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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Which Harness?

Even if your dog usually wears a collar, there may come a time when you want to use a harness. There are many types of harnesses for different dogs and situations. You need to think about why you want a harness and how you plan to use it. They aren't all interchangeable.

This is what we usually think of when someone mentions a harness. It's a normal style, especially useful for small dogs or cats. My dog Lucy was twelve pounds and when I walked her on leash I wanted to avoid applying too much pressure to her throat. She wore a harness like this one and loved it.

A slight variation and good for larger dogs is the step in harness. It is easy to put on. Generally, you lay the harness on the floor, have the dog step into the leg holes and clip it together. Easy and again it keeps the pressure off the dog's throat. It does not, however, give the control you might need if the dog doesn't walk nicely on a leash. If you have a dog that pulls, this might not be for you.

The manufacturers recently have come out with some little vest style harnesses. These are cute for small dogs, but they also serve an important purpose. If your dog is very small, has been sick or has had an injury, these harnesses distribute the pressure away from the neck and shoulders.

They come in many colors and styles and are a good choice for some dogs as well as being unbearably cute.

This is a step in variety of the vest harness.

There are other harnesses designed for specific purposes. Years ago we bought car harnesses from AAA. They did the job, but had some minor flaws.

Morgan was kind enough to model this one for you. The harness fit well and had a padded chest but it had this flap on the back for the seatbelt to go thru. That was OK, but when you got to your destination, you had to either remove the harness or figure out how to attach a leash to this flap. It didn't work very well for walking as the flap got twisted.

They made the changes and this is the newer version of the Easy Rider car harness. Fudge is the model because Morgan got tired of it. They replaced the flap with a metal ring. Good thinking. Now you simply attach the leash to the ring and you don't have to fumble getting the harness off and back on again.

The best change was making this strap that hooks on the harness ring and the other end slides into the seatbelt lock. Quick and easy and it works.

This is how the system looks in use.

If you have a big dog that pulls there are a number of harnesses made to address that situation. The one we like best is the Easy Walker. It has the leash ring in the front so if the dog tries to pull, his head and shoulders swing toward you. At the same time it applies a little pressure behind his front legs.

I have two pullers, Samba and Morgan and this is the only harness I have found that really works on both of them.

The Easy Walker is not for running with your dog or for long hikes. It can chafe the front legs if used for those situations, but for normal walks, it works. My only complaint about it is that I find it difficult to put on the dog.

Some people love the Gentle Leader or the Halti Head Harnesses. They work on the principle that where the head goes, the body will follow. I tried one with Monty and he hated it. He got very good at pushing it off with his foot. I didn't like it because I like my dogs to have more freedom than it allows. Still, for some dogs it's the answer.

We all know there are special harnesses for sled dogs and there are harnesses with attached saddle bags for hiking with your dog, but there are others you may not have come across.

Morgan is wearing a water harness. It's made for dogs that work in the water. It has padding on the chest and around the legs and it has a handle on the back for helping the dog into the boat.

This harness is for helping dogs that have injuries to their backs or back legs. Often as dogs age they have arthritis in those areas and this is a way to give them some support on steps or getting up and down. We used something similar to this for Bentley who was badly crippled with arthritis in his last years.

This is a special harness made for dogs with injuries to the back or legs. It has lots of padding and numerous support straps.

The harness makers have come a long way in recent years in addressing the varied situations that pet owners face. If you're thinking of getting a harness, think about what you need it to do and do your homework online. There is probably a harness avavilable that will work for you and your pet.


  1. Great post! I have two different harnesses that I use. One for the car so I can be seatbelted in and the other is a tracking harness for when I go on hiking adventures with my hoomans. I really like it, because it's padded in all the right places and has a reflective strip so it's easier to see me when we go into dark and scary forests. It also has a handle on the back, which is useful when my hoomans need to give me an extra hand.

    Tagpi has a Puppia vest harness, but Tagpi is a puller on the leash and the vest's soft mesh material only seems to encourage him to pull more. Right now Tagpi is strictly on a collar unless we're out on an adventure.

  2. When taking the dogs out of the yard, I always use a harness, as I don't trust my hooligans in a collar. I'm afraid it'll be too loose and they will pull out of it, or too tight and I will choke them. I haven't found the perfect harness, yet, but am always looking! Thanks for the informative post.

  3. My boyfriend just bought a car harness for Marge. I like it because it's of the vest variety and has padding in the front. However, you have the thread the seatbelt through it, which I don't like. I may return it for one of the ones with the clip-in seat belt piece.

  4. Thor wears a pony harness. It's the only thing that will fit him. We also had a pony bridle for him for a while as a collar, but he doesn't like anything around his neck except hugs. Our yard is completely fenced, so he can't wander off. The moral of this story is, if you have a house pony, you must have pony supplies for him.

  5. I should also say that when Thor rides in the car, it's in an old Suburban, behind my seat (which is all the way forward) on the floor. He can put his head between the front seats and see us, but he is wedged in safely on the floor. While I've never had to slam on the brakes with him in the car, I know he'd be safe if I did.

  6. Dog Woods Fur Kids don't like anything around their neck. THey have a certain phobia of harness and leash ... whenever I put one on them they just lay there like a block of wood. :p

    But thank u for the review on harnesses and leashes ... that was really enlightening. I've always wondered about the leash around one's muzzle ... wondering if that's to stop the dog from biting. But now i understand!

  7. I just stumbled in here and was wondering if anyone else has problems with harnesses and hair loss. My Dachshund wears a Puppia harness and he seems to losing a lot of hair on his chest and under his armpits. It's normal wear (he doesn't have it on all the time), on walks and when we're out and about. I do live by the seaside so he plays in the sea a lot and then rolls around in the sand and I'm wondering if it doesn't have anything to do with that... Even so, I would need a recommendation for a harness that, maybe, has very little "fabric" across the chest... Anyone else have this issue?


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