A harness, it’s the most important tool in your tool box with your dog. There are so many reasons to have a harness for your dog, let’s get started.
Harnesses are safer than a collar; a properly fitted harness will not come off your dog as a collar can. They protect you and your dog. A “no-pull” harness will help prevent your dog from pulling however it will not stop the pull all together. Working with a positive reinforcement trainer to teach your dog how to walk with you on leash is the #2 best investment you can make in your dog.
A regular collar, pinch collar, choke chain all will damage your dog’s neck and spine when attached to a leash. It’s been proven many times over. Dr. Dobias says that one jerk can cause a lot of damage. Put a collar on yourself with a leash attached and have someone give it a good jerk. You’ll be in the chiropractor for weeks. Dr. Dobias also links hypothyroidism (low thyroid gland hormone) may be related to collar related injuries. He lists many more medical problems that can be associated with collars. Read his article here.
Then there is the behavior part of the picture. If a dog is constantly having his neck jerked each time he sees another dog, guess what happens, he associates other dogs as bad and then begins to lunge, growl and eventually can become quite aggressive towards other dogs. This common problem is created by humans jerking collars every day.
I’ll let you read through these articles, the scientific proof is there, a dog pulling on any kind of collar is causing serious problems to his entire body and health.
This in-depth article from Victoria Stillwell’s site will give you all the reasons why you shouldn’t use a pinch, choke or regular collar with a leash on your dog.
Written by Jennifer Cattet Ph.D., this article covers all the collars and what results when you use them.
Head halter harnesses were introduced years ago to solve the “pulling” problem. And yes, they do work well for this. Here are the cons to head halters. Dogs hate them, and who wouldn’t? You have to slowly desensitize your dog to the collar, could take days or weeks. Then there is still the problem of injuring your dog’s neck. If you pull the dog sharply, his whole head gets snapped, causing injury to the spine. I’m not a fan!
So what can you do? You can get your dog a great fitting harness. For a small dog, there are many that will work. For a larger dog that pulls, I have recommendations below.
Look for these features when fitting a harness:
- If your dog is a puller, look for a “no-pull” harness”, attachments to the front of the chest.
- See how the tummy band on the harness fits behind the front legs. Many harnesses will “cut” behind the legs and create sores.
- Have your dog lie down; some harnesses are easily slipped through when the dogs lie down.
- Is the harness comfortable for the dog? Is there padding? Does it rub anywhere on his body?
- A harness with only a back attachment will turn a “puller” into a full fledged sled dog.
Here are my favorite harnesses:
Currently, I have the boys in Hurrta Lifeguard harnesses. I love, love these harnesses. I will buy another set soon to have back up. They fit so well, go on easy with one clip. The only down side to these harnesses is that they will not help you with pulling.
So if you have a puller, I have three recommendations for you. There are other front clip harnesses out there, I’m not saying they are bad, just make sure the fit is good and there is no rubbing.
The Freedom Harness is fabulous. It fits very well and has a connection on the front chest and on the back. You can order this harness with a leash that will connect to both hooks, giving you the most control. Also if the harness does get chewed, you can send it in for a fix for a small fee.
Sensation Harness is also a great front clip harness. It is one of the first of this category of harnesses and is still a great fit.
I was just introduced to the Balance Harness. There are connections on the chest and back and the fit is a good 2 inches behind the front legs, which is great.
I’ve tried quite a few, there are some that work with the no-pull, but they fit terribly. Cutting behind the front legs is a problem and the front clip area hanging down is another problem. I know there are other good harnesses out there, so if you have one, let me know, I’m always wanting to learn about great products for dogs.
I used to lend out Freedom harnesses to my dog training clients and they always went out and bought one right away after trying it out. A because they really helped with pulling and they fit very well.
A few more tips:
- Always take the harness off when not in use.
- Some young and active dogs will be able to chew the harness when they are lying down, so in some situations the harness must be taken off in the car. In this instance I would have a collar on your dog with tags in addition to the harness.
- Keep a collar on your dog with ID if there is any chance that your dog could get loose from your house or car.
- With a young dog in the house, be sure to put the harness away, sometimes dogs think they are fun chew toys!
My goal for all dogs it that they get out and about and have fun adventures in their lives. It they have a good harness, some training from their human they can enjoy the world.