Choosing the right type of harness..

Eden Bennett @ 2022-03-18 10:39:27 +1100
While this is a little off the topic of nutrition, I do think it's an extremely important discussion because it can cause the premature break down of joints and muscle deterioration.
 
Without us realising it, the harness or restraint we use can have serious negative consequences on our dog's body conformation, their ability to move freely, and if using a harness on a puppy, can impact the proper development of their shoulders and chest by abnormally altering their gait.
 
With the increasing popularity of harnesses that attach to the front of the chest, we're just starting to identify the flaw in design a lot of these harnesses employ to restrain your dog and prevent pulling.
 
Many of these harnesses have a three-strap design, one of which runs directly across the front of the chest, and hinders proper forward movement in the shoulder joint. In many designs, this strap tightens as your dog pulls, and causes them to redirect to face you. I MUST stress, this is a temporary training tool, and not a permanent solution to the problem. Consult a certified dog trainer when considering employing any 'tool' to influence your dog's behaviour in a restrictive way. So what to look for when fitting a harness... There are several points to consider when looking for a harness and I'll list them by order of priority below:
 
  1. Don't go cheap... This is a piece of equipment you need to invest in. Find a company that offers a guarantee on their products, and backs their manufacturing standards and materials with a warranty. There could come a time when your dog's life is dependent on the harness working as it should (ie. when they're tethered in your car and you have to hit the breaks).
  2. Make sure the bulk of the pressure from the dog's weight is in a broad chest piece. A broad chest plate diffuses impact and pressure across a wider area, and ensures there is no pressure on a single muscle, joint or the shoulders or neck.
  3. Fit it properly. You should be able to slip two fingers under all parts of the harness, and there should be obvious clearance between the armpit and the harness. If the harness is too tight, or chaffs under the armpit, this will cause your dog serious discomfort, and will make wearing the harness unpleasant or painful.
Harnesses are really important to own, even if just to ensure you can secure your dog safely in the car. Also, do make sure you regularly check your harness for wear and tear. Replace any that have been chewed, or if the clasps are seizing or rusted or threads are starting to stretch or unravel. Wash them frequently and hang them in the shade to dry.
 
I've attached some photos below that show what is a restrictive style or harness or head collar, that should only be used as a training tool, and the chest-plate style, designed for safety and ergonomics.
 
The first collage shows harnesses that restrict movement, and shouldn't be used over a long-term.
 
The second shows an image of a head collar. Now this is my opinion, but I am not a fan of a head collar, and they should absolutely, positively not be used as a long-term solution to a pulling dog. The nose and snout contain thousands of nerve endings, and it is extremely easy to injure your dog's face or neck with these devices. Under no circumstances should they be used to control a dog on a long lead, or on a hike, or used to punish your dog. I have seen people use them to control their dog by dragging their face to the floor and standing on the lead, or accidently jerk their animal hard by the neck when they've pulled away and reached the end of the leash at a run. It is not good practice, it is dangerous, and is certainly not training your dog to walk and behave properly. If you feel you have no option but to use a halti with your dog, please, please consult a trainer first, and learn how to use the equipment properly so not to damage your dog, or your relationship with your dog.
 
In the second image you'll see the tremendous amount of nerves and sensory tools a dog has on their face and head, so to deprive them on the ability to use this equipment to monitor their surroundings can result in a dog that is nervous and insecure, and deprived of sensory exercise.
 
Prong collars, facial harnesses and check chains are all harsh tools, and can cause serious injury and discomfort, and are used to coerce your dog to behave, and should not be considered an easy solution to control a pulling dog.
 
Instead, find a comfortable, ergonomic harness, a lead that can be used hands free, and take your dog on short walks, stopping when they reach the end of the leash until they turn to look at you. Praise or reward and move on. Repeat. Over and over and over, until your dog understands what you want. You will get there.
 
The last few photos show Maggie and Dougie in securely fitted soft harnesses, and my dogs, Maggie and Otis in a Ruffwear harness. Durable, well fitting and with a strong chest plate that catches the brunt of any force, and does not hinder proper movement of their shoulders. I know I mention Ruffwear a lot on socials, but only because this is the brand we carry. We trust this brand, know the company has good ethics and donation programs in place, and guarantees their products against defects.
 
There are other companies that manufacture a similar shape, but I urge you to do your due diligence and make sure the quality is obvious, and to check reviews.
 
Eden.