One of the most rewarding aspects of being a dog owner is going out and exploring the world together with your pup. You get exercise without having to pay an expensive gym membership, fresh air for improved energy and overall better health, and best yet – you make your favorite fur friend immensely happy. Many dogs walking pet parents have already discovered- or are in the process of discovering the benefits of a harness instead of a collar, and the next step is picking out the right one.
Taking your dog for walks and outings is a great way to strengthen your bond, to get to know each other better and to stay strong and healthy while you are at it. For dogs; exercise is known to reduce anxiety and stress-related behaviors, which makes a daily walk (or two) a win-win for everyone, and even more so with a properly fitted dog harness.
Why a Harness?
There are many good reasons for why you should consider a harness for your dog instead of a regular collar; with one of many being that it is safer – both for you and your pup. A quality harness is ergonomic, protects the neck and the back, stays in place and distributes the weight evenly across the body as the dog pulls. This means that a harness is a correct choice both for pullers and dogs that know how to walk on a dog leash, so you can forget about the common belief that a collar is better for a pulling dog.
A dog can get triggered further by the pressure caused by a collar around their neck – causing them to pull harder, and risk injury. The more a dog pulls with a collar, the stronger their neck muscles get, which creates a vicious circle. It may seem strange, but many owners experience that while the dog might pull just as much with a harness – the pulling is easier to control, and it might break that circle of constant struggling which you have both endured for too long.
For small dogs, it is even more important to use a suitable harness for small dogs! A yank at the leash may do little to a large dog with a strong neck but yanking at the leash of a small breed dog can have devastating consequences. A sudden or strong pull to the neck of a miniature breed could in the worst-case scenario cause life-threatening neck injuries or a crushed windpipe.
When picking out a dog harness, you will quickly come to realize that there is a variety of models and types available. Some have adjustable straps, others have a vest-like construction, some go over your dog’s head when being put on and others allow the dog to step in and have it snapped together across their backs.
There are harnesses made especially for wide-chested dogs; like Bully breeds, and harnesses that are light enough for tiny Chihuahuas to wear without feeling restrained or weighted down. It is up to you to choose a model you think will work for your dog because there is no one-model-fits-all.
A regular type harness will mostly always have a leash attachment on the back, which keeps pressure and strain off the dog’s sensitive backs and necks, while also offering more stability and control for the person at the other end of the leash.
If pulling is something you struggle with on walks with your dog, you could opt for an anti-pull harness – a much kinder alternative to a choke collar, with proven results. The typical no-pull harness has one leash attachment ring on the back; for it to be used as a regular harness, and another one on the chest or between the dog’s front legs. By attaching the leash to this front loop instead of the regular back ring, the dog is pulled sideways if trying to pull the leash away from you – stopping the intention within a second.
This does not harm the dog or cause physical discomfort, the way a choke collar would, and the idea is to show the dog that they get nowhere by pulling on the leash. Dogs are smart enough to make the connection quickly, and it is an excellent training device that won’t take the fun out of your walk
Choosing the Right Size
A harness that is too small will either be impossible to put on your dog or just uncomfortable for your dog to wear – especially for a longer period of time. An oversized harness, on the other hand, enables the dog to get out of it and possibly escape and run into traffic. Neither option is good, and it is crucial to pick out a harness that fits your dog like a glove.
Finding the right-sized harness can be done in two ways. If shopping in a physical pet store, you are usually allowed to bring your pup inside to try on the harness, and you can get customized help from knowledgeable employees. The downside, however, is that the selection in a pet store tends to be more limited, which means you might be better off ordering your new harness online!
If shopping from a trustable website or online store, you will find that each product comes with measurements – making it easy to find the right one! Just measure your dog (usually chest, neck, and length of the back depending on harness type) in accordance with the product recommendations and compare the measurements to those of the different sizes.
Perhaps you have measured your dog before for a different harness, so you think there is no need to measure him or her again? Wrong. You will want to take your pup’s measurements every time you consider a new harness, especially if there is a chance they are still growing, but also because there may be shifts in weight that you haven’t noticed. Your pup may have gained weight or lost weight since the last time you had them measured, so it is always best to do it again just in case.
Keep in Mind
You might be tempted to get the first harness you spot at your local supermarket, but it is important to choose a quality product that is constructed to hold for your dog’s weight (this becomes especially important when having large and strong dogs), and that does not harm a pulling dog. Not all dog harnesses are equally ergonomic, so do your research, make sure it fits properly and see for yourself how walks become both safer more comfortable and more fun!