact same measurement as your dog’s neck, or it will be too tight.
  • When trying on collars, you should be able to fit two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck.
  • If you have a puppy, you might want to get an adjustable collar, so there is room to grow.
  • lightweight collar is best for a small dog.
  • You may want to get a breakaway collar if your pup wears their collar all the time, and you are worried about your dog getting caught on something. You can often find this type of collars in the cat section of a pet store.
  • If you can’t find a collar small enough to fit your chihuahua, try a ferret collar.


chihuahua in green harness

What you do need to do instead when you want to take your dog on a walk is to get them a comfortable harness to attach to their leash.

Not only will a harness better protect their neck, but it also makes it more difficult for your dog to slip out of his collar and escape.

Things to remember when choosing a harness:

  • To measure for the size, place the measuring tape around your dog’s chest, just behind his front legs and again, placing two fingers between the harness strap and your dog’s body.
  • You can get a heavier harness for cold weather (there are even coat harnesses out there) and a lightweight harness for warmer weather.
  • Get one with the leash hook on the back of the harness.
  • If your dog dislikes her collar, leave it on her a few hours before taking her for a walk to get used to it.
  • Cotton and/or nylon are the best choices for material for lightweight harnesses.
  • Some harnesses are thin,  with straps. Personally, I don’t like these, as it makes it harder to figure out how to get them on.


long haired chihuahua holding green leash in mouth

  • Do not use chain leash unless the chain links are small. Most chain leashes are too heavy.
  • Do not use a retractable leash as they can be dangerous and terrifying to your dog. I have a personal experience with retractable leashes.
  • Also, make sure you have the appropriate leash length for your Chihuahua

My son likes to take the dogs for a walk late at night. One night he called me and told me to come outside and help him look for Lucas as he had run off.

My son had accidentally dropped the retractable leash, and the handle being heavier than a normal leash had hit Lucas and scared him. He ran away, but the poor thing could never get away from the leash. It kept “chasing” him.

It would be funny except for how traumatized he was. I found him hiding under a parked car shaking. We never used that leash again.

  • Get a 4 foot or 6-foot long leash
  • If you are doing a lot of walking at night, consider getting a reflective leash
  • If you have 2 or 3 Chihuahuas, you can get two dog or three dog leash


Now that you know how to pick out the right harness and leash, it is time to learn how to prepare your Chihuahua to wear the new harness. After finding the appropriately sized harness for your Chihuahua, it is time to try it on them.

Put it on loosely at first, and then tighten it slowly to get the ideal fit for your Chihuahua. You should then let your pup wear the harness around the house for a few hours so they can get used to it. It will take a bit of time for them to become acclimated to their new harness.

Once they have had a few hours to familiarize themselves with the harness, it is time to try it out on a walk. If they resist when you go to put the harness on them, it may be time to re-introduce the harness again and make it a more positive experience.

Pet your dog first or play with them before putting on the harness. Your little dog will then associate the experience with other things he already enjoys, and this can make it much easier on both dog and dog owner. Always use positive reinforcement.

Since Chihuahuas are naturally a more nervous dog breed, you need to remember to comfort them and keep them calm when putting the harness on them. Give your pup time to adjust and don’t allow them to become fearful of something that is meant for their safety.


Monday 14th of March 2022

Retractable leash is the way to go especially if you have a stubborn Chi. To solve the problem of losing the retractable leash I have a solution I thought of after falling and the handle popped out of my hand. I looked all over the internet for a wrist band to attach to the handle and could not find one. So this is what I did, I bought the smallest collar I could find and put that on the handle with a Scrunchy that secured to the collar. The Scrunchy is soft on your wrist and if you drop the handle you will still have control and not lose the leash. Hard to believe they don't make them like this. Flexi has a small worthless attachment that would not prevent the handle being popped out of your hand. Flexi is the best retractable - safe lead and brake is easy. Some of the less expensive ones have a lead that could really hurt your dog, so beware before you buy.


Friday 26th of March 2021

Omg,, I had the same accident with my chi using the retractable leash, Im actually still traumatized and developed a fear of my chi running off everytime i walk her out... thank you for the information,, I really love ur website.. love

E Gibson

Thursday 15th of April 2021

@Cathy, I wish you would suggest more about bringing home a brand new chi at 6 wks old. Speak abut letting 3 children 4, 6, 8 yr olds leash and drag the baby around. People need to be told a baby is not a new toy that the parents say, LEARN RESPONSIBILITY. A new puppy needs adult care and protection for the life of the puppy. Paying for the puppy does not end your responsibility to learn to take care of a 4 lb chichacha.


Friday 26th of March 2021

I'm sorry that happened to you Lina! And I'm glad you liked the site.


Monday 20th of May 2019

My fur babies weigh between 3 and 4 pounds. They are chipped but I prefer that they also have collars with contact info. They can’t use tags that hang because the collars are so close to their mouths that they chew on the tags and once one got the tag stuck on a tooth. I tried tags that attach along the length of the collar but they don’t curve enough to fit well around a tiny neck. I can’t find engraved buckles smaller than 5/8” which are too big and also don’t curve to fit tiny necks. I also can’t find embroidered collars because the length of the collars they wear is not long enough to include even just the phone number. Any suggestions on IDs for tiny dogs?


Monday 20th of May 2019

I got this one for Ziggy when he was 4 pounds and it fit with a little adjusting. He's 5 1/2 pounds now and I just adjusted it to fit.


Monday 14th of January 2019

I want to have a collar on my Chi with her identity ect on it- but she is afraid of things around her neck. When she tries to eat or drink water and her collar bumps the bowl she jumps back like she's been shot. Any suggestions?


Monday 14th of January 2019

You definitely need a softer collar with no tags hanging off of it. The cloth ones that have their ID embroidered on it might work and be sure it fits properly and isn't hanging off her neck where it can bang against something.


Monday 14th of January 2019

I use a “step in” collar/ leash for my guy. So easy and all on piece. Adjustable too!


Monday 14th of March 2022

@Susan, The biggest problem I found is that they don't make a harness with adjustments for the barrel chests. I found that they never include the space between the shoulders I have written to many and they just don't so the one that works the best is to have step in with overlap on the back and adjust it with the Velcro and then you still have the clasps to secure it more. Can't tell you how many over the years I spent and they just didn't work.