You may have noticed more and more dogs are now wearing harnesses when they go off on adventures - but why are they wearing them? Are they better than other pieces of equipment? Are certain harnesses better than others? Let's find out!
Should I be using a harness?
Harnesses can be a brilliant tool to use when walking and training your dog, and I would genuinely recommend that every dog (unless they have certain health conditions) would benefit from wearing one. There are a few reasons for this:
They save the neck from excess pressure
If your dog pulls (and, let's be honest, most dogs do at some point), then a harness allows their weight to be evenly distributed across their chest and shoulders. This reduces or even eliminates the force going across the front of their neck, which is what happens with just a collar, saving them from potential injury to their trachea and oesophagus, plus any of the muscles along the front of the throat.
They're harder to get out of
Some dogs are masters at wriggling out of their collars and running off, restraint-free. A harness offers an extra level of protection, as it's harder to slip out of, with your pup needing to wrangle their arms out of it, as well as their head. Some harnesses even offer longline versions with an extra strap, making it even harder to escape from, such as the Ruffwear Flagline.
They offer an extra attachment point
If your dog is a known escape artist, try pairing a double ended lead with a harness and a collar - if they slip out of one piece of equipment, you still have the other in place to finish your walk safely.
What are the different types of harness available?
Y-front harnesses are the ones that quite literally look like a 'Y' when you look at them straight-on. They have two pieces that come down, one on either side of the neck, meeting at a strap that goes along the chest, in between the two front legs. It will then wrap up, behind the dog's elbows, to meet the back-piece behind the shoulder blades. All of the harnesses we stock at YDC are Y-fronted harnesses as these promote better movement for your dog, reducing their chances of developing musculoskeletal issues as they get older. You can check out our range of Y-fronted harnesses here.
Bar-front harnesses, also known as Norwegian harnesses, are missing this central chest strap, instead having one strap that goes horizontally across the dog's chest. This piece then meets a strap that goes from behind the elbows, straight up to the shoulder blades. A common example of these are the Julius K-9 harnesses.
Whilst popular, these harnesses can cause issues for dogs that pull. This is because, when tightened over the chest, they restrict the full movement of your dog's forelimbs, which can lead to tension, soreness, and other muscoloskeletal issues, which can go on to cause other problems such as reactivity and digestive issues.
These can, however, be a good option if your dog never pulls on-lead. It just needs to be fitted correctly, with a loose front strap.
A no-pull harness works by constricting as your dog pulls. You can usually tell them apart because the join of all the straps, at the dog's shoulder, is not fixed, allowing the straps to shorten and lengthen as the dog moves. This makes the act of pulling very uncomfortable, or even painful for your dog.
Whilst this is likely to stop the pulling, it sacrifices your dog's comfort and well-being, and may well impact negatively upon your relationship.
What harnesses are the best to use?
Without a doubt, Y-front! A fixed, well-fitted, Y-front harness, such as the Ruffwear Front Range, will allow any force your dog exerts on it to be evenly spread across the strongest, most resilient part of their body - their chest. It won't cause any harm, and will give you more confidence when out exploring.
The Ruffwear harnesses also offer two points of attachment, which is incredibly useful if your dog is a bit of a steam train on-lead. Paired with a double-ended lead, you can attach one end to the back and one end to the chest. You can then direct most of the pressure your dog creates through their back, and apply a small amount of pressure to the front to 'steer' them. This is a brilliant addition to training loose lead walking if your dog doesn't tend to connect with you on a walk.
If you need a hand choosing a harness, or finding the perfect fit for your dog, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll be more than happy to help.