So, you have finally decided to get your best fur friend a harness? Great! Now comes the part where you have to choose a product that you think will work for you and your dog, and one that your pup will be comfortable in when walking, running and playing. Not all dog harnesses are made the same or with equal respect for the dog’s natural movements and need for comfort, and since a dog can’t exactly tell you if something is hurting, if they are uncomfortable or in other ways unhappy – it is up to you to make sure that the harness fits the way it is supposed to.
Imagine trying to run and have fun with something itching, pressing or shafting against your skin, and not being able to do anything about it. Do your research, know your dog, get a properly fitted harness and pay attention to signs of discomfort.
Comfort Above Fashion
As tempting as it may be to get the most adorable-looking harness for the princess pup of the house, or the toughest-looking leather harness with spikes for the bad-girl Pitbull mix (who is, of course, a real sweetheart) – it might not be your best option. You should always prioritize comfort over fashion, and it is important that the harness is ergonomic and that it distributes the pressure evenly across the body, to minimize the risk of pulling-related injuries.
To know if a harness is ergonomically designed is to look for it online. Quality brands usually have websites with detailed product descriptions; there to explain everything you need to know. Combine that with reading online user reviews, professional reviews and use your best judgment, to give your dog the gift of comfortable harness they can enjoy wearing while out and about. There are plenty of harness options that combine comfort and style, so take the time required to find the ultimate product for your pup.
The Right Size and Fit
When trying to make sure your dog is comfortable in his- or her new harness, it is crucial to use one that fits them well. A harness that is too big will slide around, and the dog could potentially get out of it – putting him- or her at risk of escaping, running into oncoming traffic or worse.
A harness that does not stay firmly in place might also cause skin irritation – especially in the armpit area and around the chest strap or other edges – and possibly also hair loss due to shifting. It is a recipe for puppy discomfort, and you may start seeing redness in these areas as a result.
A harness that is too small will have similar negative effects since it will press against the skin more than it should, which could cut off blood circulation in the worst-case scenario and cause general discomfort. If the harness is small, it might also restrict the dog’s movements – making walks and playtime difficult and uncomfortable. Even if you think you have gotten your dog a correctly sized harness, you will want to keep an eye on them, in the beginning, to see how they move and act with the harness on.
The Two-Finger Rule
When shopping for a regular collar, you are usually told to check if you can easily fit two fingers in between the collar and the dog’s neck. The same principle applies to harnesses, and the two-finger rule is a great way to make sure that no part of the harness is too tight since this could cause discomfort and shafting. If you find that you can fit your whole hand in there, then perhaps it’s a sign that the harness is too big, and that you should either adjust it or go with a smaller size.
What to Look For in a Harness
+ Adjustable straps for ultimate fit.
+ Soft edges that won’t cause irritation.
+ Padded and/or cushioned materials
What to Avoid in a Harness
+ Stiff materials like cheap leather imitations
+ A harness that is too small or too big
+ Thin straps on large-dog harnesses
We don’t always notice when our pups put on a pound or two, so an essential practice when trying to keep your dog comfortable is to check every now and then to make sure the harness still fits. As you put it on – take a second to use the two-finger rule, just to be sure that it isn’t too tight or too lose, because while the harness fit your pup perfectly a couple of weeks ago – much could have changed since then. This is often a bigger issue with regular collars, since many keep their dog’s collar on 24/7, and might forget to check if their pup has outgrown his once perfectly fitting neck device.
With a harness, you should consider only using it when outside, and let your dog rest from wearing it when inside the house or in the yard. This will prevent damage to the fur (compare it to an armchair which have stood in the same place, on a fuzzy carpet, for too long) and assure that your fur friend gets a break from wearing it, just like you would want a break from wearing a tight bra or a pair of heavy boots. You could opt for switching to a harness with a name tag when home, just in case the dog would somehow get out, and put the harness on when it is time to go outside.
Hygiene is another important aspect and something you might not have thought of when trying to keep your pup comfortable with the harness you have picked out. Harnesses get dirty; either as the dog runs and plays with other dogs, rolls around, brushes up against trees, light posts or rocks, and it needs to be cleaned and/or washed regularly to prevent bacterial growth.
Bacteria causes skin irritation, which in turn can lead to rashes, hair loss, pain, and infections. Keep the harness clean as a favor to both yourself and your pet, and wipe it off with doggy wet wipes, wash it by hand or in the washing machine, depending on the product recommendations.