Well stick with me and I’ll give you the lowdown on what to get, why, and how to use it best. I’am here with Some great products so lets jump into the ins and outs of harnesses, Also don’t miss my specific recommendations for which harnesses to buy. Although dog collars have been around since ancient Egypt we are not really sure who the first person to harness a dog was. In Canadian Thule sites from around 1000 A.D. there’s archaeological evidence of dog harnessing. There are historical records in Arabian literature of the 10th century regarding the use of sled dogs in the subarctic. And in the 13th century Marco Polo wrote about seeing dog sleds in the steppes of Siberia.
Even the Chinese wrote about dog sleds in examples of their 14th century poetry, harnesses have gone through around three birthing periods: the first was when we harnessed dogs to sleds. At that time, point dogs were working animals, not mates. The sleds allowed us to traverse ice, snow and even muddy conditions that precluded horses or carriages. The next was when we started breeding smaller breeds and dogs started moving into companion territory. Dogs were being bred to be friends and companions rather than workhorses and harnesses allowed us to pull them to safety without breaking their necks. Finally, the third is the current age where harnesses of many types are available at most pet stores and dogs run the full gamut for everything from working animals to companions. Nowadays there are so many configurations and intended purposes you got to go in knowing what you need.
That’s what this article is all about. Nowadays, there are essentially two main types of harnesses: body harnesses and front hook harnesses. Each one serves different overall purposes. Let’s first talk about the main reason people get harnesses in the first place: because their dogs pull. Now, you’ve probably been told you need a harness at some point by a well-meaning pet store employee or friendly neighbor. However putting a body harness on your dog will just make pulling worse. You’ve got to come at the problem from a different angle–literally. When your dog’s wearing a body harness and they start forging ahead, it’s natural for us to hold them back, even to try to pull them back. And as harnesses were originally invented to attach dogs to sleds, then by design a harness redistributes pressure onto the dog’s body.
In essence this makes it more comfortable pull. Therefore, the problem just becomes a test of fortitude and reduces it to oppositional forces. With the dog’s lower center of gravity and powerful back legs you’re going to have a struggle no matter what kind of dog you have. Let’s do this smarter. Let’s not try to force the dog to comply. Instead of oppositional energy it’s much easier to convert it to rotational energy. This is the principle behind the front hook harness. If the dog pulls the harness starts to turn their body around and the dog won’t go in a direction they are not facing. Ergo: a front hook harness is the best choice for a dog that pulls, not a body harness. The ultimate goal of any training tool is to use it as a weigh station and phase out of the tool over time. A well-mannered, nonreactive dog that walks nicely unleash could then go back to a flat collar or body harness. At the same time, there are also instances when a front hook harness is a more inappropriate choice and a body harness is better.
A body harness is far superior in these instances over a front hook harness or even a collar. A back hook body harness is also better if you engage in athletic activities with your dog such as jogging, agility, frisbee or fetch, or dock driving. A front hook harness can somewhat impede the full range of motion in the shoulders. Also if your dog is well-trained and walks politely, using a body harness is really a non-issue anyways. I in some cases, especially if you live in hilly areas, you may want to train your dog to pull. Any dog trainer worth their salt knows that putting an annoying behavior on cue builds an off switch for it.
Training your dog to pull when you want can help cease pulling at other times. A body harness is best in this regard. So let’s break this down a bit: the pros of a front harness are that it’s the best option for helping train a dog to stop pulling; it’s easier to put on and remove (most of the best brands are lickety-split on and off). On the other side though they can be chewed up if they’re left on so they’re not recommended to be worn all of the time, and they’re not recommended for tying out, riding in the car, or for athletic activities. The pros of a back hook or body harness are that they can be worn all the time.
They are appropriate for tying out or for securing in a car; they’re better for athletic activities with your dog, and they’re good secure safety for smaller dogs, perhaps even the best choice for toy breeds. On the downside though they’re not recommended for a dog that pulls, and they can be a pain to get on and off. Now there are also many body harnesses and they’re labeled “no pull.” These use interesting configurations of cords and straps to put pressure on different places on the dog’s body. I’ve given a lot of these a number of test runs over the years and they’re all pretty much hit-and-miss in that regard AND they can be expensive and difficult to get on. I have said a number of times before i’ adhere to the KISS principle: keep it simple, stupid. I don’t like having to maneuver a dog around a lot just to get this stupid thing on. I want the harness to go on and off lightning fast. So for example the Sporn no pull harness: it’s about 50/50 effectiveness. And for massive dogs it’s pretty useless.
There’s also the Freedom No Pull harness. It’s not bad but their system like many others relies too heavily on the hardware. Two leashes? that’s absurd and gimmicky. Keep it simple, stupid. The key is leverage, along with solid training techniques. Companies that promise to do the job for you are lying. Here are my harness recommendations. As far as front hook harnesses go the Softtouch SENSE-ation is my favorite it’s durable simple and effective. The Petsafe Easy Walk is my second choice.
It’s also a pretty darn good harness. If it’s body harnesses you’re looking for the Kong Comfort Control Grip is my favorite overall. The handle allows the dog to be restrained, lifted and even secured in a car without any additional equipment. Both the Four Paws Comfort Control harness and the simply wag dog body harness for little guys have breathable mesh that offer support and less chaffing. These may be your best choice overall for small and/or portly dogs. There are also some nifty hybrids out there that offer dual connection points for the best of both worlds. For example the Ruffwear Front Range harness is durable and well-made and features dual connection points on the back and the front. It’s great for walking or training and riding in the car. This is one of the highest rated hybrids on the market right now incidentally. There’s also the Kurgo Go-Tech Adventure harness. Reviews are fifty-fifty on the overall durability though so use your discretion if you have a strong dog. I hope this helps choosing a harness if you need one.
Here’s a question: what’s been your experience with Dog harnesses and what harnesses do you recommend? Let’s connect in the comments.
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– The Gentle Leader can be a really useful piece of equipment and I actually used one when I trained Degan here over 10 years ago. Now today we are going to hang out with instructor Steve. He’s one of the instructors, head instructors from McCann Dogs and we are going to try putting a...