Harnesses fit around the base of the neck and the chest, the largest mass of your dog’s body. Harnesses set dogs up to pull, just like hitching a horse to a cart. If your dog does well with harnesses or you prefer them, the best harness is the one that fits your dog snugly without chaffing and effectively keeps your dog safe by your side.
There are several basic styles of dog harnesses:
- Step in harness – The dog puts 2 front legs through the harness which is then clipped at the shoulders (like a figure 8 design).
- Roman style harness – Goes over the head and then buckles around the belly. This might be a secure fit, but some dogs can get their legs out the front strap or you have to readjust the head strap each time its put on or off (depending on the shape and size of the head).
- H style harness – A fitted adjustable collar with an extension to a strap that encircles the belly. This style may be appropriate for puppies or small dogs, but not larger dogs.
- ‘No pull’ harnesses have a ring at the front of the chest and another on the back that provide 2 points of contact with the dog. The chest ring allows the handler to pull the dog to one side or the other so he is less able to pull straight ahead. However, this can tricky for some owners to handle and some dogs won’t respond. lea Other leash/collar combinations (e.g. 4ft leash with headcollar) are often more effective with less effort.
Harnesses are appropriate for dogs with neck or throat injuries who must not wear a collar for medical reasons by veterinary recommendation.
Harnesses are very appropriate for small or toy dogs with soft tracheas that collapse easily under light pressure. These tiny dogs do best with harnesses for walks, but can still wear a break away collar with ID.
The bigger the dog, the stronger they can pull. For them, a shorter leash and a head collar, Martingale collar or choke type collar may be best. If you control the dog’s head, you control the dog. Please see the Leash and Collar sections for more tips and recommended products.
Dr. Stefanie Schwartz, DVM, MSc, Dip. ACVB is a board certified veterinary behaviorist and founder of www.CivilizedPet.com. If you need help with a misbehaving pet, please visit www.petbehavior.org.
© Stefanie Schwartz 2019