If you’ve been walking your dog with a lead-and-collar combo, you might want to consider adding a harness into the mix. Whilst harnesses are not technically essential to the daily walk, they do redistribute the localised pressure associated with lead-and-collar connectivity. Walking with only a leash increases the risk of choking, and in a worst-case scenario, your dog may sustain health issues such as a collapsed trachea. Harnesses are also great for big dogs in terms of comfort and restraint.
There are different kinds of harnesses on the market, and your dog’s needs should dictate your purchase. Read our guide to picking the perfect harness for your pooch.
For the non-pullers
If you’re blessed with a dog who doesn’t pull (or perhaps you trained them to be that way), then the vest or back-clip harnesses are both great options. Vest harnesses fit like a glove—or, well, like a vest—and slip on and off like a jumper. They are the comfy choice and won’t strain beneath the armpits (or whatever the dog equivalent is. Legpits? Front legpits?). If you would prefer a back-clip harness for your non-puller, ensure to fit it like you would a collar: snug to the fit, but with two fingers’ worth of room to move.
Non-puller harnesses: the vest harness (left) and the back-clip harness (right).
For the pullers
Here’s where harnesses are more crucial. They’re not merely accommodating comfort; they’re also being used to train and restrain. If you have a pulling dog, thankfully, you have options. No-pull harnesses come in a few different designs, but there is a point of difference to separate them into two different camps. There are the no-pull harnesses with a front clip and those with clips for the front and back.
Image via: Stylish Hound
Regardless of the variation you choose, both harnesses feature lead attachments at the chest, as opposed to the base of the neck or along the spine. To a pulling dog, feeling this tension along the back activates their oppositional reflex, which is a dog’s natural instinct to pull away. (This is common in dogs lacking adequate levels of training.) The no-pull harness is like a pair of arms hugging your dog’s chest, holding them back from rapid forward movement. It allows you to regain control.
No-pull harnesses with clips at the front and the back can allow for a better fit. Some dogs don’t wear the harnesses well—they dangle too low at the chest. You can fix this by holding the harness’s loop to the collar’s loop, and then clipping them together with your leash. Please note that these variants may strain or chafe beneath your dog’s ‘legpits’ (that’s the term we’re sticking with).
For turning things up a notch
Sometimes, the no-pull harness won’t do its job. That’s not to say the harness is poor-quality; that’s to say that harnesses aren’t always a cookie-cutter solution. Your dog may be larger than the average bear, Boo-Boo. Your dog may be more reactive, poorly trained, or just very strong. For whatever reason, you may need something stronger than the traditional no-pull harness. That’s where head halters come in.
Head halters are the most effective harnesses because they are, in essence, friendly Facehuggers*.That’s an exaggeration, but fasten one of these beauties behind the ears, clipping it onto the leash attachment ‘neath the chin, and your dog is at your mercy. Why? Because you’re hugging their face—aka your dog’s most sensitive body part. These harnesses also rest around the snout, but please note they are different from muzzles, which restrict mouth movement.
To harness or not to harness?
We recommend you do harness the power of the…well, harness. They are a great investment in canine comfort and safety for all involved (and surrounding). Now that you have the low-down on the different varieties, we hope you can make an informed decision that will work best for you and your pup. Go out there and get harnessing!