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Should I Get My Dog A Harness?

You’re in the market for a walking tool for your dog - either because you just got a new furry friend or maybe you are looking to change up your current walking experience with your current one. Regardless of reasoning, there is an abundance of options to choose from - and new pieces of equipment coming out seemingly everyday. So how do you know which to choose? In a flooded market of various walking tools for your dog, which is the best? That question depends on what you are looking to achieve. We've already discussed in a previous blog about the various types of collars, but what about harnesses? Surely, they can be a solution to your walking problems, right? While a harness could help you on your walks, it is important to know the proper way to use them - and to understand what the harness was originally

developed for and what it's potential uses today could be used for!


Why A Dog Harness


Small French bulldog With a backpack harness

The most common suggestion from anyone on social media, and some of the most common pieces of equipment trainers see walk through their door, are harnesses. Harnesses tend to be marketed as a non-invasive tool that takes any and all pressure off of the sensitive necks of your dog. However, not all harnesses are crafted the same and each has their own pro’s and con’s, even those highly recommended. While some harnesses boast easy donning and the ability to curb pulling, others are built and designed to encourage it! The biggest drawback on any harness is its potential to affect your dog’s natural gait and range of motion. Anything that affects your dog's walking pattern can cause various medical problems later in life, even if for now it seems fine and functional. Let's take a deeper look at the different styles of harness and what uses you could use them for today.


Easy-Walk/Front Clip

Easily one of the biggest front-runner (pun intended) in the harness industry, and the one most often recommended for owner’s looking to curb their dog’s pulling habit is the Easy-Walk or Front-Clipping harness. 


Pros: 

  • Simple Design, easy to put on

  • Turn your dog when they are too far ahead, without much effort on your part

  • Many styles and colors to choose from!


Cons:

  • Not ideal for harsh pullers, escape artists, or nervous dogs

  • Can change and permanently alter the natural gait of a dog, which can lead to muscle and nerve pain. This is common if not paired with appropriate training or a secondary tool to help a dog learn the boundaries of the leash

  • Typically not a long term solution without secondary training.


With all that being said, easy-walk harnesses are excellent when starting out training. However, for long term use without supplementing other forms of boundaries for a dog who pulls can do serious permanent damage to their natural walking cycle


Head Halter

Right behind Front Clips, we have head halters! Without being as big and loud as most harnesses or equipment, these provide a less flashy way of controlling your potential puller. A head halter works by

dog with a head halter and y-shape harness

adding pressure to a dog's snout as they begin to go too far ahead. Pressure on the sensitive organ will cause your dog’s head to dip and turn - similar to guiding a horse - moving their direction back towards you.


Pros:

  • Sleek, discreet design

  • Turns dogs, especially large breeds, with minimal effort

  • Very useful for strong breeds like great Pyrenees, livestock guardians, or Danes


Cons:

  • Often mistaken for a muzzle, which can be annoying to explain

  • Not always easy to put on your dog, design can be difficult to figure out depending on brand

  • Fairly intrusive, putting pressure on your dogs most utilized and most sensitive organ

  • Overuse, especially with pullers, is linked to TMJ in dogs which can affect facial joints, ligaments, and tissues.


A head halter is a great tool when used in conjunction with another piece of equipment - to avoid too much pressure on your dog’s snout. However, when used incorrectly can lead to serious chronic pain problems in the facial structure of your dog and dogs who are nervous may find the tool too intrusive and make them more nervous.


Y-Shape

The Y-shape harness is one of the most common, however lesser known harnesses. These in and of themselves do not necessarily prevent pulling, but do allow the full range of motion for your dog. Some of these do have “no-pull” clips on the front as well to turn your dog much like the easy-walk however

pug with a y shape harness

they do not squeeze the shoulders to do so.


Pros:

  • Multiple styles to choose from and many different fits

  • Allows full or near-full range of motion for your dogs natural walking cycle

  • Some have “no-pull” clips on the front to help with pullers


Cons:

  • Escape artists and determined dogs can get out of these if determined enough

  • Some can be confusing on how to put on the correct way

  • Doesn’t necessarily prevent pulling

  • If fit incorrectly, can put too much pressure on the chest or cause chafing in the armpits


Y-shape is a great tool to introduce your dog to a harness without too much negative repercussions. Seek help from either a store assistant or your trainer on the proper fit to make sure your dog can be comfortable in it as well! Again, when paired with other tools or distinct training methods this can be a great tool for walking with your dog, and they come in many styles and cute/tough looks!


Sled

While it seems like I’ve given mainly negative feedback on some of the most well known and well-used harness styles out there, you must be wondering - is there a good harness for my dog? The short answer, not really - at least not on their own. There is no magic tool to fix your dog from pulling. In short use and

husky and akita with sled harnesses

specific instances, harnesses can be a great additive for training, adding another means of support for you as a handler or making steps a little easier while you train your dog to not pull altogether. However, the harness was originally created to encourage pulling and encourage it safely! What is being developed now is cute and flashy, but without additional training can often hurt your dog in the long run, since you are reinventing the wheel to be a triangle. A harness with a purpose, sled/pull harnesses, are one of the few harnesses on the market that continue to allow your dog to have full range of motion - however they do not prevent pulling, they encourage it safely as they were designed to do.


Pros:

  • Many styles, can be cute or functional!

  • Spreads out pull force, allowing full motion and gives dogs the ability to use ALL of their strength

  • Reduces tension on the neck, keeping their airway clear and safe for catching their breath while running and pulling

  • Maintains full freedom of movement for a natural walk/run cycle

  • Comes in various styles (x-back, h-back, spreader bar) to fit whatever need is most beneficial to a sled dogs lifestyle, there is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all usage


Cons:

  • Does not prevent pulling, encourages it either in a team setting or as a solo pull (or joring)

  • Builds a lot of muscle in your dog's limbs, if not trained in obedience can lead to a STRONG puller with no impulse control


Overall, harnesses are not the quick fix to your pulling dog, at least not without help. There is no magic wand that will immediately make your dog perfect, there is no magic tool.  However, with help from a trainer versed in multiple different styles and the various pieces of equipment you can make the most educated choice and work together to have a happy healthy dog! At Final Call Dog Training, we aim to educate you on the tools you want to use - we won’t necessarily discourage you but we can help guide you towards what may be best for you and your dog. If you are dead set on using a certain piece of equipment, we can help you make it the most functional and safe tool that we possibly can so that walks with your dog are fruitful AND enjoyable! Reach out to us today for a consultation and get educated on the different tools to help you and your dog succeed in your goals together.

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