Skip to main content

See also:

Dog harnesses

Variety
Variety
DC

There is an old adage that leashes serve as everything from birth control to good neighbor relations. Their use is mandated many places and most dog owners would never be without one, at least for emergencies. Deciding what the leash should be attached to is another matter.

A dog harness is a great option because it gives you multiple points of contact, distributing pressure from the leash to a greater surface area. It also relieves the sensitive neck structures from sudden impact which can cause injuries that are quite serious.

Harnesses come in such a wide variety of styles, it can be complicated to learn to use one. Since they can't be left on a dog when he's unattended, taking them off and putting them back on, should be simple. Materials are important for the comfort of the dog and ease of use. Shown in the picture are a bird harness by Premier, a mesh rabbit walker and a Thundershirt used to comfort anxious dogs. For regular dog walking, there are even more options.

Let's take a look.

Standard Harness
Standard Harness DC

Standard Harness

The most common harness is a little complicated to put on the first few times. There are two bands attached by two straps. One band goes around the dog's neck. The other, usually with a buckle, goes around the dog's belly. A strap attaches the bands down the spine and another between the front legs.

Since the strap between the front legs requires you handle your dog's feet, it's a good idea to accustom your dog to the harness gradually, especially to donning and removing before you take it on the road.

Leash options
Leash options DC

Leash options

Once the harness is buckled, you can attach a leash two ways. Connecting h the leash at the rear end of the back strap, as intended, gives both the handler and the dog different positions of leverage than a collar around the neck. It does not diminish a dog's ability to pull but distributes pressure from the leash over a wider area of the body to minimize discomfort for the dog.

Alternate use
Alternate use DC

Alternate use

The standard harness often has a ring that holds the neck band to the belly strap. Attaching the leash to this forward ring which is not the intended use, can aid in teaching a true puller to change strategies. Be sure the harness is fitted well and the webbing is comfortable and wide. This woven hemp harness also comes in a fleece lined version. Stay away from thin nylon models that chafe.

Easy Walk
Easy Walk DC

Easy Walk

The Easy Walk by Premier (recently purchased by PetSafe) places the leash connection in front of the dog at all times. This harness makes it impossible for a dog to pull on the leash while walking. The Freedom Harness (not pictured) uses the same laws of physics with added comfort features to compensate for the way the pulling dog will reposition the harness during the learning phase.

This harness has a chest strap (with leash ring) and a belly band. If you are accustomed to a standard harness, look carefully at the instructions before putting this one on your dog. The portion of the belly band that goes under your dog is made of a contrasting color from the rest of the harness. Once learned, it's actually easier to put on a dog because there is no strap going between the front legs.

Easy to fit
Easy to fit DC

Easy to fit

A simple to don harness that is easy to adjust to various dog sizes is the step in style. This one is lined up ready to step into.

For wiggly dogs, holding the harness off the floor or table top for each front leg helps.

Buckle
Buckle DC

Buckle

Step in harnesses do not have a back strap and buckle once at the shoulders with two rings, one attached to each quick release buckle element, for the leash. This way, even if the buckle fails, the harness will still be connected by the leash clip.

Features
Features DC

Features

Before choosing a harness, look for adjustments. These two step in harnesses look alike. But the pale pink one (note where the pen points) has an additional adjustment on the belly strap which accommodates deep chested dogs such as hounds.

Walk N Sync
Walk N Sync DC

Walk N Sync

The Walk N Sync is only available from one source but well worth seeking out to manage much more than walking the dog. This particular harness is a combination of body work, restraint and pull management.

The two buckles in the belly band mean you don't need to lift your dog's leg to put on the harness which makes it great for trainers and shelter workers who need to work with untrained or unfamiliar dogs.

Walk N Sync
Walk N Sync DC

Walk N Sync

Simply place the neck band over the dog's head and buckle twice. Not only is this harness easier to fit to deep chested or oddly shaped dogs, but the ring at the back of the NECK band is a completely new way to handle pulling while distributing pressure without sliding all over the dog's body during a walk.

Specialized Harnesses
Specialized Harnesses DC

Specialized Harnesses

A variety of harnesses serve multiple purposes from clothing to training tools. Just be certain that decorative clothing harnesses, like this blue vest, can be safely used as a leash attachment like the Walk n Sync. Harnesses that harnesses that are advertised as seatbelts or carriers should be tested and their packaging should say so before you use them as safety devices.

Harness purse
Harness purse DC

Harness purse

Some specialty harnesses can be used for technical work (parachute, rappelling, search and rescue) or for uses such as this one--to walk and carry your dog as needed. Always try new items at home to be sure they are safe and comfortable.

When using a harness backpack combination, ensure that the harness will not move around too much if attached to the leash and that the harness is secure as a leash anchor.

Makeshift harness
Makeshift harness DC

Makeshift harness

If you need a harness and don't have one, you can use a long leash to create one. Of course, it's not for long term use since sliding fabric can irritate dog's skin over a longer walk.

Wrapping
Wrapping DC

Wrapping

Attach the leash to a sturdy collar that does not have a squeeze feature and wrap the leash under the dog's chest. Make sure not to pinch longer hair or skin during the wrap.

Finish
Finish DC

Finish

Pull the leash handle through the dog's collar and you have a multi point contact almost as comfortable for the dog as a harness. This arrangement gives you more leverage but a shorter leash.

Choosing a leash connection isn't simple but hopefully this overview makes it a little easier.

If you are looking for other options, particularly collars, check this other column for features and ideas.